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In defence of the Champions Trophy

Australia celebrate winning the Champions Trophy in India
Australia are defending champions having lifted the trophy in 2006

By Pranav Soneji

"If you don't change the menu, your restaurant might go out of business."

Not the sage words of kitchen troubleshooter, potty-mouthed Gordon Ramsay, but those of David Richardson, the International Cricket Council's general manager of cricket, on the state of 50-over cricket.

The limited overs format is fast becoming cricket's equivalent of the fondue, a culinary faux pas while the contemporary nouvelle chic dining of Twenty20 is turning heads all across the globe.

England's seemingly never-ending seven-match one-day series suffered severely from the effects of a monumental Ashes hangover, while the England and Wales Cricket Board has rejected 50-over cricket in favour of an expanded 20-over and 40-over formats from next season.

Hardly perfect timing to bang the saucepans about the virtues of one-day cricket ahead of the ICC Champions Trophy, a tournament which has repeatedly failed to capture the imagination of the English public since its inception in 1998.

The two-week tournament, featuring the world's top eight teams by world rankings, has already suffered a PR blow because of the row between the West Indies Cricket Board and its players over pay, with a second-string squad set to arrive in South Africa.

Pakistan will receive an agreed figure to compensate them for money they would have obtained from gate takings locally had the event been held in Pakistan

The ICC's Dave Richardson

Add an increasingly congested fixture calendar into the recipe, with the Indian Premier League and now the inaugural Champions League added to a packed schedule, and throw in complaints of tiredness from players, would anyone really miss the tournament if it was scrapped?

According to Richardson, who kept wicket for South Africa in 122 one-day internationals, the answer is an unequivocal yes.

"The Champions Trophy deserves to be one of cricket's majors," he told BBC Sport. "I think the players and teams are looking at it more in that way.

"One of my regrets is that I don't have a major global trophy on my CV. I think the players are realising that winning the the World Twenty20 and the Champions Trophy means something.

"We can equate it to the likes of the Masters or Wimbledon and give it the frills that are associated with the top-class events.

"Cricket only has one major tournament a year and therefore it should be of consequence."

With its elevated status comes increased prize money, significantly increased from £700,000 in 2006 to £2.4m this year, the kind of numbers which may help vanquish the lactic acid from the tired limbs of a modern-day professional in an instant.

"Rather cynically, I think money is important to players - it was important to me," said former Richardson.

"If $2m (£1.199m) is on the line for South Africa, you multiply that by seven you get a significant amount of rand. No doubt it provides a huge incentive to players."

Richardson was at pains to stress 2009 is a unique year, a one-off with two ICC events in the space of three months.

ICC general cricket manager David Richardson
Richardson believes 50-over cricket can still enthrall crowds

The Champions Trophy was originally scheduled to take place in Pakistan in 2008, but security fears prompted South Africa to withdraw, and England, Australia and New Zealand all expressed concerns about safety.

Left with little option, the ICC opted to move the tournament to South Africa just three months after the successful World Twenty20 competition in England, somewhat fittingly won by Pakistan.

The switch was yet another crippling blow to the beleaguered Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), already deprived of critical revenue after cancelled tours by New Zealand, West Indies, South Africa and India.

But the ICC has guaranteed the PCB will receive its share of revenue for hosting the event, a move which will leave the other 102 members slightly out of pocket when the tournament funds are redistributed.

"The PCB will not only receive their hosting fee had the tournament been held in Pakistan, they will also receive an agreed figure to compensate them for money they would have obtained from gate takings locally had the event been held in Pakistan," said Richardson.

"They will not be worse off financially by the fact they lost out on staging this event."

And South Africa?

"South Africa will also receive a hosting fee," he said.

"The ICC doesn't really have revenues of its own, the money comes in from the sponsors and the broadcasters and gets distributed among the members.


"And yes, you could say there will be slightly less to be distributed to the members after we have deducted the costs of the event. That lesser amount will be shared by the 104 members across the board."

Following hot on the heels of a successful World Twenty20 tournament and an enthralling Ashes series in England, Richardson is confident the Champions Trophy can deliver compelling and exciting cricket in 100 overs.

But despite this proclamation, the 50-year-old also admitted the ICC must experiment to prevent the format from going stale, like trialling two 25-over innings per team.

"There's a general recognition that we continually revise the format of the one-day international game," he added.

"Whether that perfect format is 50, 45 or 40-over cricket that is being considered.

"But there are still a number of countries where 50-over cricket is followed with great interest and provides a great spectacle.

"We're still confident the Champions Trophy can provide a good day out for the cricketers and spectators."

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see also
Sri Lanka cruise to opening win
22 Sep 09 |  Cricket
A history of the Champions Trophy
21 Sep 09 |  Cricket
Champions Trophy team guide
20 Sep 09 |  Cricket
ICC Champions Trophy 2009 squads
25 Aug 09 |  Cricket
Jonathan Agnew column
21 Sep 09 |  England
Strauss urges change of attitude
20 Sep 09 |  England
ICC raises Champions Trophy pot
20 Jul 09 |  Cricket
Smith on track for Trophy return
02 Sep 09 |  South Africa
ICC Champions Trophy 2009
05 Oct 09 |  Cricket
Windies retain weakened ODI squad
17 Aug 09 |  West Indies
S Africa to host Champions Trophy
16 Mar 09 |  Cricket
Champions Trophy postponed by ICC
24 Aug 08 |  Cricket
ICC Champions Trophy 2006
29 Oct 06 |  Cricket

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