Cricket comes at you fast. Well perhaps not if you were watching the first three days of the West Indies vs Pakistan Dominica Test, but generally speaking the schedule is unrelenting. So even though the IPL has a week to go, thoughts are already turning to the Champions Trophy which begins at The Oval on 1 June. The host nation will go into the tournament with, unusually for an England side, the pleasant burden of expectancy. So as we wait to see if England can finally break their one-day ICC tournament duck, here’s a rundown of the seven tournaments we’ve had up to now.
The Champions Trophy actually began its life as perhaps the rather more honestly named ICC Knockout Tournament or, alternatively, the Wills International Cup or, alternatively, the “Mini World Cup”. You can clearly never have enough names for a tournament. The thinking behind the idea was to try and raise cash for the ICC in between World Cups in order to spread the game globally. Despite this noble aim, the largesse didn’t extend to allowing Bangladesh to take part in their own tournament, but the huge crowds that turned out for the matches, all of which were held in Dhaka, were certainly a vindication for cricket’s governing body.
India’s group win against Australia was due largely to Sachin Tendulkar, who scored 141 off 128 balls (only three other Indians reached double figures) before picking up four wickets, including those of Michael Bevan, Damien Martyn and Steve Waugh. In the tournament overall, however, the most eye-catching batsman was the West Indies’ Philo Wallace. Like his namesake Christopher, he was a big man but a youthful prodigy, making his ODI debut at just 20. Although his form was notoriously inconsistent, in Bangladesh he took Pakistan for 79 off 58 deliveries, then South Africa for a century in the final. Wallace’s shuffling, bludgeoned drives were not enough to deny the Proteas the win, with man of the tournament Jacques Kallis taking a five-for to go with his ton in the semi against Sri Lanka before the Proteas chased down the total with three overs to go. It remains the only ICC tournament South Africa have ever won.
Still named the ICC Knockout Tournament, two years later the action shifted to Kenya, with the host side this time being allowed to compete alongside eleven others. Their participation lasted for only one match, however, as India sent them crashing out in a qualifier. This expanded tournament saw six teams playing off in this round in order for three to join the top five ranked sides in the quarters. In contrast to the first tournament, crowds were sparse with high ticket prices being blamed.
Despite being injured before the tournament and still not fully fit during it, Chris Cairns filled himself with painkillers and filled his boots with runs, not least in the final, where his century saw New Zealand overhaul India’s 264 to take the title. In the same match Tendulkar, upon reaching 15, became the leading run-scorer in ODIs going past Mohammad Azharuddin's tally of 9378 from 334 matches. Elsewhere Saeed Anwar scored two centuries in two matches, whilst Ganguly notched two in four, one a shimmering 141 not out against South Africa. We were coming towards the end of New Zealand’s era of dibbly dobbly fetishism, and it was actually their brisk left-arm pacer Shayne O’Connor who ran through Pakistan, taking 5 for 46 in the semi-final. Capable of prodigious in-swing in any format, O’Connor was a tad expensive in the final as Ganguly and Tendulkar ran riot against the new ball, but his scalps with the old the previous match were pivotal in pinning Pakistan back from 236 for 6 to 252 all out.
2002, Sri Lanka
The first ever Champions Trophy actually called the Champions Trophy had twelve teams and no outright winner, as bad weather forced India and Sri Lanka to share the title. It was a tournament of floods and pools, with a group stage rather than a straight knock-out format being used for the first time. Matches between the two highest ranked teams in each effectively became knock-outs though, such were the subpar performances of the two associate sides, Kenya and the Netherlands (brutalised by Afridi), as well as Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. Taking place just five months before the World Cup in South Africa and on Colombo pitches more deathly than an actual episode of Columbo, the tournament also faced the prospect of many of India’s star names not turning up after a pay dispute in the run-up. One quirk of the event was that it contained the first ever LBW decision via DRS - Shoaib Malik the man to go - and thus the first ever grumbles about LBW decisions being made via DRS.
Despite his side’s overall poor showing, Andy Flower made a game of Zimbabwe’s group chase against India, scoring 145 with the aid of some fielding that would shame even Delhi Daredevils. Although derided for his rigidity as a coach towards the end of his England tenure, Flower was an exuberant and fluid batsman, his famous reverse sweep played with the deftness of a luthier. Elsewhere, Virender Sehwag destroyed England with the bat, and with ball in hand did similar to South Africa in the semi, his off-spinners nabbing three wickets as the Proteas’ chase ran out of puff. Muttiah Muralitharan took ten wickets in the tournament and this form would certainly have been required in the final, or at least the second attempt at it after the first was washed out after Sri Lanka’s innings. The teams returned the next day, but the hosts could muster only 222, thanks in no small part to Zaheer Khan bowling Jayasuriya with the first ball of the innings, the sort of feat he is still managing to pull off fifteen years on. The heavens again then intervened before India’s batsman or perhaps Sri Lanka’s spin talisman could craft a result. A soggy end to a soggy tournament.
Another gone and very much forgotten event, England oddly opted to host the 2004 incarnation in September, with fans largely choosing to keep their gloved hands in their coat pockets. The event saw twelve teams play fifteen matches, with transatlantic glitz being added by the presence of the USA, who sadly then scored just 65 in their match against Australia, leading to Ricky Ponting wondering aloud if they should actually be there. The tournament also attracted scorn for its overzealous corporate policing. Writing in Cricinfo, Martin Williamson detailed some of the heavy-handed attention to which supporters with the wrong brand of, well, anything were subjected:
“One fan noted that he had his non-conforming lunch brusquely snatched from him and dumped in a wheelie bin but had been allowed to take in a penknife. Newspapers pounced on the absurdity, despite clodhopping and ineffective attempts by the ICC to downplay the situation, and gleefully reported the sight of a gateman at Southampton helping a spectator pour unauthorised cola into an empty bottle of the approved brand so it could be admitted.”
It was more drizzle than sunshine in many cases, but Edgbaston certainly basked in attention as India took on Pakistan there in the group stages. A low-scoring thriller saw Mohammad Yousuf’s 81 not out get Pakistan home after India, without a tennis-elbowed Tendulkar, found themselves aced by Naved-ul-Hasan, who took four wickets for just twenty-five runs, including the scalps of of Sehwag, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid. In the first semi-final some all round brilliance from Michael Vaughan saw England beat Australia, again at Edgbaston, but this time with a morose fifteen thousand empty seats on display.
In the final itself, which featured an extraordinary 34 wides, Marcus Trescothick notched a ton, an innings which made him the tournament’s leading runscorer by a margin of almost a hundred. Overall, England’s effort was a dribbly affair, however, as they scrambled to just 217. With Flintoff, a threat all tournament, decimating the West Indies’ reply the hosts nevertheless looked set to win their first ever ICC event as the chase crumbled to 147-8. What followed was a winning ninth wicket partnership, and a largely untroubled one at that, which etched the names Browne and Bradshaw alongside Kaif and Yuvraj and Bevan and Bichel in the list of duos to haunt England ODI fans. The match was completed in near darkness, a situation which again provided the perfect meteorological metaphor to describe the tournament overall.
Another tournament, another format. This time, after a qualifying round which saw Sri Lanka and the West Indies advance, the main group stage featured two pools of four, leaving behind the four groups of three format which had proved ineffectual in previous events. The run-up was again not without controversy, as squabbles over tax and accusations of the misappropriation of funds for stadium development swirled in the air. On the ground the pitches - spiced up by the recently concluded monsoon season - proved a challenging mix, with both the West Indies and Pakistan being bowled out for under a hundred.
Not for the last time, Gayle got rather too up close and personal with an Australian, accompanying Michael Clarke down the wicket like a braying guard escorting his prisoner to the gallows during a group match. The West Indian was nonetheless by far the most prolific batsman in the the tournament, scoring 474 runs with three centuries, but in the final he was cleaned up, like so many, by the wily Nathan Bracken, as Australia got their hands on the trophy for the first time. Or rather they eventually did once the publicity hungry ICC executive Sharad Pawar left the podium with a bit of help from some of the players. Gayle’s teammate Dwayne Bravo also gave Indian fans - and Michael Clarke - a taste of the loopy slower balls that would become so familiar in the IPL in future years, while Jerome Taylor took a crucial hat-trick in that Australian group match.
2009, South Africa
Another win for Australia, this time in South Africa, which the same year had also hosted the IPL to great success. For that tournament, the rainbow nation had stepped in due to security issues surrounding Indian elections. Here again they were the insurance option, the event initially having been slated to take place in Pakistan a year earlier but with several sides expressing reservations about travelling the ICC switched the location. The tournament was slimmed down even further into the model we still see used now, two groups of four, the eight teams selected on ICC ranking points with no pre-qualifying. The tournament still ostensibly existed to raise funds for lower ranked nations, but their actual participation was an experiment now shelved.
In another group clash between India and Pakistan at a pulsating Centurion, Shoaib Malik scored a century before 17-year-old Mohammad Amir had Tendulkar caught behind in his third over as Pakistan won comfortably by 54 runs. Amir also took 3-24 in his side’s opening fixture against the West Indies, but it was the host’s Wayne Parnell who finished as tournament’s leading wicket-taker despite South Africa not making it out of the group stages. The Proteas exited after failing to chase down England’s uncharacteristically expansive 328, a superb 141 from Graeme Smith in vain. Yet the tournament belonged to Shane Watson. He was outscored overall by his captain Ponting, but the Queenslander scored centuries in both the semi-final and final, the former against England labelled by Mike Hussey as “one of his fondest memories in cricket.”
Despite the 2004 debacle, the tournament returned to England in 2013, but this time held in the rather more clement, at least supposedly, month of June. This was actually supposed to be a valediction, with the tournament due to be replaced by the World Test Championship, but a change of heart at the ICC means it lives on. If it had been a goodbye, it was more of a damp squib than grand farewell, with rain visiting matches rather more often than the British public. .
Shikhar Dhawan was gargantuan in the tournament, his charismatic swished upper cuts and Dali moustache proving a huge hit as he started the tournament with back-to-back centuries against South Africa and the West Indies. James Anderson was masterly with the ball, and the tournament also showcased the diversity of Mitchell McCLenaghan’s shrewd box of tricks. At the business end, the final was reduced to twenty overs per side by the weather and peculiar lack of a reserve day. This was expected to favour India, but they struggled to a meagre 129, with no one other than Dhawan, Kohli, Jadeja reaching double figures.
With England comfortable at 110 for 4, needing 20 off 16 balls with six wickets in hand, MS Dhoni did what he’s so often done, though not always with such successful results: He put his faith in Ishant Sharma, who removed Ravi Bopara and Eoin Morgan, both set, as England somehow managed to lose by five runs. Not to diminish the efforts of Ashley Giles’s side in getting so close to victory, but it was possibly a relative success English cricket didn’t need. Reaching the final in helpful, home conditions allowed England to further stick their fingers in their ears and cover their eyes to the huge changes in the game taking place around them. It would be another two, painful years before the penny finally dropped after the catastrophic 2015 World Cup.
So, amid the format tinkering and bad weather there has been some strong cricket played in the Champions Trophy and this forthcoming tournament also promises much. On English pitches with still some nip but hardened somewhat by the early summer sun (such as it is in Britain) it should be a competition full of attacking batting but peppered with bowling and fielding innovations lifted from the franchise T20 tournaments the ECB is so keen to replicate. It’s also a very open tournament, and as an outside tip, albeit in unfavourable conditions, people might again look to the team from Dhaka, who this time - unlike the very first tournament - will be very much involved.