How important is winning a warm-up match?

How important are warm-up matches, especially before a tournament as long as the World Cup? How do teams and players approach these games? Nagraj Gollapudi gets the views of those who've been there, done that.

Nagraj Gollapudi
Brett Lee cannot convince the umpire that Hashim Amla is out, Australia v South Africa, World Cup warm-up match, Bangalore, February 15, 2011

Brett Lee was animated in his appeals even though it was a warm-up match  •  Getty Images

How does the intensity of a warm-up game compare to a competitive match?
MS Dhoni: It is very difficult to prepare mentally to play in a warm-up game - especially after what we saw in the 2007 World Cup, where we had two good warm-up matches and after that I don't know where we were. I think it's because of the amount of games that we play because if you play 35-odd ODIs in a year and 10 Test matches and 45 days of IPL and Champions League then all of a sudden when you hear that you have a warm-up game and 15 players are playing in that game, it is a very difficult scenario to mentally prepare yourself for the game.
Michael Clarke: These are exactly what they are supposed to be - practice games. It is important you try and maximise the chance to give everybody the opportunity to bat or bowl, have a run around and more importantly get used to the conditions we are going to play in throughout the tournament.
John Buchanan: There is sufficient intensity in there for them to be certainly better than a net session but it is nowhere near the same level of competition because there are actually points riding on the outcome of the game in the actual matches whereas in a trial game there is no specific outcome from getting a result, win or lose. So, certainly, once you move into the competition proper there is a different feel.
Hashim Amla: There is no doubt it is lovely to win, especially against a team like Australia, who are a very good team. The intensity was up there but we don't look too deep into it.

How important is winning in a warm-up?
Buchanan: It's different for different teams. Some might use most of the games as a means to providing competition to as many players as they possibly can. It gives an opportunity try the odd tactic or two. Obviously players returning from injuries get time to get settled in. The games also can be used to get acclimatised. Some teams will also want to see it as a means to develop some sort of confidence and momentum within the group so they may place a bit more importance on the result of the game. Some teams would like to take a degree of confidence from those games heading into the main rounds of the tournament.
Clarke: It's more about giving blokes an opportunity than the winning.
Amla: It's lovely to get some confidence, but we are playing 15 players in the warm-up matches. Winning against Australia was not about taking confidence from denying the Australia bowlers any wickets on Tuesday [in 46 overs]. We took confidence from the individual performances and the win.

Does a defeat hurt in any manner?
Ian Chappell: You don't try to lose but a loss doesn't hurt anywhere near as much as it does when the match counts.

Is there an advantage to be gained in holding back your best to retain the element of surprise for the business end of things?
Buchanan: It depends again on whether you believe your best players have had sufficient cricket coming into the tournament; then it sometimes is useful to not play them because what works in their best interest is to spend time away from game. There is no size that fits all, as everybody is in different positions approaching the tournament.

How much is it about gauging your opposition?
Buchanan: The emphasis is totally on your own cricket really. It is all about your players being ready for the tournament. As far as studying the opposition goes, the warm-ups can be used to get a little bit of insight into one or two players you haven't seen too much of, but overall it is just about preparing yourself in getting ready for the competition.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo