Johannesburg:Questions have been raised about Champions Trophy's relevance in an already crammed international calendar but the ICC has assured that it would be altogether a different experience when the biennial event gets underway here next month.
Officially launching the September 22-October 5 tournament here, ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat said the event, offering a whopping USD four million prize money, would eclipse all its previous editions.
"This ICC Champions Trophy is quite different and more exciting compared to all the ones that went before," said Lorgat.
"Effectively, it is in one location with two world-class venues at The Wanderers and Centurion. It is a short, sharp event with just the top eight-ranked ODI teams taking part in international competition," he said.
"The event is all about prestige. It features the best players competing for a major ICC title with more prize money on offer than ever before with a total of USD four million at stake," added the ICC official.
Incidentally, a number of former cricketers believe the event should be scratched from the ICC calendar. Australian spin legend Shane Warne went to the extent of calling the tournament a "joke".
Lorgat, however, insisted that the event would showcase the very best one-day cricket has to offer.
The prize money on offer this year is four-fold since 2006. The winner will receive USD two million, the runner-up USD one million with the two beaten semi-finalists taking home USD 400,000 each. Those teams that finish third in their groups will each win USD 100,000.
There is also an extra incentive for individuals to excel. Each Man of the Match will win an exclusive IWC watch worth $8,500 and each member of the winning team will win a unique ICC Champions Trophy winners' jacket which only a champion will be entitled to wear.
The teams Australia, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, host South Africa, Sri Lanka and the West Indies have been divided into two pools of four, with the top two from each pool progressing to the semi-finals stage.
The action begins on September 22 with South Africa in action against Sri Lanka in a day-night encounter at Centurion and it will end with a day-night final at the same venue on October 5.
Holder Australia begins their title defence on September 26 against the West Indies in a repeat of the 2006 final. That match will be a day game at The Wanderers, Johannesburg and is part of a blockbuster day of action as, later on, India and Pakistan will go head-to-head in a day-night encounter at Centurion.