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G Rajaraman - Keep the Faith

In its hurry to celebrate Hayden's achievements, ICC forgot that cricket is a team sport

Thursday, January 15, 2022
No lone ranger here

One of the greatest things about cricket is the fact that it is a team sport. Simply stated, no run is complete unless a batsman's partner reaches the safety of the crease at the other end; no wicket can ever be credited to a bowler if a catch is not taken by a fielder or the wicket-keeper.

Perhaps, in the wake of the controversy that it sparked with a release on player rankings, the International Cricket Council (ICC) will remind itself that the sport it runs is a team sport and that it must leave the habit of focussing on individual achievements to others who thrive in that business of praising individual glory. 

To be honest, I would have ignored the dust kicked up by ICC but the rumble of questions is growing and I have felt compelled to come up with this piece. It becomes obvious that the ICC was eager to to join the rush of those praising Australian opener Matthew Hayden in the wake of his decision to retire from the game.

It first sent out a press release headlined 'Matt Hayden confirms his place among the all-time greats of the game'. The release opened by saying "Australia's Matthew Hayden, who has just retired from representative cricket, can now look back on an international career that puts him in the top 10 Test batsmen and top 20 ODI batsmen of all-time."

Then, when it realised how it had set itself up for stinging criticism, if not derisive laughter, ICC entangled itself in a web of words but managed to contradict itself. "Hayden's position of 10th and 18th in the all-time Test and ODI ICC Player Rankings for batsmen is an impressive achievement by anyone's standards but this does not necessarily mean he is the 10th-best Test batsman or 18th-best ODI batsman in the history of the game," it said. 

"The rankings give an indication of how players peaked during their careers but do not give a full picture of those players' level of consistency or longevity in the game… The Player Rankings are a great way to compare the performances of players but the all-time list of highest-rated players does not by itself rank those players in terms of true greatness. The 'best-ever ratings' are effectively snapshots of greatness. When it comes to judging a player's greatness over his career, it's necessary to look at his entire graph rather than his peak. It's not so much how high a player soars as how long he stays there. If you think of a player's graph as a mountain, a high, long plateau could be worth more than a single sky-scraping peak."

So why then did the ICC spark the debate with its release that spoke of Hayden highest Test rating of 935 that came during the Ashes series of 2002-03 and his one-day career high rating of 854 points? Did it need his retirement for ICC to realise that Hayden will always be spoken of an all-time great?

There could have been a better way of putting together a genuine tribute for Hayden and his contribution to cricket than put together a release with a mention of his ranking peaks. Surely, Hayden deserved better – and we are not even talking about the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara.

At a time when all players talk – and actually mean – of team performances being of greater importance than their own displays, it is very disappointing that the sport's administration should have chosen to train the spotlight on individual glory. Yes, indeed, the ICC can remind itself that cricket was, is and will be a team sport.