The ICC Champions Trophy – a tournament too far

ICC Champions TrophyMemories, happy and sad moments, all flavour our lives and make us what we are in the present. My own long affair with cricket comprises just such memories, cherished possessively for decades. And it matters little if the original event was bad, because nostalgia acquires a character of its own, beyond good and bad. In the case of the ICC Champions Trophy, fifteen years is a long time to build memories. Yet, if we be honest, do we really remember any games in the Champions Trophy?  

Well some of those memories have morphed into images of Jamshed Dasti* spitting fire and fury on TV, denouncing Pakistani cricketers. That he was talking about a most brilliant game between Pakistan and Australia in 2009, was a travesty. In all these fifteen years of the Champions Trophy, this game stands out. A typical, out of the blue performance, when all seemed lost for Pakistan. And we almost made it too! It was odder still that it is the only game in almost six decades, where Indian spectators were whole-heartedly cheering Pakistan on. Had Pakistan won, India would have got through to the semis. That was not to be in the end.

 

This was our jewel of the ICC Champions Trophy. Others stand out, but maybe for the wrong reasons. A daft semi-final in 2005 in the Rose Bowl, with the day grey, the clouds low and the ball jagging around everywhich way. That our erstwhile captain Inzimam chose to bat first is a cricketing mystery to this day. Our batsmen duly obliged and were bowled out for 130 odd and the match was handed over to the West Indies. Not that this was so bad! One saw a most fascinating run chase by lower order batsmen in the subsequent final, in bad light, as the West Indies carried the day against England, with a 71 run unbeaten 9th wicket stand.

 

The fates seem to have conspired against this tournament in the past. So, incessant rain led to one tournament in 2003 being shared by the finalists India and Sri Lanka, with both designated days rained out. Could you do that in a normal tournament? No final at all and yet two winners.

 

Memory then harks back to the 2000-1 final. I can remember sitting back in the Pepsi conference room, watching the demolition of India by Chris Cairns. Watching cricket on a workday? But that’s fine, remember Pepsi was the official sponsor of cricket in Pakistan and this was just part of work. That innings of Cairns remains the best individual innings played in Champions Trophy history. New Zealand was dead and buried, five wickets gone and Cairns just upped the ante and took the trophy out of the grasp of India. An incisive century, which you wish some Pakistani would make in a run chase. Something like, Inzi’s 60 in the semis of World Cup 92. 

 

The Champions Trophy was born out of ICC’s need to bolster its coffers. It would allow the coins to jingle in a non World Cup year. Unfortunately, like the old personal computer being superseded by the present tablet or the beef burger making the bun kebab obsolete, so the T20 took the heart out of the Champions Trophy. The crowds, sponsors and excitement migrated to the later format. A rationalization ensued and so 2013 is the year of one final farewell tournament.

 

So what of our beloved Pakistan? We have won everything in our cricket history. Test matches (home and away); World Cups (One day and T20); Sharjah; Australasia Cup; Nehru Cup; and Sahara Cup. Alas no Champions Trophy! We have made it to 3 semis out of six tournaments- an appearance every alternate tournament. Each time we have entered the semis as clear favourites and yet circumstances have intervened.  Maybe that is why I think this tournament is jinxed. Maybe that is why the memories are short. My inner self cannot but look at the world of cricket through a Pakistani kaleidoscope.  A tournament too far! Besides, this next tournament is the 7th and out of sequence for an alternate semi-final appearance. But then, Jamshed Dasti dominates the imagination…I can see him waving the Pakistan flag at Lords…after all we might break the jinx, this one last time.

 

*Jamshed Dasti is a parliamentarian, who showed a lack of understanding of cricket and in the aftermath of the PakvAus game, made some outlandish accusations.

 ** The photograph is taken from the official ICC, FB page.

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