- It’s no great mystery that the subcontinent teams have been doing well in England
- “Subcontinent teams have done well but England is in there too, and they have been dominating,” Virat Kohli said
- South Africa, the world’s No.1 team, caved in to pressure and India
LONDON: The Champions Trophy, condemned to suffer an identity crisis in perpetuity, will heave a sigh of relief that three out of the four semifinalists are from the subcontinent. In fact, if Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India had not been clubbed in the same group, there was a theoretical chance it would have been a subcontinent-only semifinal this time around! First off, on the cricketing front, that’s reason enough for celebration. that’s reason enough for celebration. Australia, done in by rain and pay disputes and failing to raise their game when it mattered, have unthinkably crashed out of an ICC event in the group stage and ensured a plucky semifinal entry for a resurgent Bangladesh. South Africa, the world’s No.1 team, caved in to pressure and India.
Pakistan, blowing cold one day and hot the next, lost all three games in the 2013 edition – also played here in England – but managed to put up a better show this time around. The subcontinent has held sway even in the early stages, with Sri Lanka’s shock victory over India providing one of the best games of the tournament so far.
It’s no great mystery that the subcontinent teams have been doing well in England. The pitches have been flatter, the rains have proved lucky for them so far, the white ball has displayed a helpful propensity to not swing at all, and batsmen have thrived.
Then, of course, there has been the enormous support – the Edgbaston and Oval have been seemingly lifted straight out of the subcontinent and transplanted here with every spectator intact! Bangladesh, meanwhile, will vouch for the Cardiff crowd’s propensity to work miracles.
England are the last bastion still standing, still fighting on home ground, but there’s nothing English about this tournament anymore. Unless the hosts can lift the trophy and reclaim some bragging rights.
Indian captain Virat Kohli, on his part, is a bit wary of England. “Subcontinent teams have done well but England is in there too, and they have been dominating,” he said, professing his own theory: “I don’t know why subcontinent teams are doing well. Credit to all the teams that have made the semis. I think the players are getting more experienced in difficult situations. It could be because of how much limited-overs cricket we play.”
Maybe it’s the T20 effect, then, since figures show subcontinent teams have not been playing more ODIs at least. In 2016, Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan together played 52 ODIs, while England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa played 82. In 2017, that number so far is 38 and 54 respectively for the two blocs.
While the cricketing debate can keep raging, there are commercial factors at play. Remember, this is a tournament whose epitaph had already been written when the 2013 edition began. India’s success in that edition, and the subsequent financial windfall, prompted a rethink on the ICC’s part.
If sponsor response continues to be as lukewarm to the proposed ICC ODI league (from 2019) as it was to the World Test Championship, there may be life left in the Champions Trophy yet. There’s also the shadowy prospect of brinkmanship in the upcoming ICC conference in the event of an India win, since the BCCI is sulking after its share from ICC tournaments was cut by $227 million and could stand to gain some leverage from victory.
That second prospect is in the realm of speculation. For the moment, it is worth debating whether the three subcontinental semifinalists can keep the Champions Trophy fires burning at least till 2021, when the tournament is scheduled to be held in India. Or will a biennial World T20 more than make up for its absence? The answers will be forthcoming after the final.