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Over the next couple of weeks, I expect I shall watch at least some of the Champions Trophy coverage on TV. After all, I'm a cricket junkie and the English season finishes this week, so I've nothing else to watch until April. And, since you are enough of a cricket junkie to be reading a blog on a cricket website, it's pretty likely that you will also be tuning in at some point.
TV companies know that there are many people round the world like us who will watch any international cricket, almost whatever it is, and are therefore willing to part with money for the broadcast rights, and the ICC then spends that money on what it considers to be worthy causes. Slaking our appetite for the game provides money to help develop the game around the world (though why they pour money into salvaging Zimbabwe when West Indies are in danger of collapse passes my understanding), so it seems beneficial all round.
But nobody seems to care very much about who wins it.
This may simply be the perspective of an England fan who knows that his team don't stand an earthly chance and will be doing exceptionally well if they win any of their three games, but I don't detect any groundswell of anticipation amongst the fans of other teams I see on my travels round the net. A 50-over World Cup always stimulates a pre-tournament buzz, but the Champions Trophy generates a tidal wave of indifference.
Like a lot of people, I can tell you which country won any World Cup and where (though not necessarily which ground the final was at). But apart from West Indies winning in England in 2004 which I remember because I was giving daily bulletins to my father as he lay dying in hospital, I have no idea which team won any of the other editions of the Champions Trophy, or even when they were.
Which is odd, if you think about it.
It is a much more efficient way of determining the top team at 50-over tournament cricket than the World Cup with its Scotlands and Bermudas. Adding all the no-hope teams to the World Cup simply expands it without changing the destination of the winners' trophy but allows for the possibility of embarrassment in the early rounds. Just as it is (or would be) amusing if Manchester United exit the FA Cup by losing to a semi-pro team or Roger Federer gets beaten in the first round at Wimbledon by a British wild-card entrant currently ranked 793rd in the world, we can all have a good laugh when one of the major teams gets knocked out in the group stage of a cricket World Cup. If nothing else, it relieves the tedium of the early stages which seem to consist mostly of mismatches.
But the Champs Trophy is what the final stages of a World Cup would look like if none of the major teams tripped over the banana-skin in their qualifying group. It's the business end, the nitty gritty, the chase which is cut to when we start paying close attention to a World Cup instead of just checking that nothing out of the ordinary happened. It's the World Cup without the boring bits. If there were any justice, we'd take a lot more interest and give a lot more weight to the Champions Trophy, but there isn't and we don't.
Instead, we treat it more as an inconvenience, a distraction from whatever the real business of our teams is supposed to be at any given time, and we want it over and out of the way as soon as is practical. What a strange lot we cricket fans are.
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