The top official in world cricket, ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed, piled as much pressure on the World XI as he possibly could just 24 hours before the start of the six-day Super Test by saying that another one-sided contest would kill the concept.
The Super Series is one enormous, golden egg for the players who are being paid $8000 just to pitch up for the one-dayers and $25,000 for the Test – not to mention the $42,850 each of the Australian players received for clean-sweeping the one-day series and the $56,925 the winning Test players will earn.
Or are they ‘earning’ it? Speed is furious that his excellent concept was devalued by a feeble performance from the World XI during the one-dayers and, in a thinly veiled threat to the world’s elite, has suggested they will never again receive such ‘easy’ money unless they produce the goods.
“If the concept is to survive it is up to the Test match to save it,”Speed said.
“You could put it in the category of a very good concept but it needs to work in practice. The way we will see that is to have a very good Test match.”
“For the concept to survive and prosper we need a Test match that shows the rest of the world can play against the best team in the world,” Speed said.
So, have the World XI players been enjoying themselves? Yes, of course they have. Why? Because Melbourne and Sydney are amongst the best ‘party cities’ on the world’s cricket circuit, and because they haven’t been on national duty, and because most of them have their wives or girlfriends with them.
The ICC has struggled to maintain the balance between social gala event and elite sports event. Kevin Pietersen lept at the chance of a business class airticket from Emirates and gave it to his new ‘girlfriend’, the model/actress/socialite/underwear promoter named Caprice.
From the moment they arrived it was a contest to see who could be photographed most.
The Federation of International Cricketers Associations (FICA), who were heavily involved in organising the World XI and negotiating their terms and conditions, originally requested that they be given a ticket for their partners.
The ICC said ‘yes’, but only for the second half of the Super Series.
They said they wanted the World XI to work hard and establish a bond that might see them become an effective team before they started enjoying romantic evening meals in expensive restaurants over-looking the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.
FICA said that half the point of asking for the extra ticket was to travel together, seeing as their precious talents would be traveling half way round their world to collect their bulging pay packets.
So the ICC relented and the Super Series became the glitzy, social event that it is. Or has been. Or will be?
“I think it can add something to the overall cricket calendar. Not many other sports can put the best team in the world against the best players in the world,” Speed said in another guarded comment designed to let the players know that, if they have been treating their time in Australia as a holiday, it was the last one they would ever get.
When Speed first decided on the Super Series his master plan was to stage it every two or three years alternating and fitting in around the ICC Champions Trophy and the World Cup. But the disappointment of the one-dayers and the potential for logistical nightmares has persuaded him to reconsider.
“You need to have one team which is clearly better than the rest and dominant in both forms of the game so we can have the series in one country. That might not happen again,” Speed said.
“It would have been great to test the West Indies teams of the 80s and 90s against the rest of the world. It might be that this England team is the next great team so that concept might pop up again if there is another great team on the cricket landscape.”
There is much to play for at the SCG.
Speed has laid down the gauntlet to Graeme Smith’s team to decide whether it is simply much money, or much more than that
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