Almanac Cricket – ICC Champions Trophy: One of Cricket’s Best-kept Secrets

After the exhilaration of the India-Australia series a couple of months ago, the Australian cricketing landscape has been relatively quiet apart from the current Mexican stand-off between Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers’ Association.

 

The world cricket bandwagon has, of course, continued on its merry way with a Test series won in bizarre circumstances in the West Indies, the annual IPL extravaganza in India and the more serene English County circuit. And the Ashes series starting in November is in everyone’s consciousness. But the start of the Champions Trophy in England on June 1st couldn’t come at a better time for Australian enthusiasts who are after their cricket fix during our winter months.

 

In many ways the Champions Trophy is one of cricket’s best-kept secrets, and has struggled for relevance in some of its most recent incarnations. Who can honestly remember the last tournament that took place, just before the 2013 Ashes series in England? Does the tournament take place every four years, or is it on a two year cycle at the whim of the ICC? How many times has Australia actually won this competition?

 

The answers to the above are probably quite vague to even the most dedicated aficionado, but the Champions Trophy has a lot going for it, not least the fact it is all done and dusted from game one to the final in seventeen days. And for Australian cricket, another challenge looms on English soil, once virtually a second home for our cricketers but now more notable as the scene of numerous Ashes disasters over the last twelve years.

 

Australia has always been a powerful force in 50-over cricket, and that was never more evident than in the 2015 World Cup triumph in Australia. Set against some challenging events following the death of Philip Hughes and the fitness queries over captain Michael Clarke, Australia couldn’t have won that competition more emphatically than it did. It was a testament to the talent within the squad and the inherent strength of Australian cricket in this format.

 

England in June poses a different challenge, and I’m not sure the Australian selectors have got it right with their 15-man squad squad which came together from all parts of the world at the end of last week. They have chosen a team that looks to have enormous depth in its batting and fast bowling stocks, yet one suspects it may flatter to deceive. And they may have overlooked James Faulkner at their peril.

 

Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazelwood and Pat Cummins pick themselves – Cummins was definitely the feel-good story of the Australian summer with his superb comeback in India – but the selections of James Pattinson and John Hastings look questionable to say the least.

 

We are all excited about the prospect of Pattinson bowling in next summer’s Ashes, and his measured comeback from club cricket through to the second half of the Shield season and then on to county cricket at Nottinghamshire has been superbly handled and is a credit to a wonderfully whole-hearted competitor. But is he really suited to white ball cricket at international level just yet?

 

And the selection of John Hastings seems a big gamble based more on loyalty than recent form. The man whose one-day career for Australia was unexpectedly boosted when he got called into a series at the back-end of the 2015 Ashes whilst playing county cricket must surely be short of match-readiness come June the 2nd. He played virtually no cricket due to injury in the Australian summer, and one wonders how well he will be prepared on the back of division two cricket with Worcestershire over the last six weeks.

 

Faulkner has obviously fallen out of favour with the powers that be, but it’s difficult to understand exactly why. His batting shortfalls have been put forward as a reason by some, but in truth he hasn’t had the opportunities with the bat in recent times that he had one or two years ago. There is also the belief that players worldwide are now more familiar with his slower ball than they once were, but there is no doubt that Marcus Stoinis and Moises Henriques don’t compare to Faulkner as bowlers of reliability and variety. For goodness sake, Henriques doesn’t even bowl himself for NSW!

 

Henriques is in many ways a like-for-like replacement for George Bailey, while Stoinis is certainly worth looking at given that incredible innings he played in New Zealand and the fact that Michell Marsh’s spot must be challenged. But neither player can realistically be pencilled in for 10 overs at this level.

 

Adam Zampa will be an interesting one to watch in this tournament. He’s been our first-choice spinner in white ball cricket for the last twelve months, but he’s coming off an IPL in which he has struggled for game time, and a domestic first class season which was more humiliating than uplifting. And will English conditions in June suit him?

 

Australia’s batting should provide a huge challenge for any opposition bowling which it encounters. Steve Smith, David Warner, Glen Maxwell and Aaron Finch are proven performers in this format, as is Matthew Wade, while Travis Head is making good progress. But the wildcard is without doubt Chris Lynn, and it will be fascinating to see whether he has the temperament to progress from a domestic bully to a player of note at international level.

 

Australia is in the weaker of the two groups and will be expected to progress to the semi-final stage if they can overcome New Zealand, although the whole balance of the group will be thrown into chaos if Bangladesh trouble England as they often do. In Group B South Africa loom as a talented squad despite their regular implosions in these tournaments, and it will be interesting to see how Virat Kohli marshalls his troops after his recent disappointments on a personal level.

 

The World T20 played in India in 2016 is cricket’s most recent global event. It was an embarrassment for Australian cricket as we crashed out on the back of some ridiculous selection and planning which had Warner batting at no.4, Ashton Agar bowling in the power play after hardly bowling in the BBL, and Finch out of the team. It was conveniently brushed under the carpet by Cricket Australia at the time, and again at the recent announcement of Pat Howard’s two-year extension to his contract.

 

Steve Smith has had a phenomenal six months since last summer’s Hobart Test. He has the chance to further enhance his standing in the game as both a player and leader over the coming month, and deserves to join Ricky Ponting as the captain of an Australian Champions Trophy-winning team. I hope the selectors have given him the team with which to do it.

Comments

  1. Luke Reynolds says:

    I find the non-selection of James Faulkner totally baffling. Despite limited chances, averages 34 with the bat in ODI’s. 95 wickets in 67 ODI’s. How unlucky has he been not to play more than the 1 Test, a Test where he took 6 wickets and made a couple of 20’s? A couple of other all-rounders who’ve had more Tests would love a game like that….

    The Champions Trophy is actually a very well structured ODI tournament. Games all really mean something. Looking forward to it.

  2. Peter_B says:

    Brendan – Thanks for helping me with questions I have been wondering about for weeks as I watch the promos on Foxtel. Is the Champions Trophy 50 overs or 20 overs? Is this the World Cup rebranded?
    I have been preoccupied with more important issues like is James Sutherland’s moustache permanent or temporary? Is he planning for a post CA career as a Downton Abbey villain? Is his CA contract negotiation performance just a screen test? Is the CA Public Relations Department using job placement kids or are they actually paid? Has anyone checked the number of fingers and toes on the CFO? Is Don Bradman pulling CA’s strings from the grave? Is Rugby Union the second biggest laughing stock in Australian sport? Why should I care?

  3. Brendan i’m a tad perplexed at the Champions Trophy. 50 over cricket has been waning the last few years, with talk of it being downgraded / phased out with the growth of T 20 cricket and to retain the status of test cricket.

    The Champions Trophy has always had the status of the poor relation to the World Cup. The first two host nations were Bangladesh then Kenya, with it only being played once in India, not yet in the antipodes. Initially it was two years between tournaments, then three, now four. It seems primarily an afterthought as a money spinner. A recuperation of the World cup, though no where near the same importance.

    Well let’s see how we perform on Friday Vs the Kiwis. We opened the T20 world cup in disastrous fashion with some bad tactical blunders. Let’s hope Warner can get us off to a flier in this, his preferred format, after a less than satisfactory test series in India. it will be intriguing to see if we have all 4 pacemen in the side together, with what impact they make.

    Glen!

  4. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    BMac I just want to no who advised,Faulkner or what was going on his head re it became a surprise when he didn’t bowl a slower ball his bowling fell away dramatically because of its over use,it’s quite a while since he performed the finishing role with the blade also which yes mightn’t have had a huge amount of opportunities but when he has it’s a big case of no.Totally agree re John Hastings but re Adam Zampa I thought he took a small step forward re 1st class level this past season ( 1st ten wicket hall in a game ) granted long long way to go.I admit I will follow with a bit of interest but not like test cricket thank you

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