Why the ICC should not decide what is official October 18, 2005

Time to rewrite the record books

Few outside Australia will mourn the end of this Sorry Series



Super flop: Inzamam-ul-Haq was one of the World XI's failures © Getty Images
Should the ICC be allowed to decide which games are to be classed as Tests and ODIs? Send us your feedback

Few outside Australia will mourn the end of this sorry Series. The matches may have given the Australians a chance to reassert themselves after the disappointment of their tour of England, but few - apart from Shane Watson, Matthew Hayden and Stuart MacGill - are likely to gaze fondly at sepia-tinted images from this fortnight years from now.

The games will remain forever in the record books, every bit as much of a Test as the Ashes decider at The Oval, every bit as much of an ODI as a World Cup final. But those who watched them will be left with the impression that they were anything more than international jazz-hat matches.

The ICC's decision earlier in the year to give the games Test and ODI status was far from popular. It was accused of cheapening the standing of Test cricket, of selling out. Bill Frindall, the respected statistician, was livid. "They should not include hotchpotch multinational games with no significance beyond fundraising," he fumed. There is little doubt, however, that the ICC initiative made their task of selling it to television, sponsors and players considerably easier.

What is also interesting to note is that the ICC originally rejected suggestions that the games should have official recognition, but reviewed that after the Tsunami match at Melbourne in January was accorded ODI status. It completed the about-turn at the executive meeting in March.

The hope was that the world's best cricketers would serve up a feast of cricket. But the epic Ashes series gave it an after-the-Lord-Mayor's-show feel before it had begun and what it actually produced was four woefully one-sided games. In the Test, the World XI were bowled out twice inside 100 overs. In five innings, they only once passed 200. Australia were good, but not that good.

It's worth remembering that if Bangladesh performed as the World XI did, the calls for them to be slung out of international cricket would have been deafening. In the Test, the World scored 190 and 144; in their last Test against Australia, Bangladesh made 295 and 163. In the three ODIs, the World XI made 162, 273 and 137; the comparative figures for Bangladesh are 250 for 5, 139 and 250 for 8, and they actually won one of those as well.

The players are not really to blame. Team sport, even one that perversely is built on individual performances, needs a common bond for the team to perform. The World XI had no such bond. For all the positive spin, the players appeared to be on cricket's equivalent of a corporate jolly. Most of them are on the almost endless conveyor belt of international cricket that the ICC has created. Who could blame them for making the most of an expenses-paid working holiday? As Andrew Flintoff said in a refreshingly candid aside: "I guess it goes to show that you don't just play for the money."

The only legacy of the Super Series is to be found in the record books, and that is simply wrong. To classify these games as Tests or ODIs is to cheapen what goes on the rest of the year. The four-day farce at the SCG has as much relevance to Test cricket as a go-cart race does to Formula One. If its right to be called a Test was dubious beforehand, that it will continue to be so is scandalous.

The ICC could do the decent thing, swallow its pride and strip the games of official status. The precedent is there. The 1970 England v Rest of the World games were sold as a Test series, caps were awarded, and few doubted that it was hard fought throughout. But a few years later, the powers that be had a rethink and downgraded it to merely first-class.

That the ICC will not is down to its commercial role in the game. There is still a chance that the Super Series concept might resurface, however unlikely that might seem at the moment, and if that occurs the ICC will again need to be able to sell it as official. As has been seen with events such as this, the equally uncompetitive Afro-Asian Cup, and the Tsunami relief matches, wads of the green stuff rule.

And that is why the ICC should not be entrusted with deciding what constitutes a Test or an ODI. Those inside the ICC who make the decisions have other interests to consider. What is needed is an independent body to rule on what is an ODI, first-class or Test match.

If some good comes out of the last two weeks, then it will be that this power is passed on. But in a world where money buys power and influence, it won't be, and the game's statistics will continue to be a casualty of the pursuit of the dollar.

Should the ICC be allowed to decide which games are to be classed as Tests and ODIs? Send us your feedback

Watch out for a comment in defence of the Super Series concept on October 19

Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo

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