The ICC Champions Trophy in its final edition has been quite unfair to few of the participating giants of international cricket. Or rather, the teams have been unfair to the tournament!
The cricket on display from the likes of Australia, Pakistan and England in particular has been fairly unimpressive, unenthusiastic and under par.
Australia: Losing skipper Michael Clarke at the very beginning of the tournament was not a good sign. The defending champions though are not known to bank completely on one player. This therefore, as a reason would have never sufficed.
Beating West Indies in a warm-up match was a decent showing but that is where Australia's class ended. Players like Shane Watson and Mitchell Starc shone but this - like any other - is a team that needs several good performances to combine well for glory. That didn't quite happen.
Interestingly, the Australian press seemed more intent on asking the players about Ashes than the Champions Trophy - how the preparation was, their take on England players and if English conditions during the course of Champions Trophy would be practice ahead of the Ashes.
Indeed, when so much focus is on one particular tournament, any other - despite being in the nearer future - runs the risk of being taken lightly.
Yes, this is a side still looking for a firm footing to fill in the gaps left by the exit of former greats. Yes, it takes time to get combinations right and perform as a unit. No, that however does not mean that players start looking jaded and worn out on the field and baring fags outside it - bars et all.
England: Being the hosts means fan support is never a problem. There are teams that thrive on home support. England though has hardly looked like one such side.
Being the host nation also has its own share of pressures but in all fairness to them, English fans are hardly as emotional and jingoistic as their counterparts from the sub-continent. Therefore, the 'pressure' factor too couldn't have been too big to become a possible excuse.
Putting aside their win against Australia, England under Alastair Cook have largely looked like going through the routine and rhythm. Add allegations of ball tampering to it all and it only provides a sudden spark in an otherwide lifeless showing from the men - now in red.
Pakistan: The biggest disappointment from the tournament, Pakistan team has been absolutely atrocious in their on-field performances. While the bowling may still be hopeful of some brownie points at best, the batting has been a massive hill of clay that opposition bowlers have steamrolled over.
Neither did this team lack in experience and talent, nor could it have blamed English conditions with arch-rivals India showcasing exemplary cricket here. While the two teams may be very different from one another, the fact that Pakistan failed to fight in any of their three league matches makes up for one side of a staggering structure of problems. The other? Coach Whatmore apparently unable to realize that there is a problem.
Whatmore said after his team's defeat to India that his side is just one ODI win away from a good series. The question here is not of momentum but of stability. When the likes of Nasir Jamshed and Imran Farhat surrender at the top, the middle-order sees it as cue to follow suit. And when the batting lies in shambles, one may speak as highly of Saeed Ajmal as one wants but even the off-spinner cannot weave his turning ball to craft a win.
Overall then, this has been a tournament more about how losing teams have allowed winning sides to bully them, dictate terms and push them to the wall with embarrassing nudges. Had the nudges been the least bit forceful, the shame to bear for these sides would have been slightly less.