The International Cricket Council has admitted that the draws for global tournaments are habitually fixed in order to get India and Pakistan into the same group. The draw for the 2017 Champions Trophy in England, which was revealed at the Oval yesterday, again throws the two countries together, with the reigning champions India beginning their title defence against their historic rivals at Edgbaston on June 4.
It is the fifth tournament in succession where India and Pakistan are scheduled to meet in the group stage. Matches between the two countries regularly attract global television audiences of up to one billion and although it had long been suspected that the ICC was doctoring draws to guarantee fans and broadcasters another iteration of the sport’s most lucrative fixture, this is the first time that the governing body has admitted it publicly.
“No doubt we want to try to put India versus Pakistan in our event,” said ICC chief executive Dave Richardson. “It’s hugely important from an ICC point of view. It’s massive around the world and the fans have come to expect it as well. It’s fantastic for the tournament because it gives it a massive kick.”
The decision to put India and Pakistan together at all costs – a factor that was also behind the adoption of a 10-team round robin format at the forthcoming 2019 World Cup in England – essentially dictated the rest of the draw before it had been made.
Seedings for the eight-team tournament were decided on the basis of the 50-over world rankings at the end of September 2015. India (seeded No 2) and Pakistan (No 8) thus had to be bracketed with South Africa (No 3) and Sri Lanka (No 5) in order to balance the group. Current Twenty20 world champions West Indies are ranked No 9 in 50-over cricket and, thus, did not qualify. (www.telegraph.co.uk)