The ICC Champions Trophy 2013, won by India, was supposed to be the last edition of this tournament which the International Cricket Council (ICC) felt didn’t have any real meaning to it. Since its integration into the cricket calendar in 1998, Champions Trophy has been of great interest to cricket fans. With the ICC World Twenty20 (WT20) now being played once every two years, though, the ICC has had difficulty in scheduling and accommodating the Champions Trophy, the competition which was played once every two years before the WT20 came into existence.
At the conclusion of the last edition of the Champions Trophy, ICC explicitly announced that the tournament would be scrapped from the calendar and replaced by the ICC World Test Championship, the inaugural edition of which was planned to be held in 2017. But, because the 2013 Champions Trophy was a massive hit, maybe the ICC felt that the eight-nation tournament could be persisted with until the Test Championship materialises. So, the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 is going ahead and will begin on the 1st of June next year, in England, also where the last edition was held.
Now, the top eight ODI teams as of 30th September 2015 have qualified for next year’s competition. Bangladesh – the seventh-seeded team – are all set to feature in the Champions Trophy for the first time since 2006, when it was held in India and Australia won the title for the first time.
The eight participating teams have been split into two groups (Group A and Group B) of four, with the defending champions in the 50-over format, Australia, occupying Group A along with their Ashes rivals England, Trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand, and Bangladesh, who beat West Indies to a spot in the ICC Champions Trophy 2017.
Group B consists of the three Asian giants, India, Pakistan and Srilanka, with South Africa completing the group. India, the holders of the ICC Champions Trophy, will begin their title defence against Pakistan on June 4th at Edgbaston, where the last edition’s final was held and MS Dhoni’s men upstaged Alastair Cook’s England. Following the clash against Pakistan, India face Srilanka at The Oval on June 8th and South Africa at the same venue on the 11th of June.
The top two teams from each group will qualify for the semi-finals, which will be played on June 14th and 15th at Cardiff and Edgbaston respectively, with The Oval hosting the final on the 18th.
On paper, Group B seems to be the least competitive of the two. Group A, with world champions Australia, a much-improved England since their dismal 2015 ICC World Cup campaign and an always dynamic New Zealand side, is the one which will captivate cricket lovers at the beginning of the tournament. India have won the ICC Champions Trophy only once, in 2013, and in 2002, the trophy was shared between Srilanka and India, the finalists of the edition, due to torrential weather that made play impossible even on the reserve day for the final.
There is still a lot of cricket to be played between now and the beginning of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 in England. From India’s perspective, they are not the kind of side which went into the 2013 Champions Trophy and came out as winners. Since losing to Australia in the semi-finals of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, India have won just one ODI series (against Zimbabwe) out of four and lost the remaining three to Bangladesh (away), South Africa (at home) and Australia (away).
Dhoni’s devils have regressed massively since their good showing in last year’s world cup and if they want to retain their Champions Trophy crown a year from now, then the Men in Blue will have to raise their ODI game by at least a couple of notches. Unfortunately for the 2011 world cup winners, they do not play a lot of 50-over cricket until the end of this year and might not be able to prepare in the way they would ideally like to, for the tournament which begins in England in 360 days’ time.
Check out: Champions Trophy 2017 Group A schedule