Fresh Mareeba mud crabs

For many years, to my untrained eyes, the sight of Australian Rules Football on television was drab, dull and not a little confusing. My colleagues in this country urged me to watch a game live to understand the passion and appeal of the game and, when I did, I understood.

It’s a brilliant game.

The same may be said of the Super Series. How well is coming across on television sets around the world? Does it seem a bit…’pointless’?

Is any of the unique atmosphere coming across and the flat screen?

I gather from friends back home that the answer is a reasonably emphatic ‘no’.

Well, it works here in Melbourne and I believe it will work even more successfully in Sydney next week where there are just a few thousand seats remaining for the opening three days in the 42 000 capacity SCG.

It’s not just the absorbing sight of thrilling players from six different countries playing alongside each other in one team and the number of ‘bums on seats’ cricketers on parade, it’s the fact that your eyes are rarely diverted from the action when a wicket falls.

Without being unkind to most national teams and without naming names, there often whole sections of a one-day international when you can happily go and light the braai behind the stadium safe in the knowledge that not much is going to happen.

Not here in Melbourne. People have said there are too many ‘flash’ players in the World XI line-up and that’s why they have been thrashed but, with respect, that’s rubbish.

There isn’t much ‘flash’ about Jacques Kallis and Rahul Dravid.

They are, in fact, the best foundation batsmen in the world.

If you can’t build an innings around them then you can’t around anyone. The problem has been that Kallis is shockingly out of form and Dravid hasn’t batted high enough up the order.

The fact that people in Melbourne have been able to see Virender Sehwag, Daniel Vettori, Andrew Flintoff and Shaun Pollock walking the Southgate promenade on the banks of the Yarra river together is exotic, and it has been fascinating to see their interaction off the field or away from television cameras.

But that’s not the point and it’d be hard to justify the Super Series along the lines of: “Let’s get the very best players in the world together and pay them thousands and thousands of dollars so they can have seafood curry together and reminisce about their careers.”

(The money really is very good indeed ranging from a bare minimum $25 000 for the World XI one-day players who lost every game to a potential maximum of $145 000 for the Australian players if they win the test as well as the one-dayers.)

So what is the point? What is the context in which the Super Series can survive and justify its existence?

Here it is: It’s the incentive to reach number one in the world. The Super Series provides an end-of-season, something that exists in every other team sport in the world.

Can you imagine a league in another sport that never ended?

Imagine if Brian van Rooyen, in all his wisdom, announced that the Currie Cup was to revert to an ever-revolving rankings system and if that there was to be no cup final. (Actually, that’s the kind of madness you wouldn’t put past him.)

The Super Series, potentially, provides so many good things: a massive financial incentive to reach number one, a cup final atmosphere, a second chance for the vanquished teams of the world to gain a modicum of revenge and, in the words of coach John Wright (who was paid $30 000 for his month’s work) “…a unique platform for the world’s best players to perform.”

Anticipation ahead of the six-day Super Test is huge – largely because the world will get another chance to see Shane Warne perform on his favourite surface (and go head-to-head with Muttiah Muralitheran).

Both Wright and Shaun Pollock enthused over the concept but cautioned that it “should not be overdone.”

They both mentioned three or years as a good lapse between Series but they appeared unaware that the ICC has already decided to stage the event every two years.

The wise men in Dubai will have to apply their minds with record amounts of diligence to make sure they get it right.

On what format and where, for example, will it be played when the world’s number one ranked team is different in test cricket and one-day cricket?

How will the majority of the cricket playing world remain placated during a compulsory one month break when their national team cannot play?

There are still more questions than answers, and the World XI have provided yet another question by playing so poorly in the inaugural Super Series, but it is to be hoped that answers are found. It deserves to succeed.

ps – On the menus at last night’s restaurant were “fresh Mareeba mud crabs”. Mareeba is a town in north Queensland with, presumably, lots of mud. I did not try them.

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