Why the Champions Trophy qualification system is flawed
A qualification system should present an equal playing ground to all the participants.
The criteria for the qualification to ICC Champions Trophy 2017 is that the top eight teams in the Reliance ICC ODI Rankings as of on 30 September 2015 will qualify for the tournament to be held in 2017 in England. As per the scenario in August 2015, it seems likely that the eight teams that will qualify for the 2017 ICC Champions trophy will be Australia, South Africa, India, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and England with West Indies missing out closely.
There are always pros and cons of a particular qualification system. One straightforward advantage of this qualification system is that it is simple to implement without any complications. The purpose of this article though is to analyze the disadvantages of this qualification system and whether it can be improvised.
Has every team got an equal chance to qualify in this qualification system?
Since January 2011, Australia has played 105 ODIs whereas Ireland has played only 39 ODIs. So Ireland has got an almost negligible number of matches to present a case for qualification to the coveted tournament and they should feel unlucky to even not get a chance to present their case.
In the same period Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and West Indies have played 65, 71, 120 and 94 ODIs. West Indies has played just 39 of their 94 ODIs at home whereas Bangladesh has played 51 of their 71 ODIs at home and unsurprisingly 24 of Bangladesh’s 31 ODI wins have come in home conditions and they have not played a single ODI game in India, South Africa, and England. So if Bangladesh have qualified for the Champions trophy, a lion share of this feat belongs to the home success.
In the same time West Indies has won 21 ODIs at home while they have won 17 games away from home and they have played in away conditions except Zimbabwe, Pakistan (UAE) and Ireland, expectedly their record would have been better had they played in all these nations.
The notion behind sharing these statistics was to explain how much disparity there has been in the games that the teams have played as well as the conditions in which those games have been played. A qualification system should present an equal playing ground to all the participants and should consider these factors to ensure no team feels unlucky if it has not qualified.
Can this qualification system be improved?
Considering the theory that only top nations should play the Champions trophy, still there should be a way to improve the current qualification system. There should be a system which gives an equal chance to all the ODI nations. Let us try to envisage one such qualification system.
Accepting the fact that the top six nations have earned their right to play in the Champions trophy, they should be given direct entry into the competition. Now to eliminate the inequalities elucidated above there should be a pre-qualification round for the teams ranked seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth in the ICC ODI rankings.
Each team can play the other three teams in a round robin stage and the top two teams should qualify for the main tournament. For those worried about the length of the tournament, the round robin stage would have only six games which can be completed within a week or ten days. This way a team would have a chance to play in the tournament even if they have played inadequate games or have played a large portion of their games in a particular condition.
In all probability, fans would miss out watching the likes of Chris Gayle, Andre Russel, Kevin O’Brien in the Champions trophy. With a tournament qualification system better planned maybe the fans would not have missed the entertainment these players provide. Even if the entertainment would have been restricted to a pre-qualification stage, the amount of thrill it would have provided would have been worth the efforts put in by the administrators.