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October 4, 2009
A day before the final, the ICC Champions Trophy has received a resounding vote of confidence from the captains involved, both Ricky Ponting and Daniel Vettori calling it the best Champions Trophy tournament they have been involved in.
The approvals will be music to the ICC's ears for they have struggled long and hard to find the right format and shape for a much-derided tournament that first surfaced in 1998. Over the years it changed formats and size, but the ICC decided to streamline the event this time, in a bid to increase its popularity in the new age of Twenty20. Only the world's top eight teams played, only two venues in close proximity were used, the format was simplified making each game relevant, and the whole tournament lasted 15 days: short and sharp was the ICC's medicine.
"I think it's been an excellent tournament," Ponting said. "It's been very rushed for us and England, coming in as late as we did. But this has certainly been the best and most enjoyable Champions Trophy that I've played in. To have the best eight teams, over a shorter period of time, people in this country and all over the world have enjoyed the one-day cricket played over the last couple of weeks. These events are about showcasing the game, and I think the ICC and the players have done a terrific job of making this tournament a spectacle for the 50-over game."
And Ponting believed the format's health depended largely on how the teams play the game. "The key issues with the 50-over game come down to the way teams want to play it," he said. "The middle overs have been what the administrators have been worried about. Bringing Powerplays into the game has added a different dimension to it. If you want to play the game as best you can, as a batting side, you have to maximise those middle overs. If you do that, you'll make good scores. The more attractive the players can make the game, the more the fans will enjoy it as well."
Vettori also praised the tournament through its duration and as he contemplated the prospect of a first major international triumph in over nine years, he repeated his call for cutting down the number of ODIs in the international calendar. "Absolutely this is the best Champions Trophy we've had. I've said all along that every game has mattered and that is the most important thing. The reason people were getting tired of it was that there were a lot of irrelevant games and that hasn't happened here."
The feasibility of the 50-over format came into sharp focus with the rise of Twenty20 cricket. The ECB scrapped its domestic 50-over competition and a number of leading voices in the game called for radical alterations to the format to ensure its survival or to scrap it altogether. The ICC has maintained that the format is relevant and can thrive. It has called on members, however, to strike a balance between the three formats as they work to draw up the next FTP, ensuring perhaps a reduction in the number of what Vettori referred to as the glut of "irrelevant" matches.
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