TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
SA’s path to victory in the 2017 Champions Trophy will have to pass three teams who have proven themselves to be among the best come tournament time.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) announced the event’s groups and schedule on Wednesday, and India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka make up group B – along with SA.
All three of the Asian giants have won the World Cup and the World T20. Only Pakistan have not claimed or shared the Champions Trophy.
Fourteen finalists in the 24 deciders contested in those three tournaments have been India, Pakistan or Sri Lanka. That means less than half of those finals have not featured one of the Asian teams.
But, as Indian captain MS Dhoni said in an ICC release, “In the Champions Trophy it doesn’t matter which other sides are in your group or who your semi-final or final opponent is.
“You have limited time and the key to success is consistency and being on top of your game each time you step out onto the field. There is very little room for error.”
SA are seeded third, behind Australia and India, but captain AB de Villiers acknowledged that his team were “in an incredibly tough group” and would “have to play at our optimum best to have a chance of lifting that elusive trophy”.
Group A comprises Australia, New Zealand, England and Bangladesh. Together the groups mirror the top eight teams as the rankings stood at the end of September last year.
They will clash in 15 matches in Birmingham, Cardiff and London from June 1 to 18.
“It is going to be a highly competitive tournament as it features the eight top ODI-playing nations and the quick nature of the schedule opens up the possibility of good quality and action-packed viewing for those 18 days,” De Villiers said. “Every match will be a virtual knock-out so there will be plenty at stake and little room for slip-ups.”
The fact that India and Pakistan have been placed in one group and England and Australia in the other means the ICC have guaranteed spectators the two most watched fixtures in cricket without having to hope those rivals meet in the knockout rounds.
The 2013 edition of the tournament, which was also hosted by England and Wales, was to be the last. From 2017, the suits said, it would be replaced by the World Test Championship.
But the compact nature of Champions Trophy – compared to the World Cup, which dragged on for 49 matches and six weeks last year – made the right light bulbs flicker in the right heads. Instead, the Test Championship was scrapped and the Champions trophy reprieved.
“The Champions Trophy is a short and sharp event which is followed and enjoyed by the spectators and players alike,” ICC chief executive David Richardson said.
His views were echoed by Steve Elworthy, the England Cricket Board’s events director: “The Champions Trophy was a huge success in 2013, with packed grounds and thrilling cricket. So we look forward to welcoming it back to England and Wales this time next year.”
SA’s Champions Trophy fixtures:
June 3 – Sri Lanka v South Africa, The Oval (day)
June 7 – Pakistan v South Africa, Edgbaston (day/night)
June 11 – India v South Africa, The Oval (day)
June 14 – 1st semi-final, Cardiff (day)
June 15 – 2nd semi-final, Edgbaston (day)
June 18 – final, The Oval (day)
Day matches will start at 9.30am (SA time) and day/night matches at 12:30pm (SA time)