One city, two venues

Even before the tournament began there was a strong feeling amongst players and administrators that Champions Trophy 2009 had finally found its niche in both the international calendar and the players’ hearts.

Key for the administrators is the 14-day window which still allows them plenty of time to arrange lucrative (and often meaningless) tours and T20 leagues elsewhere.

Key for the players is the location. Ask a cricketer to fly from Jo’burg to Sydney for a six-day Test match and he won’t so much as raise an eyebrow at the prospect of a 14 hour flight, even if his journey starts in Durban or Port Elizabeth first. But tell him that he’ll need to change hotels every scond day and his heart will sink.

There aren’t too many team sports which require its participants to carry as much kit as cricket. (I’m assuming that wind surfing and microlighting aren’t team sports?) And a cricketers ‘coffin’, as every player who has ever been on tour will confirm, is packed with coiled springs in the bottom which jettison the contents all over the room the moment it is opened.

Few job in cricket are as tiresome as packing and unpacking. Bags have to be placed outside hotel room doors three hours before the players are due to leave so they can be transported early to the airport or even by road to the next venue if it’s close enough while the squad are compelled to move at the pace of the slowest and habitually latest. All of which means that a city to city flight which might take an hour feels more like five. The players hate it (which is why they may look grumpy when you see them in airports!)

So when word reached the squads that the ICC had decided that all future Champions Trophy tournaments would follow a similar if not identical pattern (eight teams, one city, two venues) there was an understandable warming towards the event.

Strangely enough, there are less contenders for host city than you might imagine. (Don’t get distracted by the fact that Jo’burg and Centurion are separate cities. That’s not the way our visitors see it!)

A couple of Indian cities have two world class venues which remain in working order for most of the year, the most obvious of which is Mumbai although Kolkatta, Delhi and Bangalore would also be contenders. Colombo has no less than four international venues while London is another obvious one with Lord’s and the Oval.

Melbourne could do the job at a push using the indoor Telstra Dome along with the MCG and a couple of Caribbean destinations (Antigua and Guyana) might manage with their swanky new 2007 World Cup stadiums provided they can do an adequate restoration job on their traditional venues.

Wherever it goes, if the world’s best players can arrive in the knowledge that they will be able to unpack their bags for a ‘luxury’ period of 15 days (almost unheard of on an international tour) then it can only increase in popularity. It might just have an effect on the quality of cricket played, too.

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