When money means nothing

Johnnie Walker deserved better. United Distillers aren’t short of a couple of cents, obviously, but nonetheless having pumped over US$2.5 million into the inaugural Super Series they deserved a better product for their money.

Actually, the product itself was good. It was just the competition that was lousy. Here in Australia the questions continue to be asked; and as each day passes since the World XI returned to their homes around the world there are answers beginning to emerge.

By far the greatest source of disquiet and unhappiness in the World squad emanated from Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq whose poisoned approach to the entire event infiltrated the veins of even the most positive and effervescent team men.

During the first fielding session before the Super Test in Sydney, World XI captain Graeme Smith informed the squad members where he and coach John Wright had decided each man would field for which bowler. Inzamam was designated third slip for the speedsters, Steve Harmison and Andrew Flintoff.

Smith is a specialist first slipper (and it is traditionally a captain’s position, too) while Flintoff and Kallis are probably the best specialist second slip fieldsmen in the world. So third slip was about the best Inzi could hope for.

“I only field at first slip,” replied a moody Inzamam.

“Well, sorry, but I’m at first slip. Please field at third…” 24-year-old Smith told the 35-year-old Inzi.

Moments after the players lined up in their practice cordon, slip catching began and the first catch came to Inzi’s left hand. He stretched slowly for it, palmed it to the ground and then looked at his hand with an expressionless face. He then walked to the change room and did not reappear.

During the Test Smith clapped his hands together and shouted encouragement to his players in much the way he has in ever team he’s ever played in since the age of 13. Inzamam and Indian opener Virender Sehwag laughed out loud the moment Smith’s back was turned.

Other players gave their all, most obviously the ever-popular Muttiah Muralitheran, but others – led by Inzi – simply weren’t interested. He had to be talked into to traveling to Australia in the first place by PCB chairman Shariyar Khan and then, allegedly, only agreed to make the journey if he was guaranteed a place in the starting XI.

If that was the case it would explain why Shaun Pollock was still in the XI during the team talk the night before the Super Test began – and why nobody had a coherent or likely explanation, least of all Smith, for Pollock’s bizarre omission on the morning of the match. It certainly wouldn’t have been the overcast skies, swinging breeze and slightly damp wicket that would have persuaded Sunil Gavaskar that Pollock’s seam bowling wouldn’t be needed.

But obviously the US$25,000 Inzi received for playing was utterly inconsequential because he made one run in two innings and made it perfectly clear to all concerned that he didn’t care and didn’t want to be there. Apparently, not only was Inzi insulted that he wasn’t chosen in the original squad of 13 (but was later an injury replacement for Sachin Tendulkar) but he was insulted a second time when not offered the captaincy and then a third time when told he had to play under the young Smith. It all made for a very unhappy time in the World XI camp.

And talking of money, an interesting tale to finish off with the Super Series – or to finish it off. The ICC initiated a series of memorabilia projects to raise money and increase profits which, ultimately, help promote the game and are shared by all affiliated cricket playing nations.

The last project was a series of 300 commemorative pictures featuring the images of Brian Lara, Andrew Flintoff and Ricky Ponting. Lara signed happily enough which, at the standard ICC rate of US$30 per signature, earned him US$9000. Not bad for an hour’s work.

Flintoff and Ponting, however, declined the invitation to sign. Contractually they are obliged only to sign objects of ‘team’ memorabilia, not individual ones. Ashes hero Flintoff indicated that the worth of 300 of his signatures was far greater than was on offer while Ponting was, apparently, unhappy that the request to sign was made while the Super Test was still under way. So they both refused.

In time they may be persuaded but, with Flintoff being the self-proclaimed ‘home boy’ with little taste for wealth and fame, and with Ponting being the captain of the world champion team and hosts to the inaugural Super Series, their behaviour – whilst legally sound – left a taste as sour as Inzi’s approach.

Pity.

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