Any concerns about Steve Smith’s form, fitness and ability to adapt to a new batting role have evaporated over the past three weeks as the former Australian skipper has made a sparkling return to high level cricket.
In a world where cricket is battling to remain relevant, the Champions Trophy is about to arrive to assist calibrate our minds, values and priorities relating to the great game.
In a year in which the Australian limited overs team played a series in New Zealand while the Test team was in India, resulting in previously dropped players getting games and even the captaincy, a One Day tournament that means the world to aspiring cricketers cannot come too soon.
What is the Champions Trophy?
Appropriately born in the same year as Jaden Smith, 1998, the competition started life known as the ICC Knock Out Trophy. It then changed its name to the ICC Champions Trophy in 2002 to make everyone involved feel like a Champion, and everyone not involved, well…you get the idea.
Also, it meant new stationery.
Often referred to as the Commonwealth Games of cricket tournaments, the Champions Trophy is a knock-out competition involving the eight nations who also play Test Cricket.
Yes, I know there are ten nations who play Test Cricket, but the ICC only let eight of them play in this tournament.
It used to be held every two years, then it was every three years, now its every four years, because reasons.
The tournament used to be held in different nations to help promote the game, but the ICC decided that was stupid and now seems content to let either England or India host it.
England has been traditionally chosen because of its multicultural society, meaning fans supporting all nations are expected to turn up. At least all the nations participating.
India has been presumably chosen because they make the rules.
Australia have been the most successful team to participate in the competition, winning two Champions Trophies, enabling their players to make odd statements about being twice the Champions.
Who is involved?
The Champions Trophy involves almost everyone that plays cricket, a celebration of exclusivity for exclusivities sake if you will.
Rather than try and grow the game in new markets (countries) and give developing teams greater exposure, experience and revenue, the Champions Trophy
It used to feature more teams, the 2004 competition featured a team from the United States and the Netherlands played in the 2002 competition, but the ICC have rightfully put a stop to all that rot.
Can you imagine it, the Netherlands!
What to expect?
Fans can expect a minimum of fifteen One Day International cricket matches to occur, and possibly some associated press and commentary on the games.
The eight teams involved are divided into two pools, which play off against each other in knock-out games.
Pool A involves Australia, Bangladesh, England and New Zealand.
Pool B contains India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and South Africa.
This iteration of the Champions Trophy starts approximately ten days after the IPL finishes, so all teams should have their full complement of players available.
This may not apply to the West Indies who haven’t experienced a melt-down of the relationship between players and administrators so, like an ATM, are due for a few withdrawals
Pool B looks to be the most challenging, with the winner of that group likely to go ahead and win it all, unless they’re too knackered from playing in such tough qualifying games.
South Africa are currently the highest-ranked ODI team and are better placed than almost any to go all the way to the final and choke.
India could beat South Africa and Pakistan could beat a team of specially programmed robot ninja cricketers on their day, but I don’t think that is going to happen. Particularly the robot ninja thing.
Australia are the highest ranked team in Pool A, though New Zealand have an enviably balanced team of big hitters, fast bowlers, tricky bowlers, crafty bowlers and nurdlers. The nurdlers sure must feel stupid next to the crafty bowlers.
England have pieced together a team that has recently bested the Irish ODI side, so may be a little surprised to come up against full time professionals, rather than plumbers. I expect them to be cordial hosts.