Big talk, no substance

Australia's easy victory in the ODIs and the so-called `Test', demonstrated the futility of such matches. To have granted the fixtures Test status was an insult to Test cricket and at the very best these match should be down graded to first class status.

THE futility of world XI matches was clearly on show when the so-called ICC World XI performed so badly.

Traditionally this type of fixture has, at its best, only ever been exhibition games lacking the drama and passion of a fine international clash.

Australia's easy victory in the ODIs and the so-called `Test' demonstrated the futility of such matches. To have granted the fixture Test status was an insult to Test cricket and at the very best these matches should be downgraded to first class status.

To expect such a loose net of players to exhibit the same passion they display, while playing for their own country in international matches, was beyond expectations and only a dream of the ICC marketing people.

I am all for arranging matches to fill the coffers of the ICC so that they can generate the cash to develop cricket throughout the world, but in this callous cricketing world true competition from such a loose net of visiting players was, to my mind, beyond expectations.

Players cannot just turn on the passion and thus, the form and entertainment in such clashes. And they never have.

While being sympathetic to the players who were in the World XI, I was also very disappointed in what seemed to be a lack of pride in most of their performances.

Whether they liked the concept or not they still put out their hands and accepted the very lucrative pay packet that was their reward for selection in the ODIs or Test.

I believe it was $ (A)10,000 per one day match and $ (A)30,000 for the Test. On top of this they would have received business class travel, 5-star luxury accommodation and a generous daily expense allowance.

It was a very generous package as good money was also on offer for the victors.

The Australian public had every right to complain about the poor cricket that they saw from the visitors, particularly with the high admission charges, the most costly ever in Australian cricket.

If this was an indication of the more professional attitude touted by the modern day players, it was a very poor example indeed.

Perhaps the series might have been more competitive if the players were offered a much smaller fee for just turning up and a very large reward for the winners of the matches.

When I first accepted the invitation to coach Australia, I immediately resigned from my lucrative commitments, on radio, TV & in newspapers.

The basis of my decision to do so was because I felt or didn't want the pressure of serving two or more masters, plus the obvious conflict of interests that must arise.

In recent years, I have spotted a number of players, coaches and virtually any one closely involved with cricket being paid by the media to express their views.

In the chase for the mighty dollar, pound or rupee we have had players and officials often airing views and opinions which would have been better kept to themselves.

I am tired and often disgusted with quotes coming from players and officials which more often that not have very little substance and quite often appear to be about personal grievances rather than news.

The recent attack by English coach Duncan Fletcher was a case in point.

When I read this I thought back to my old mate and great West Indies spin bowler, Lance Gibbs.

Late during the 1991 Australian tour of the West Indies, Lance, the West Indies' manager came to me to complain about the sledging of some of his players by a couple of Australians.

He was following up on some `grumblings' from a couple of his charges.

When I asked who were the complainants, I laughed, for they were the players the Australians had whinged to me about, for the same reasons Lance was reporting to me.

I then proceeded to tell Lance my side of the story and suggested he have another chat with his players.

He came back the following day a much wiser man with a clearer view; that it takes two to tango.

All this was kept out of the press and relationships were back on a nearly even keel.

It has been my view that generally there are players in every team throughout the cricketing world who do not mind the odd word or two and can also be very petulant.

Some do it openly and are more publicly obvious, while others are sneaky, and thus more dangerous.

In airing his grievances, many of which seem to be very petty, Fletcher has opened a Pandora's Box.

In such a highly charged and emotional series I have no doubt that the battle in the middle was tough, unrelenting and action and things said and done would have got up the nose of players from both teams.

It was a great series and I would prefer to remember it by some of the spontaneous acts of generosity shown by members of both teams, such as the moving moment when Andrew Flintoff, in the middle of an on-field celebration after England won a memorable second Test, ran the length of the pitch to console a distraught Brett Lee, who had played a great batting role that took Australia from a near hopeless position to two runs short of a victory.

That Fletcher should have aired such views amazed me. After all, his team had just won a great series and become heroes.

Fletcher's role in the victory had received very generous praise and a guaranteed place in the annals of English cricket. That he has been petty enough to use his column to air such views amazed and disappointed me.

Particularly disappointing was his claim that Ponting would walk straight up to the umpire and challenge his decision using overbearing body language.

Fletcher seems to have gotten into that very dangerous position of seeing his own players through rose-coloured glasses and only seeing bad in the opposition.

I know my eyes might be a little dimmer than in the heady days in the middle, but they are still sharp enough to have noticed that the English players also appeared to direct the umpires to seek the views of the third umpire; something which they have no right to do.

Fletcher also claimed that Ponting was supported by Adam Gilchrist and that, sometimes, there was even a third person involved.

He also went on to say "is that really what we want kids to see when they watch cricket, is that in the spirit of the game?"

Perhaps Duncan should re-read his own petulant article if he is worried about the spirit of the game, for his column was certainly not.

Knowing the views of those in charge of the game in England, I am sure Duncan Fletcher will hear more about his article, and rightly so.