Ever since the Ancient Greeks tussled and battled for the acquisition of olive leave wreaths and crowns in their holy city of Olympia, societies have longed to discover who is the best of the best.
Michael Jordan, Lionel Messi, Sachin Tendulkar, Haile Gebrselassie – the list goes on, and much like the Greek legends, their influence extends far greater than simply within the sports they occupy.
For the Greeks, displaying physical prowess earnt one the right to political command. Although that collaboration, theoretically speaking, ceases to exist now, one cannot trivialise the power those who dominate in sport have.
They alone become marketing products and extract outrageous amounts of revenue for sponsors and their very sports. Their voice, when publicly projected, appears to silence all and shape the way others think and operate.
Followers abound yearn to replicate even a mere ounce of this preeminent performer’s achievements, often on a subconscious level. They are simply put on a pedestal, which they remain affixed to right up until they die, no matter how senile or obstinately dogmatic they become.
So how does this sentiment apply to sporting teams, where the individual often goes unnoticed in and among the entire collection of exceptional performances his teammates execute?
Well quite frankly, the implications are far greater and perpetually heavier.
Complete domination by an individual in a particular sport often does little for the country the athlete hails from.
Spectators and fans will adore their hero over the course of their career and barrack for him against his opponents, but that is the extent of the attachment from the perspective of the fan.
Team success engenders a level of passion among the people they represent whether it is within a community, region or nation.
In the latter case, patriotism is cultivated, inspiring even the least rambunctious of onlookers to get behind their nation as though they were fighting dear life.
If you support the Blues in the state of Origin, you despise every Queenslander and it is rocks or diamonds for the majority of the state’s inhabitants by the time the final whistle is blown.
A loss is a disaster that sits with you until the next match affords you with a chance of redemption and a victory enables you to cavort around with your chest protruding so far out in front that any number of cockroaches or cane toads would go unnoticed beneath you.
If you barrack for Manchester united then an Arsenal fan is what a German was to an Englishman some 70-odd years ago.
There is no question pride is at stake for the fans just as much as the players. As William Hazlitt put it, “pride erects a little kingdom of its own and acts as sovereign in it.”
To get to the point, with a 5-0 trouncing of the old enemy complete, how do we know where we stand in world cricket?
Barely four months ago, it was the English who were prancing around bellowing ‘God save the Queen” with half a dozen pints of Carlsberg in their bellies.
The Proteas have just recently accounted for the Indians by the skin of their teeth in their own backyard, but ones gets the impression that should a return series take place next week in the subcontinent the overall spoils would be similarly shared.
With the home ground advantage now seemingly having a pronounced effect on the outcome of a series, how can we ever determine who is the best?
As we know, an ICC rankings system does exist but the shortcomings of its function can perhaps be best outlined by the fact Pakistan sat above Australia until recently.
And let’s face it, a systematically designed point feature just isn’t convincing enough for spectators. They need evidence, something a World Cup provides.
The Spaniards have cast aside their economic woes, for they toppled the world in 2010 and have been able to bask in the glory of that feat for the past four years.
You might argue that we already have an equivalent in cricket, being the limited overs World Cup held every four years. But this is no comparison for what has always been, in many people’s eyes, the only form of the game, Test cricket.
Ask any member of the record breaking Australian team of the turn of the century, or any fan for that matter, what their proudest moments were – three consecutive World Cup victories or having twice registered 16 successive Test victories in the midst of dominating the world of Test cricket for the best part of a decade?
It would be a landslide victory for the latter alternative.
But when things aren’t as clear-cut, and the game is more closely fought, how can we demarcate where the leading sides stand on the podium?
After entertaining a few ideas myself – including one in particular, which I regarded to be so cunning I could have pinned a tail to it and called it a fox – I discovered the ICC had already accounted for this ongoing impasse.
It was perhaps the best kept secret in world sport since the caterers at the luxurious hotel in Johannesburg conveniently dished up salmonella and steamed vegetables on the eve of the Rugby World Cup final in 1995.
Even I, an avid cricket follower, was oblivious to the measures that had been taken by the ICC.
As I am now aware, there will be a Test cricket world championship held in England in 2017.
The tournament will only concern those nations ranked from one to four by the time business closes on December 31, 2016 and these will each play three games before a final is decided.
It seems a little scant for a duel of such proportions but at least we will have something to go by when it comes to establishing the credibility of one’s bragging rights.
I like the idea of a World Cup. For one they are generally memorable moments in time that become stored in our memories eternally and are fondly recollected every time another four years rolls around.
Whenever footage of a classic World Cup match is shown or music from the tournament is played, a strong level of nostalgia is aroused, stimulating even the most apathetic of characters.
The rugby union and football World Cups are prime examples of this, not to mention the Olympics, which although deals primarily with individual athletes, has the same everlasting effect upon those who witness the timeless battles.
Whether or not this format can replicate the success of the aforementioned, or even the 50 over World Cup for that matter, lends itself to debate.
Although, with four teams and a tight three week schedule, it is unlikely it would have the same broad scale effect.
An extension to six teams would be more suitable, allowing talented line-ups like Sri Lanka or Pakistan to stage an upset or two while also providing the tournament with a little more depth.
Yet, as one of those fans that covets the knowledge of who the best of the best is, I await the day of the opening ceremony with uncontrollable eagerness and remain optimistic it can deliver what we have always yearned for.