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By the time you are reading this article, either New Zealand or Australia has qualified for the finals, and the second semi-final is about to take place. Out of the four semi-finalists, three has previously won the Champion's Trophy, but none of these three has won the World Cup in recent history. Ironically, the Champion's Trophy continues to elude the teams that are known to be the real Champions.

Not much has changed since the biennial event was first played in Dhaka, 1998-99, when the then current champions Australia were knocked out in the very first round of the event. South Africa, the team known to have extraordinary bad luck when it comes to the world cup, defeated West Indies in the finals to win the first ever trophy. It was the last time Hansie Cronje got to lift a major trophy as the match fixing allegations began to surface within the next year.

Although the tournament's initial knock out format received much criticism, it was retained in the second meet held in Kenya, 2000-01. A spirited New Zealand team surprised everyone by beating India in the finals, but lost its form immediately after the tournament. The third event too saw the back of the world champions before the finals, and India and Sri Lanka shared the trophy after both attempts to play the final were washed out in the monsoon rains. By that time one thing had started to become very clear: knockout or group format, the champion's trophy takes the glorious uncertainty of the game to the next level.

This year, the majority of the matches were low scoring and one-sided, but in the context of the whole tournament, it has not been totally disappointing. Some felt the exit of the Asian giants took the wind out of the tournament's sails, but then again, the blame goes to the teams for such a substandard show. Sri Lanka failed spectacularly after such high hopes; India saved their worst performance for the crucial match against Australia, Bangladesh were their usual self against the West Indies and Pakistan never recovered from the debacle over the captaincy and the dope disgrace. After all, what more do you expect from a team whose captain says he still does not 'understand' the rules of cricket after getting out in weird manners.

In the past the champion's trophy has gone to the dark horses. The semi-final line-up suggests this tradition could remain unchanged this year as well. Can Australia take the momentum from their last win to power themselves to their last unconquered territory?
Only time can tell.

By Tausif Salim


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