Odds shorten on Champions Trophy repeat
The 2013 Champions Trophy has been deemed such a success that it appears highly likely that the competition will be repeated.
The ICC had originally decided to replace the competition with a Test Championship and the 2013 tournament would be the last one. But after excellent crowds and interest from around the world, the ICC are reconsidering that decision and will discuss their options at their annual conference, from June 25-29 in London.
The ICC remain keen to promote Test cricket and feel a Test Championship would complement the World T20 and the World Cup and ensure there was a high-profile competition for each of the three formats of the game. While continuing the Champions Trophy would mean there were two global 50-over events, it is now thought there is sufficient difference between the Champions Trophy and the World Cup and sufficient interest from broadcasters for both to survive.
The Test Championship is pencilled into the Future Tours Programme (FTP) for a three-week window in June 2017 in the UK. But the concept in its present guise is compromised by the fact that it would involve just four teams - the top four teams in the Test rankings - and would feature only three games: two semi-finals and a final. As such, it would be of less relevance and interest to those nations not participating and may be less attractive to broadcasters. There is little scope in the FTP for a longer event or a change in venue.
The ICC privately acknowledges that, even if the event was held successfully in 2017, there is a concern over its sustainability. Among their issues is the possibility that one of the key nations in terms of broadcast revenues, most obviously India, might not always be ranked among the top four Test nations, while there is also a concern that, outside the UK, games between neutral countries may not be well supported. The ICC is keen to avoid a situation where its flagship Test event is played in near-empty stadiums.
While the final of the 2013 Champions Trophy is threatened by poor weather, 12 of the 15 games will have had sell-out crowds (defined as a minimum 95% of the ground capacity) with the multicultural population of the UK helping guarantee enthusiastic audiences at most games. Sensible ticket pricing has also played a part.
The Champions Trophy has, for much of its existence, been unloved. But the short, sharp format involving only the top eight sides playing for only 18 days in which nearly every game has a consequence has captured the imagination of the cricket-watching public. By contrast, the 2011 World Cup lasted six weeks and featured some tediously one-sided encounters.
There is a chance that the 2013 trophy may have to be shared as rain threatens to intervene in the final. Such is the frenetic international schedule it was deemed impossible to allocate reserve days. England and New Zealand, for example, play a T20 on Tuesday, just two days after the Champions Trophy final, while Australia being their Ashes preparations in earnest on Wednesday when they start a four-day match against Somerset.
Whatever its faults, the strengths of the Champions Trophy format have been apparent over the last couple of weeks and, as the details of a Test Championship are considered in more detail, the Trophy has arguably never appeared so attractive.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo