New Zealand in Australia 2011-12 December 15, 2011

Who cares about the Man-of-the-Match award?

The great Man-of-the-Match debate after the Hobart Test … my first reaction when I watched it live was a bit of surprise

The great Man-of-the-Match debate after the Hobart Test … my first reaction when I watched it live was a bit of surprise. I would probably have gone for Doug Bracewell but could see why the judges chose David Warner. Once it dawned on me that it was a viewer-driven poll, though, I was less sanguine about the decision. "How stupid," I thought. Of course it was only ever going to go one way if that was the way it was decided. My next thought was, "Honestly, who really cares?"

Clearly, I'm in the minority. Clearly, lots of people do care. So let's look at both sides of the argument then.

This MOM award thing is such a fine line. Especially in such a close game. If this Test had been played in New Zealand, with the same viewer voting system in place, no prizes for guessing who would have won that award. Even if Warner had got Australia over the line, Bracewell may have won the vote. I don't think Australians are the only folk who would have voted for their own man in a tight call.

Let's look at it another way; in Hobart, if Warner hadn't taken that last single, exposing Nathan Lyon to the strike and smashed two boundaries instead (if anyone in world cricket is capable of doing that, surely Warner would be close to the top of that list), would that have changed everything? It would have meant that Australia would have won the match, Warner would have scored a few more runs and Bracewell would have taken five wickets instead of six in a losing cause. So, would eight extra runs have changed our opinion on the whole matter?

What if it wasn't Warner who hit those extra eight runs? What if Lyon had snicked a couple of boundaries or even played one of those delightful Mark Waugh-esque flicks through midwicket? Would that have made us less critical of the popularity contest verdict?

My point is that in a game that was so close, it was a marginal call anyway as to who would get the MOM award. Personally, I would have chosen Bracewell but it wasn't the 'no-brainer' that some people suggest it was. After all, here was a bloke in only his second Test, often pilloried for being a Twenty20 slogger, carrying his bat through a tense fourth-innings chase on a pitch where the next-highest individual score was less than half his 123. It was a pitch that suited bowlers after all so perhaps, if you wanted to be devil's advocate, it could be argued that Warner's effort was more meritorious than Bracewell's bag of wickets.

Do the players themselves really care all that much? Sure, we remember the MOM from a World Cup final but do we really remember each Test match award? It's only a temporary title after all. The circus moves on and today's MOM is yesterday's forgotten hero. How many cricketers trade their reputations on official MOM awards? They play so much cricket these days and each award ceremony is nothing more than an attempt by sponsors to get some gormless, star-struck chief executive or marketing manager on stage to hand over some hideous looking trophy or gold-plated carving. The compere asks the player insightful questions like "how do you feel?", the player responds by thanking the sponsors and acknowledging the contribution of "the rest of the lads" and another memorable (not) ceremony winds up with a mug shot of the aforementioned chief executive trying to shake the hands of anyone who had anything to do with the match, including the groundsman, umpire or bus driver.

Real cricketers don't really care about these awards, not to the extent that the public seems to anyway. Cricketers are not like politicians who care more about what other people outside their 'industry' think. To cricketers at this level, the respect of their peers is more important than any award. Bracewell knows that he has the respect of his team-mates and more importantly perhaps, he has earned a new level of respect from the Australian team. That's probably his most satisfying emotion - knowing the opposition team rates him. MOM awards are all very good but honestly, they'd trade all of those awards for that deep sense of respect and being rated by the opposition. Cricket at this level doesn't need titles to confer legitimacy. Their achievements transcend such cheap thrills.

Cricketers tend to value quiet respect and admiration from inside their community much more than popularity contests conducted by mobile phone companies who make money from every vote. Warner, clearly crestfallen at losing the match, should be applauded for not whooping it up when he got the award. The Australian team were dignified in not going over the top when handed the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy. The New Zealand side were dignified and gracious in victory, aware that in young Bracewell, they had a champion of the future. Dignity, respect and a quiet sense of a job well done. No need for anything else.

Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on February 18, 2012, 2:08 GMT

    Doug Bracewell must've been MOM, Warner failed while Bracewell triumphed. MOM awards give players respect, and Warner's innings is not deserving of respect as thats how any batter shouldve played when they're in alright form. Warner shouldve played in his usual style like the 180 he got against India, if he knew none of the other players were going to step up... Bracewell's bowling took discipline, and he knew that he had to step up when Australia only needed 80 runs with 8 wickets in hand.

  • testli5504537 on January 4, 2012, 21:48 GMT

    I'm a kiwi and I did feel that Bracewell deserved it, but Warner deserved recognition too. What really annoyed me was that Michael Clark failed to mention New Zealand once in his post match interview, it was all about what Australia had done wrong and how they could come back from the defeat. Simply saying "congratulations New Zealand" would have been nice.

  • testli5504537 on December 16, 2011, 13:00 GMT

    First up, the MOM must not be decided by the Viewers - it must be decided by a Panel of Cricket Experts,or, by the MATCH REFEREE. Secondly, if this Match was played in NZ, it is presumptuous of the Author to assume that Bracewell would have got it, had NZ lost the Game. Bracewell, in the face of imminent defeat, literally & single-handedly put his hand inside the Jaws of Defeat & snatched a Victory for NZ ! ! Lastly, MOM Award must only be given to the one who deserves it - otherwise it is an Insult to the deserving Player. DR. AHAD KHAN

  • testli5504537 on December 16, 2011, 8:17 GMT

    @Gulu Back in those days, matches were few so winning the MoM award was prestigious business. Nowadays, starting from Club T20 right upto Test cricket there is an MoM. So it has lost the lustre.

    @Shahid Majeed Afridi scored his hundred against Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad & Kumble.

    Tendulkar's century was in a 4th innings chase of a huge target on a spiteful pitch against a spirited Pak team while nursing a bad back and unsupported by his team-mates. Wasim, Waqar & Saqlain were at the peak of their powers.

    ______________________________________________ Reg. article: I'd have given it to Warner too since the pitch was bowler friendly. Excellent article Michael Jeh! I remember Tendulkar saying after winning Player of the Tournament for World Cup 2003: "I'd gladly switch this trophy to that [the World Cup]" Players want victory and respect. Warner himself may not fondly remember this Test for his MoM more than for the hundred or the bitter loss.

    Excellent article!

  • testli5504537 on December 16, 2011, 7:23 GMT

    generally a player who turns the match at a crucial juncture and wins it for his team should get MoM award. Sometimes, a player from the losing side also would have performed well in which case the MoM can be shared. It did not happen here. Again if the organisers sense biased response from the viewers (which is not unexpected in any country), they should be in a position to overturn the verdict (since they claim it is a 'trial' to select MoM from public opinion). Luckily, they did not award Michael Clark for allowing Kiwis to have a test win against Australia after so many years.

  • testli5504537 on December 16, 2011, 5:32 GMT

    100% agree with Faisal, MOTM is encouragement and recognition by cricketing peers which for a player can provide a stepping stool to continue good performances. It is like a boss recognising his workers for good work performed. Who says this type of recognition is not important. It valuable for anyone who has tried his most for a team.

  • testli5504537 on December 16, 2011, 5:18 GMT

    nice point of view... but i disagree to a certain extent. it might not matter much to me and we will have a new MOM in a couple of weeks time to discuss about. but to Bracewell, just imagine him saying to his grand children that "he played a very critical role in NZ's win over AUS after a near quarter century" vs "he was the MOM of that match". It tells all the difference.

  • testli5504537 on December 16, 2011, 4:23 GMT

    I am not sure if the match was in New Zealand and if warner had won the match for Australia the Kiwis would have voted for Bracewell i think they would have voted for warner. I think the issue here is not so much nationality it is in my opinion the bias towards batting over bowling. Unless the bowlers overwhelmingly trump a batsman the MoM award always goes to a batsman. Even in a bowler dominated match the MoM is given to the batsman as they say "ho get got a great 60 on a difficult pitch" and if it is a batting paradise then someone will get a double and they say "what a great innings" it won't be mentioned that it was flat as a pancake and the poor bowler toiled hard maintained discipline and took a 4 wicket haul

  • testli5504537 on December 15, 2011, 23:09 GMT

    It has more to do with marketing than players or the game nowadays, as someone said about Indian sponsors all lining up on stage, I mean, to me Ian Botham will always be the man of Headingly 81 and Gavaskar Madras 83 and Kapil and Imran both world cup winning captains, Kapil with that incredible 175, etc, these are the men you remember, Atherton vs SA, Hadlee vs Australia, Steve and Mark Waugh against the W. Indies, Richards and Llyod against everybody. Too many games to care about who won the Man of the Match, oh yeah, Sehwag scoring 300 against Pakistan and his 195 against Australia..the list is long enough.

  • testli5504537 on December 15, 2011, 18:53 GMT

    This is from a neutral fan.

    Yes honors/awards dont mean as much as the respect earned, but they are important for encouragement and appreciation of the player. It works in every field of life and cricket is no different. I dont think any award I recieved in school has any impact on my life/career now but yes it gave me satisfaction and encouragement at that time(even if it was short-lived).

    Hence the decision should be fair and this one wasnt. While MOM certainly is not a big deal in cricket, an unfair decision made it inot one.

    Even if we disregard which one turned out to be a match winning performance (although in most cases its enough), we have to realize that test cricket is based on 2 innings not 1. Bracewell stood out in both while Warner failed in the first.

    And the voter system for MOM is all crap. It should be judged by an expert panel like always.

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