Champions Trophy : Revisiting the 19-year journey so far

From knock-outs to round robins, seven editions and a century of matches.

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ICC Champions Trophy was initially conceived as the Wills International Cup or the ICC KnockOut Trophy when the parent body tried to take the growing popularity of the game to places that have a large following but limited presence in international cricket and also add in another world event to the quadrennial World Cup to pump in revenues.

The tournament that saw first the light of the day at Bangladesh in 1998 sans the hosts before flying to Kenya two years later – the hosts making a debut this time. The initial biennial event – that had subsequent editions in elite nations like Sri Lanka, England, India and South Africa – was later re-synthesized to the quadrennial status like that of its big brother (read World Cup). The reason behind that was the advent of World T20 that seems to be the wine of the fans in recent times.

After India won the last event, there were immediate talks of burying the event with an unprecedented ICC Test Championships to bring the oldest format into the ICC world event list and dispense a tournament – with a desire in hindsight to keep intact the charm of the World Cup – that has lost much relevance than it actually had two decades back with its non-clichéd knock-out format in the pre-T20 era.

With India getting a chance to defend the tournament with farther talks of the next one in 2021, the G8 meet of cricket seems to have saved the axe for the moment. And let us now just have a look on the past seven editions of the Champions Trophy to understand how the tournament progressed by the years.

Bangladesh 1998: All the nine Test playing nations flocked to Dhaka to play under the newly installed floodlights at the Bangabandhu National Stadium. With reasons more about marketing than rankings, New Zealand and Zimbabwe locked horns in the pulsating pre-quarter – with the winner (New Zealand) bowing out later to the World champions Sri Lanka in the next stage. India beat Australia but fell to West Indies in the semis. South Africa saw off England, Sri Lanka and West Indies in the order to become the first champions of the Knock-out Cup.

Kenya 2000: Keeping the format intact, the tournament was expanded to 11 teams, two sides making their debuts – the new Test member Bangladesh and the hosts Kenya. The bottom six nations as per 1999 World Cup seedings jostled out in the pre-quarters – India, Sri Lanka and England progressing at the expense of Kenya, West Indies and Bangladesh. India embarked upon a memorable journey beating the toughest team duo of Australia and South Africa to reach the final. The other finalist – New Zealand – too saw off Zimbabwe and Pakistan. New Zealand won the championships in what was their first major silverware in a world event.

Sri Lanka 2002: The edition dispensed away with the sudden death format and the 2001 Associate winner Netherlands made their debut. The 12 sides were grouped into four pools of three each with the pool winners making the semis. India beat South Africa once again at the semi-final while Sri Lanka strangulated Australia on a slow pitch to make the finals – a title match that failed to produce a winner despite accounting for a total of 110 overs over two days thanks to some weird rain-rules of the tournament. The Asian brothers were declared joint champions.

England 2004: The championship made its debut at its origin with no change in format from Sri Lanka. The USA replaced the Dutch from the 12th slot by virtue of winning an ICC tournament in the most dramatic fashion as possible and expected from the western country more known for baseball. Like the Netherlands last time being fleshed out by Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the Americans were haplessly exploited by the Tasman brothers – Australia and New Zealand. India lost out to Pakistan who topped their respective pool to progress to the last four. West Indies finally avenged their twin South African debacle in the event and later crushed Pakistan to reach their second final. England took out their Ashes rival Australia to stay in hunt for a major trophy. West Indies ended their 25-year title drought by putting out the Englishmen in an epic final.

India 2006: The tournament added a qualifying phase ahead of the round-robins. Sri Lanka and West Indies qualified ahead of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe in the battle of bottom fours to join the top six. The eight teams were grouped into two. India started well with a victory over England but a ten-day hiatus saw them lose steam to bow out after successive defeats to West Indies and Australia. In a rarity, no Asian side could make out of the round robins. Australia pulled off a routine win over New Zealand while West Indies again saw off South Africa to set up the title match. Australia avenged their round robin loss in a stellar manner that saw a complete Caribbean capitulation.

South Africa 2009: The tournament was slated to be hosted by Pakistan in 2008 but was suspended for security reasons. A terror attack on the touring Sri Lankan side months later justified the ICC decision with Pakistan hardly had played any international in their den since then. The Champions Trophy – in its first appearance post the World T20 – then moved to the South African shores. The present format of top eight teams – purely based on rankings till a pre-set date – playing the event with the qualifiers did away with. India lost their opener against Pakistan while their next against Australia was washed-out that left India crashing out even before their last game against the West Indies. Defending champs Australia crushed England to avenge their 2004 agony while New Zealand took care of Pakistan. Australia edged out New Zealand to become the first team to defend their title.

England 2013: With the tournament staged after four years for the first time, India displayed a stellar performance to wipe out their disappointments at the same event almost a decade back to emerge the unbeaten champions – winning five matches including a first ever in the CT over Pakistan. South Africa made a dramatic entry into the last four when West Indies finished on par score at the time of rain invasion – a similar fate suffered by the Proteas in 2003 World Cup. England beat South Africa – who again choked in their chronic semis while India packed off Sri Lanka. India snatched away the final from the hosts in a rain-curtailed match.

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