March 20, 2013

Don't mention the Ashes

Build-up? I'll tell you where to stick your build-up

The Ashes is to cricket what a black hole is to a neighbouring solar system. The Ashes exerts a dangerous influence on the cricket media, pulling everything else on the cricket calendar over the event horizon and into oblivion. Such is the gravitational pull of The Ashes, it has sucked me into writing the words The Ashes four times already, even though when I sat down at my desk, I didn't want to write about The Ashes at all.

Then again, it is possible to emerge unscathed from The Ashes, so if you don't like that intergalactic analogy, try this. The Ashes looms in our scanners like the Death Star. At first glance, The Ashes appears to be a small, distant, urn-shaped moon. As it gets closer, you realise it is in fact an enormous cricket superstructure designed to obliterate anything that gets in its way with its irresistible, hype-powered, patriotic drivel ray.*

Two black holes in the vicinity would be bad news. Two Death Stars is almost as bad, and this time, no implausible plot twist or shoddy exhaust-port engineering is going to save us.**

For the next ten months, every event featuring Australian cricketers, England cricketers, cricketers, former cricketers, Australians, people, crickets, willow, grass, balls, urns, kangaroos or burnt wood will be studied more closely than the last saucer of tea leaves in the five-cup playoff at the final of the World Tea Leaf Reading Championships.

So, for example, England didn't draw with New Zealand in the second Test. They continued their The Ashes build-up by outplaying some team or other and so sending a secret message to Michael Clarke, encrypted in the form of runs and wickets. And India's Mohali win didn't show off the phenomenal talent of a young Indian batsman called Shikhar. It punctured Australia's The Ashes build-up blimp, sending it spiralling out of control like an inebriated footballer with access to social media.

And then there's the name-calling. The Sith Lord of Silly is Darth Vaughan, former England captain, who spends his spare time irritating Australians with his Twitter tickling stick. The schoolboy exchanges between individuals vaguely associated with two national sports teams would normally be at tolerable levels of patriotic tediousness, say around 1.5 degrees Botham (or 5.0 degrees on the McGrath scale).

But when said sports teams are not even going to be in the same country for another four months, the storm of witless intercontinental cricket teasing can build up to a full blown Bore Hurricane, and those of us who don't really care one way or the other are forced to put up metaphorical shutters and hide in safe corners of the internet until the thing is over.

So for the sake of our sanity, it is time for the ICC to act. I suggest they slap a gag order on the entire population of the planet, forbidding any mention of the A-word until just before a coin is thrown in the air near the River Trent some time in early July.

And above all, let's have no more blog posts on the subject. Apart from this one, obviously.

*Readers not familiar with the first Star Wars film may at this point wish to reassess what they've been doing with their lives. I suggest you go see the film, absorb its message - paying particular attention to the wisdom of the late Sir Alec Guinness concerning the misidentification of man-made intergalactic phenomena - then read this blog again.

**Seriously, just watch the film.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England