| World XI coach John Wright (left) and Richard Hadlee, one of the selectors, after the announcement of the Test and ODI squads in Melbourne on Tuesday. Also in the picture are two models showing off the Super Series ODI and Test outfits. (AFP)
Sydney: South Africans Graeme Smith and Shaun Pollock have been appointed captains of the World XI Test and one-day squads, respectively, for October’s Super Series against Australia but there was no place for England skipper Michael Vaughan.
Smith will lead the 13-man Test team that will play the Australians in Sydney from October 14-19 while Pollock will be in charge of the 14-member one-day squad in a three-match series in Melbourne on October 5, 7 and 9.
Both squads are packed with the biggest names in world cricket including India’s Sachin Tendulkar, West Indian Brian Lara, Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralidharan and England allrounder Andrew Flintoff.
“This is the first time for decades that the greatest players from the rest of the world have combined their talents, and I expect them to put Australia under real pressure,” said Sunil Gavaskar, the chairman of the selection panel that chose the squads.
“Australia will be looking to regroup after the intensity of the Ashes Series in England, but I don’t think the cricket will be any easier for them against these World XI sides.
“England has shown up fault lines in Australia’s performances and I know (coach) John Wright, Graeme Smith and Shaun Pollock will be eager to capitalise on that.”
Australia captain Ricky Ponting said the Super Series was looming as a great challenge for both teams.
“It will be an amazing experience to play against a side of this calibre and I think for those players in the World XI, it will be an equally exciting prospect to play in a team alongside the game’s greats,” Ponting said.
“No doubt the Australian public is talking about the tight Ashes battle that we’re currently in, and hopefully, that can whet people’s appetites for even more great cricket in October.”
Cricket Australia (CA) chief executive James Sutherland said the series was the biggest cricketing event in Australia since the 1992 World Cup. “It’s a chance for Australia to welcome the world to our doorstep and show what cricket means to us as a nation,” he said.
“This is the ultimate sporting contest, the best team in the world against a team of the world’s best players.”
Selected for both sides, Flintoff was joined in the Test squad by his compatriot Steve Harmison, while Kevin Pieterson made the one-day squad but no other England players were picked.
Nine players were named in both sides but there were some notable omissions including ' Vaughan, Indian spinner Anil Kumble, Pakistan skipper Inzamam-ul Haq and West Indian opener Chris Gayle, who failed to gain selection in either team.
“There are no weak links in either of these squads; everywhere you look there is an outstanding player whose talent enriches the game,” ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed said.
“I firmly believe that Sunil and his co-selectors have chosen wisely in making their choices and have given Graeme Smith and Shaun Pollock an enviable number of options to cover all match circumstances.”
Former India coach John Wright will coach the ICC World XI teams, with Goolam Rajah of South Africa acting as team manager.
The selection panel also included Mike Atherton, Richard Hadlee, Clive Lloyd, Jonty Rhodes and Aravinda de Silva and they took a range of key factors into account, including players’ overall records, current form, previous performances against Australia and their world rankings.
Australia, unbeaten in a Test series at home since 1992, will name their final squad at the conclusion of the Ashes next month.
Meanwhile, Smith and Pollock were delighted at being selected to lead the World XI Test and the one-day squads, respectively. “It came as a surprise and it’s indeed, a great honour and privilege to lead such a talented Test squad,” Smith said. He said that the series will serve as a good preparation for the South African players selected in the squad, ahead of their tour of Australia.
“I want to congratulate every player, especially my fellow countrymen. The selection of our players will put us in good stead in preparation for our tour of Australia later this year. We have had a wonderful 2005 and we want to continue to build on the success of last season,” Smith said.
Former South African captain Pollock said that he did not believe he would be selected to lead such a top side. “I have been playing at the highest level for the last ten seasons and it never crossed my mind once, that I would one day lead a World XI side,” he said.
“I feel flattered to be afforded an opportunity to captain a gifted World XI side against the world champions. I wish to congratulate every individual player and wish them the best of luck.”
Meanwhile, Inzamam has expressed his surprise and disappointment on being overlooked for the Test and ODI squads.
“I would be lying if I said I am not disappointed. But my disappointment is not to an extent that would demoralise or depress me. As far as I am concerned, my top priority is Pakistan and I am still focused on this year’s home series against England,” Inzamam said from Lahore.
Inzamam, who has scored 10,933 ODI and 7,620 Test runs and is the mainstay of a suspect Pakistan batting, was a surprise omission from the squad This year Inzamam, a veteran of 101 Tests, averages 94.67 in four Tests while from 16 one-dayers, he averages 51.23.
“My confidence is still sky high. I thought I had a good chance to qualify in the World XI that would have given me the right preparation before a tough series against England.