Jonty Rhodes' blog

Posted on/at 3:34 PM by The Cricket Corollary

Who would have thought that India, Sri Lanka and South Africa would all fail to make the semi finals? In many ways, the unpredictability of the tournament makes it work. If the Champions Trophy continues to develop a reputation for being unpredictable and throwing up surprises (there has been a different winner in every tournament so far) then it will go from strength to strength.

It still bemuses me that some people say there is no room in the calendar for a two-week gathering of the eight best teams in the world and high-paced scrap for a trophy that is, to all intents and purposes, a ‘mini World Cup.’

It has been a delight watching New Zealand and England cruise to semi-final places against seemingly impossible odds. The Black Caps lost no less than three key players to injuries in the group stage but still managed to reach the last four. Daniel Vettori has been a delight to watch, as a bowler, a captain and a person. His recalling of Paul Collingwood after the second run out fiasco of the tournament was certainly the right thing to do but still deserves enormous credit for cool thinking under pressure. It’s all too easy to let things slip. You only have about 60 seconds to make a decision and time flies when the eyes of the world are focussed on you.

England, too, have defied the odds. It’s hard to believe they lost six in a row to Australia and arrived in South Africa with even Andrew Strauss admitting that there were “serious concerns” about their one-day cricket.

It’s hard to know what to say about Pakistan…! Habitually written off because of their inconsistency and volatile temperament, they still rise to the big occasion more often than not. Nobody ever seems to know what makes them tick. I wonder if they know. Nonetheless, they are brilliant individuals and when they ‘click’ as a unit then they are a match for anybody, though the shorter forms of the game seem to suit them better.

I’m not surprised to see Australia in the semis and I won’t be surprised to see them in the final, either. And I certainly won’t be surprised to see them win it. They must be regarded as the favourites now and, after the disappointment of losing the Ashes, they aren’t lacking in motivation to give their supporters every form of consolation they can. A win here would go a long way to appeasing the hurt of their supporters. Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey and Brett Lee have the experience and determination to make that happen.

Every team goes through highs and lows and sometimes there are very good reasons – or bad reasons – for their loss of form. But there are also times when practical and unavoidable factors play their part, like injuries, lack of match practise and plain luck!

If a team loses 12 out of 15 one-dayers then there is clearly a long term problem, but when teams as good as Sri Lanka, India and South Africa are castigated and threatened with sacking the coach and captain after losing two out of three games then I can’t help feeling that there is a bit of an over-reaction taking place.

There are winners and losers in sport. That’s how it works now and that’s how it has always worked. And sometimes the underdogs win, which makes it even better.

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