Show heart and save face, says Smith
Australia and the World XI will employ opposite policies for the Super Test after Graeme Smith dismissed the idea of bonding a team successfully in less than a week. Collective spirit and a pack mentality are Australian hallmarks, but Smith believes focussing on his side's brilliant individualism is the way to beat the world champions.
Telling his players to take greater responsibility than they did during the one-day losses in Melbourne, Smith said it was time to "show a bit of heart" to "save a bit of face". "I'm concentrating on the individual and trying to build up the individual," he said. "I don't think you can have the team environment you have with South Africa, Australia, England or whatever. It's very different because you grow up wanting to play for your country, but when you're thrown into this situation it's very hard to build up."
Apart from his South African underlings, Smith does not know what makes his team-mates tick, but his leadership has been aimed at getting their games in top shape. "I haven't tried to make things rosy," he said. "I want to see the right intensity and the right level, if they are giving 100% that is individual enough. We know they have the skills, it's about getting the heart in the right place."
A lack of squad organisation during the Ashes was identified as an Australian problem by Ricky Ponting and he said the changes in approach had worked over the past two weeks. "The individuals prepared very well in England, but the team preparation was slightly off and that's the main area we've been looking at," he said.
Despite the ease of Australia's one-day Super Series success, Ponting painted the World XI as favourites and then highlighted their concerns as a unit. "They have quality players all down the list, but if we play our best cricket we will challenge them," he said. "Listening to them before the one-day series they said they were having fun and gelling, but it's a bit harder than that. To build a team culture you need to work on that for a long time."
In the Ashes aftermath Ponting was criticised heavily for his performance as leader and he hoped a strong Super Test win would silence his detractors. "As a captain you want to do everything right but you can't do that," he said. "I know that I'm not going to keep everybody happy 100% of the time but as long as I'm keeping the players happy then I'm doing the right job. Last week in the one-dayers everything I tried worked when right through the Ashes it didn't work."
Smith's appointment was also challenged but he was in no doubt about the importance of his task. When asked what was the point of the Super Test he said: "To beat Australia. That's what we've come here for. We haven't done so well so far and in the next six days we're looking for a better performance and a win. I said to the guys I haven't come all this way to play one Test and lose."
Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo