Over the past few ICC tournaments, one could always say for certain that there would be three or four teams that were in line to win the tournament, with Australia, at the height of their powers, always at number one. But the 2013 edition of the ICC Champions Trophy is a completely different kettle of fish!
Picking this edition’s winner will be like trying to pick the correct lottery numbers! Since Australia went through, and are still going through, their rebuilding phase, the rest of the pack have been able to catch up and surpass them. In previous tournaments, Australia were always labeled as favourites, with the likes of South Africa, England, India and sometimes Pakistan, propping up the ‘other potentials’. Sri Lanka have sometimes surprised everyone, but this year, almost all of the teams have a chance of winning it.
Pakistan are always the most unpredictable team in international cricket. You never know which team will arrive at the ground. Will it be the all-conquering masters, or the team so bereft of team unity that they simply wilt. Warm-up games are certainly no indicator of potential, but considering their last few results against Scotland and Ireland makes one wonder?
Australia will certainly be up there, or will they? They definitely have the talent, as do most countries, and the Australians always seem to arrive at an ICC tournament and produce their best, even against trying conditions. Shane Watson and Co will need to play as a cohesive unit, if they are to emulate past World Cup sides.
For the first time in a longntime, the Proteas arrive at an ICC tournament without the huge expectations of their supporters. In past events, South Africa have always been expected to perform, with the possibility of bringing home the cup, but this year seems different. Gary Kirsten has made South Africa into the most dominant Test team, but the One Day team form has been anything but. Perhaps without this expectation, the Proteas will be able to shake off that mantra of ‘chokers’ and perform above themselves and the expectations of the fans back home. Kirsten took India to the ICC World Cup in his swansong tournament, perhaps he will do the same with his home country, before Russell Domingo takes over the reins.
England might find the pressure of playing in front of their home fans too much to bare, but then again, you never know with the ‘Poms’. The Barmey Army might just sing them to victory.
India might just find themselves ‘burned out’ after a lengthy and eventful Indian Premier League, but whether the ‘spot-fixing’ scandal surrounding the three players from the Rajasthan Royals and the arrest of Gurunath Meiyappan, a top official at the Chennai Super Kings and also the son-in-law of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president, Narayanaswami Srinivasan, will affect the players on the field, remains to be seen.
The only teams that might fetch you some good odds at the outset are the West Indies and New Zealand. But this is a limited overs format and anything can happen. With the way the format is laid out, a team needs only win four out of five games to lift the trophy, provided the only loss takes place in the group stage.
With New Zealand placed in group A along with Australia, Sri Lanka and England, the Black Caps will do well to win a single game. The West Indies take on India, South Africa and Pakistan in Group B and stand a better chance of making the semi-finals as Pakistan are unpredictable and with the type of calypso cricket that the West Indies are capable of playing, could beat India and South Africa on any given day.
So it’s off to Sophia Gardens in Cardiff on 6 June where India take on the Proteas in the opening match where the loss of Graeme Smith could be felt, while the inclusion of his test opening partner, Alviro Petersen, will be watched very closely.
Let the fun and games begin!