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If there is anything that the recent Johnnie Walker Super Series between the ICC World XI and Australia taught us, it should be that 11 great players do not necessarily maketh a great team or even a good one for that matter.
Cricket has been the sort of game where great individual performances tend to get noticed a lot more than good, solid team performance. In the overglorification of the individual performer, we sometimes forget what makes a team tick. It's the ability of the players to contribute not only a 100% as an individual but to be a team player: somebody who takes responsibility for the team's performance and helps in pushing his other mates to perform to their full potential. And building this team spirit doesn't happen in a day - or even a week. The World XI certainly went in with a lot of expectations and came out without winning a single game against a powerful, well-balanced Australian outfit. Theoritically the World XI batting line-up featured some of the most exciting talent in world cricket today. The bowling was no less impressive, at least on paper. Yet, this team of players failed to measure up to expectation. Even Andrew Flintoff, the hero of the Ashes, couldn't quite produce something magical to upset the Aussies again. It was disappointing, to say the least - especially the Super Test which didn't go the distance.
Team selection was certainly a problem. And selecting a World XI can involve a lot of sensitivities and pressures that go beyond the cricket realm. Political correctness demanded the inclusion of certain players. Again, it was important to give as many nations a representative as possible and the formula certainly wasn't easy to decipher. The Inzamam episode showed how selection could be touchy at the best of times and especially when selecting a World XI. But I think the issue goes beyond selection alone. Once the team was selected, it was supposed to be the best of the rest, right? So this team should have seriously challenged Australia. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way in life or cricket. There was almost no way you can build a team just by naming the players. And that was the basic problem of World XI - it remained a paper team till the series actually began. Australia have been a close-knit team for years together now. Their recent Ashes setback made them all the more determined to prove a point or two. There was little chance that such a collection of assorted players from around the world could beat such a strong team and in their own backyard as well! And so, the World XI was faced with immense odds. One thing was that the series was too short to really give these players a chance to get seriously involved. By the time the World XI could get its bearings right as a team, the series was already decided! I would have loved to have seen a couple of extra one day games and a two-test match or even a three-test match series instead of a single Super Test.
Ultimately, rather than blaming the individual players of the World XI for this poor performance, I would only question the ICC's poor planning of this series which made it meaningless in the first place. It was just a snapshot of an event and not a serious cricket series. And ultimately I think that would quite clearly explain why this Super Series was not so super after all.
Posted on Tue, Oct 18, 2005 at 22:43 IST (last updated: Sun, May 24, 2009 @ 19:23 IST)