Captains bet on ODI revival
Kumar Sangakkara and Graeme Smith, the two captains who will open the Champions Trophy in Centurion, both believe the tournament will be crucial in directing the future of the ODI as a viable format in international cricket.
The issue has swiftly become the pre-tournament theme, amid increasing noise and disquiet about the format's health in the wake of Twenty20's prodigious rise. Both captains do believe, however, that this tournament - significantly, the first world championship in the format since the World Twenty20 in this country exactly two years ago - is ideally placed to provide ODIs with that boost.
"The ICC put a lot of effort into this tournament," Smith said. "Ultimately it will be the cricket, how it is played, that will define whether this is a success or not. The good point is that it is short, to the point and can capture the imagination of fans around the world. That's the challenge ODIs have, with all the talk about moving domestic formats to 40 overs and all. This is a crucial period for the ODI game and how this competition is a success on the field is more important than anything else."
Recent ICC 50-over events have been heavily criticised, variously for being too lengthy, for having too many weak teams or for their unwieldy formats. This is the first 50-over tournament in over two years and the ICC believes that in the shorter, sharper format - only eight teams, 15 matches and two venues - lies a future path of ODI prosperity.
"It's an important step," said Sangakkara. "In the 2007 World Cup the cricket was great, but lots of people thought it was way too long, had too many teams and days between games. The true test of ODI is in big tournaments like this, the appeal to fans and players and how much money TV networks make from it. South Africa is a wonderful place to play and I think it will be a good tournament."
Getting the balance right between the three formats, Sangakkara believed, will be the key, something the ICC has advised members to bear in mind as the new FTP is hammered out "Everything should exist in harmony and balance," he said. "We've got to find a solution, players, administrators and the public, where attention and import should be given to each format. Cricket started with Tests so we've got to maintain and protect its primacy but also ensure that the cash flows in and the fans have something to look at and enjoy."
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo