Two Defective And The Teams Chance, In The Ashes Hype > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - Two flawed teams and a chance to transcend the Ashes hype
"It's hard to put a finger on why it's the most important series. But it just *is*."
Perhaps Steve Waugh's greatest turn since packing away that pull shot and becoming Australian steel incarnate has been his post-career philanthropy. His charity work, particularly in Asia, has seen him become quite the orator. Yet when pressed on why the Ashes is so important, he's at a loss to articulate just why those around the world should care as much as Australia and England do. You just *should*.
"It's a bit like India and Pakistan when they play together," Waugh added. "There's a fierce rivalry, there's that respect, there's also camaraderie but the history and tradition."
It isn't like India-Pakistan, of course, and that is only a good thing. But referring to a rivalry forged through violent partition that loses perspective every other week goes some way to explaining just how the Ashes is viewed by it's two participants and, really, no one else.
That may be a hard line to digest when your cricket calendar and measure of success comes in these 18-month cycles. English cricket never matters more than when there's an urn up for grabs and by a similar measure Australians are never more feral when the circus rolls into town, especially when not in possession. A first World Cup win mattered a lot to the hosts. But to the self-anointed pursuit - let's be fair, the worst kind of cricket fan - this means more.
Strip away the panto of the Ashes and what you're left with is a straightforward bilateral series. Nothing more, nothing less. And like all bilateral series, if you're not involved, are you really that invested? Pictures of other people's kids. Tales of a friend of a friend's night out. A run-through of what someone else made for dinner last night. Good conversation fodder. Again - nothing more, nothing less.
Perhaps what is worst about the Ashes - and the only thing it might have in common with India-Pakistan - is how over-hyped it is. That is probably something we, the media, need to take responsibility for. Two of the biggest press corps, travelling or otherwise, come from England and Australia. It is why, wonderfully, Sri Lanka Cricket usually open two press boxes at Galle. One for the travelling English and Aussies, the other for the local journalists who want to file and converse in peace without someone moaning about the pitch or asking who that player is with 20 Tests to his name.
On the field, recent series have done little to pull in the neutral. Of course, 2005 was a belter and it could be argued that series did as much for English cricket as it did to world cricket. A team of Australian greats were shown to be beatable and, in turn, cracks exposed. A relatively fallow period followed, though only after those same greats invoked 5-0 revenge in 2006/07 - to date, the most anticipated and anti-climatic Ashes of the modern era.
The irony is the period of one-sided results that followed, when the most external eyes could be on the Ashes, have come when England have never been more competitive.
The 2010/11 away-from-home victory was historic for everyone not scorned or dulled by a 3-1 scoreline and a powder puff Australia. Pissing on the Oval pitch was about as interesting as 2013's 3-0 got. Without Mitchell Johnson's resurgence and England's dressing room implosion, a duller 5-0 than 2013/14's there may never have been. Alastair Cook shed some tears when he nabbed the urn back with 2015's 3-2 win, but it was 3-1 going into the final fixture don't forget. Had the MCG pitch not been such a shower, 2017/18 would have been 5-0 once more.
So the question to ask is will this be different and, if so, why? Well, firstly, it will be. At least, that's how it's being sold. And maybe this time it'll come to something.
You see, here are two flawed sides struggling with their identity largely through malaise but mostly through priorities being elsewhere. England spent the last four years focused on a World Cup that is now theirs, but one that has left them emotionally and physically fragile. Australia welcome the Sandpaper Three back into a side that was just starting to learn how to survive without them.
It's also worth factoring in that Test cricket in England has been compelling viewing recently. Bowler friendly conditions and a Dukes ball that should be the norm across the world has ensured entertaining, result-oriented cricket. With the respective strengths of these two teams packed into their bowling attack, we may not have long games, but we'll certainly have good ones.
Ah, there we go again. Hyping it up. That's the thing though. With a World Cup and an Ireland Test in the last two weeks, there hasn't been as much time to talk this one up. Thankfully.
Could a belter of a series be creeping up on us? Who knows. But if not, at least we told you so.
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