After over 30 years Australia will once again host a team featuring the world's greatest cricketers after the ICC awarded the rights to stage cricket's newest major event, the ICC Super Series, to the country on Sunday.
The ICC Super Series will see the number one team in the world take on a Rest of the World side in a one-off six-day Test and a three game one-day series to be played in Sydney and Melbourne in October 2005 with total prize money expected to top $US 1.7 million.
ICC Chief Executive Malcolm Speed said that the ICC Super Series will revive a format of the game which has proven difficult to schedule in recent years.
"Cricket enjoys a tradition of national teams playing Rest of the World sides and these matches have provided terrific cricket," said Speed.
"Unfortunately, in recent years, the way the calendar has worked it has made it very difficult to play these types of games and they have drifted off the schedule.
"However, the creation of the ICC Super Series will now ensure that these matches become a major event on the international cricket calendar.
"Cricket is one of few sports that can sustain this format of the game and the prospect of seeing the world's top team taking on the world's best players is a thrilling one."
The incentives will be huge for the participating teams with a winner-takes-all $US 1 million prize expected to be on offer for the Test match and $US 750 000 expected to be on offer for the one-day series.
It has been over 30 years since the cricket Australian cricket followers have had the chance to see an official Rest of the World team in action.
The last time a team of the world's best players visited the country was in the summer of 1971-72 when Garfield Sobers lead a side including players such as Bishan Bedi, Zaheer Abbas, Intakhab Alam, Tony Greig, Rohan Kanhai and Clive Lloyd in a memorable series against Ian Chappell's Australian team.
WestIndian great Clive Lloyd, now a member of the Emirates Elite Panel of ICC Referees, said that his involvement with the Rest of the World teams was some of the best times of his life.
"Itwas a great honour to play in the Rest of the World teams. I was a young man and I was playing with and against the best players in the world," said Lloyd.
"Itprovided me with some of the best moments in my cricket career and some of the best times in my life."
Australia is in pole position to be the top team in both the ICC Test Championship and the ICC ODI Championship at the April 1 2005deadline.
Whilemathematically possible, it would take an unprecedented loss of form for Australia to lose top spot on both the ICC Test and ODI tables.
TheRest of the World team will be chosen by a special selection panel convened specifically for the purpose.
Speed said theproblem for the selection committee would be an embarrassment of riches.
"Assumingthat Australia retained its number one ranking, the selectors will have to make some almost impossible choices as they put their team together.
"Choosing between Rahul Dravid, Michael Vaughan, Sachin Tendulkar, Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis, Inzamam ul-Haq, Stephen Fleming, Brian Lara, Vireder Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly is hard enough let alone having to then choose the all rounder, the wicket-keeper and the bowling attack," said Speed.
The ICC Super Series will begin with three One-Day International matches under the roof of the Telstra Dome, Melbourne on October 5, 7 and 9.
The ICC Super Series Test will be a six-day match at the Sydney Cricket Ground starting on October 13 2005and is planned to take place every four years.
In order to accommodate the matches in 2005,the ICC's Full Member countries have agreed to slight alterations to the playing schedule to free up time in the calendar to allow the ICC Super Series to take place.