The ICC is once again mulling over the prospect of scrapping the Champions Trophy, in favour of two expanded World T20 tournaments in a four-year cycle. Talk of the impending demise of the tournament has become almost a ritual. And with the next edition tentatively inked in for 2021, in India, David Richardson, the ICC CEO, said the body is considering scrapping the event to capitalize on the popularity of the T20 format to open the tournament up to more teams.
"It's always been quite difficult to distinguish or differentiate between the two 50-over global events," Richardson said. "With the World Cup becoming a ten-team event, it's almost like the World Cup is becoming more like the Champions Trophy, which I think is a good thing.
"I think it (World Cup) will still be a longer event. The World Cup format will allow the best chance for the best four teams to get into the semifinals. So it takes away the risk of maybe a rain-affected game or one poor game having a huge impact on the tournament like it can be in this tournament (Champions Trophy). But still, highly competitive matches hopefully.
"And then, whether the Champions Trophy in 2021 stays a Champions Trophy, or we move to two World T20s - that still needs to be discussed and settled. It's a possibility, yes. I wouldn't say it is categorically going to happen because, as we've seen, the Champions Trophy on its own is a very good event and very well-supported, particularly in the UK, where you get support for all teams. So let's not be too hasty in writing it off, but to be honest and frank, there is consideration for moving towards two World T20s in a four-year cycle."
Two World T20s in a four-year cycle, Richardson said, gave the ICC a chance to open the tournament to more Associate teams, a balm to the decision to curtail the number of teams at the 2019 World Cup to ten. That decision drew flak from Associate players, with Ireland and Scotland cricketers quite vocal.
"Having two World T20s in a four-year cycle gives us an opportunity to globalise the game to a great extent, open the tournament to more teams - 16 or maybe even in a longer term to 20 teams," Richardson said. "It's easier to be competitive in that format, and thus easier to accommodate more teams."
Richardson's thoughts will hardly come as a surprise. In 2012, it was decided that the last edition of the tournament would be held in 2013, as the ICC sought to introduce a World Test Championship from 2017, and there was talk of scrapping it even as long ago as the time of the 2009 event. However, the significant commercial success of the tournament in England in 2013 - a short, sharp competition that featured eight teams - led to its retention at the expense of a World Test Championship.
The ICC, however, is discussing the idea of a two-year Test league, with a 9-3 format - the top nine Test countries compete among themselves and against the three lower-ranked teams comprising Zimbabwe, and most likely Ireland and Afghanistan (depending on whether they earn Test status), which could also put some strain on the international calendar.
The 2017 edition, Richardson said, highlighted the importance of context, and the ICC CEO was happy with the success of the tournament.
"Overall, very satisfied with the Champions Trophy (2017). Across all aspects of the event, really, from the enthusiasm of the volunteers - cricketeers, as they were called - to the broadcaster viewership, the digital content that we put out, umpiring, player behaviour, pitches … everything went well. The cricket has been great. It shows that if you've got context and competitive teams, you will have a great event."