One of the more unbelievable decisions the International Cricket Council has made in recent times has gone largely unnoticed. The Champions Trophy, a tournament, which chief executive Haroon Lorgat insists will show the world that ODI cricket “is a relevant format”, and which will feature the top eight teams competing over a fortnight has no reserve day for the final.
Imagine India setting up a final against No. 1 team South Africa, only for rain to force the trophy to be shared on October 5. That would be the worst possible outcome, and yet it seems that all the ICC can do now is hope that the weather stays fine.
The Hindustan Times has learnt that several member boards were reluctant to have the Champions Trophy this year and that the window finally agreed on was the best commitment the ICC could get.
“It usually rains in that part of the world in March. In the Johannesburg area it is usually very dry at this time of the year, which is the non-rainy season,” said Campbell Jamieson, ICC's general manager - commercial. Incredibly, the man who is in charge of marketing the ODI tournament at this critical juncture for the format, told a press conference that he was not even sure if there was a reserve day in place for the final.
What makes this even more odd is the fact that Jamieson drew attention to two previous finals, the first in 2002 in Sri Lanka where India shared the trophy with the hosts, saying “rain was the winner” and then spoke about how rain affected the 2006 final in Mumbai.
While no ICC official could explain clearly just why the prestigious tournament did not have a reserve day for the final (it is normal practice to have rain days at least for the semifinals and final) a source confirmed that this was because of the tight window the ICC had to work within.
The lucrative Champions League T20 is scheduled to begin in India on October 8, just three days after final of the Champions Trophy. Allowing a reserve day would mean the tournament ending on October 7, and the players could only leave South Africa on October 7, with not enough time to join their respective club sides in time for the Champions League in India.
For broadcasters, the chance to command significant premiums for advertising spots in the final stages of a tournament, especially if a commercially significant team like India lasts the distance, makes the decision to do away with the rain day seem a particularly dangerous strategy. When contacted about the issue, a spokesperson for broadcaster ESPNSTAR refused to comment.