x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Big name absentees hurt the prestige of Champions Trophy

Those omissions meant that squad selection headlines over the last couple of days from around the world continue to have been about those who missed out, rather than those who made it.

The Champions Trophy will be poorer for the absence of South Africa's Jacques Kallis.
The Champions Trophy will be poorer for the absence of South Africa's Jacques Kallis.

Perhaps it is the fate of the Champions Trophy to never be what it was meant to be, or could have been.

This tournament should have been a more prestigious marker of an actual world order, given that it pits only the top eight sides against one another.

It should have been the tournament that took cricket to the furthest outposts of the globe to help spread the game in sustainable fashion.

It should have been cricket's main money-maker in between four-yearly World Cups.

Instead, it is going to end this summer in England, likely with a pretty big whimper rather than a bang.

The news this weekend that Yuvraj Singh has not been picked in India's squad further deprives an already ailing tournament of another big-name star, as to a lesser, but more cerebral extent, does the exclusion of Gautam Gambhir from the squad of 15.

Those omissions meant that squad-selection headlines over the last couple of days from around the world continue to have been about those who missed out, rather than those who made it.

That is never a good sign for any bilateral series or tri-series, let alone for an ICC global event that so sorely needs all the star power that it can muster.

Already there will be no Shahid Afridi. Pakistan have dropped him, and on form alone, the decision is entirely justified.

Afridi has not taken an ODI wicket in six matches, but it feels like a lifetime.

Nevertheless, Afridi is arguably the biggest draw, a man whose presence virtually guarantees TV eyeballs, crowds in the stadium, and significantly, headlines good or bad.

England are already without Kevin Pietersen, ruled out long ago with a knee injury.

Not only is he their outstanding batsman, but he is also a man whose appeal stretches far beyond both his adopted country and South Africa, the land of his birth, if not beyond the sport itself. Pietersen is precisely the kind of player those who have no real interest in cricket will go to watch.

And though Jacques Kallis has not always rushed the blood as Pietersen, Afridi or Yuvraj have, a big event needs its big players to be there.

Instead, Kallis's absence - sudden and for personal reasons - will highlight the fact that this will be a first global 50-over tournament since 1992 without Kallis, Sachin Tendulkar or Ricky Ponting. Three bona fide greats, absent.

None of this is necessarily a bad thing. New names and superstars are created, after all, only when older, more-established ones step aside.

But if ever there was a format and a tournament that needed as much help as possible in terms of making it more attractive to viewers, it was this one.

This one, without the big names, feels a little bland without the likes of Yuvraj, Afridi and Pietersen.

osamiuddin@thenational.ae

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