May 18, 2013

Why I don't really care about the Ashes

The tide of hyperbolic drivel has been rising with every series since 2005

If you were wondering, the Ashes isn't the only thing happening in England this summer. New Zealand are here, and at this week's pre-Test cliché harvest, Alastair Cook promised to treat the non-Australian tourists with proper respect.

"There's absolutely no danger of us underestimating them, whoever they are. Thingy and Whatsisname are world-class batsmen and that tall chap whose name escapes me is one of the best in the game at whatever it is he does."

Even if they win, New Zealand can't win. Within minutes of Brendon McCullum lifting the Morrison-Mullally Shield you just know that Nasser will be itching to ask him about the Ashes implications of his series win. The Twin Ashes tower, like monstrous sky-scraping urn-shaped inflatables, has cast a stupefying shadow across the summer, and caused perfectly sensible people like Stuart Broad to come out with things like this:

"There's a big chance for us to make a huge amount of history."

Yes, the Ashes are so big, that even the history comes in super-sized portions.

Yet not all of us are salivating at the prospect of this Ashes Double-Pounder with extra large history fries and strawberry hypeshake. For some time I've had a guilty secret. Before you read the next sentence, you might want to check the children are out of the room, make sure the curtains are closed, and drape a tea cloth over the budgie's cage. You see, the thing is - and don't read this out loud - the thing is, I don't really care about the Ashes.

I know. I'm a traitor, a blasphemer, a disgrace. At least that's what my vicar said when I confessed my Ashes heresy to him. The Church of England is quite liberal when it comes to sin, but they take a very hard line on the fundamentals.

I don't hate the Ashes. It's cricket after all. I just don't care about it any more than I do about the Champions Trophy, the IPL, or the seventh one-day international between Bermuda and the Scilly Islands.

I used to care. My earliest Ashes memories are of eagerly poring over reports of the 1986-87 tour, although most of my subsequent Ashes memories involved Australians administering metaphorical spankings to figurative English cricket bottoms.

Yet at some point in 2005, between Rudi Koertzen and Billy Bowden removing the bails on the last day at The Oval, and Paul Collingwood picking up his MBE, I stopped caring. It might have been the flag-waving, the face-painting, and the endless replaying of "Jerusalem".

But mainly it's the hype: the tide of hyperbolic drivel has been rising with every Ashes series since 2005. Take the last tour: a well-drilled England team beat one of the feeblest Australian collectives ever to expectorate on palms in anger, and were hailed by the press as though they had successfully returned from Mars, bringing Elvis and Jesus back with them.

I like fruit cake, but if every time I turned on the television I saw someone yelling at me about how absolutely massive and utterly tastebud-blowingly sensational fruit cake was; if my newspapers were full of special fruit cake pull-outs; if my Twitter feed was full of sultana fans and raisin fans exchanging illiterate insults, and if every morning I was followed to the bathroom by Michael Vaughan and Shane Warne yelling, "Fruit cake! Fruit cake! Fruit cake! Are you looking forward to the fruit cake!" well then I might not be so keen on it.

So let's have a little bit of sober perspective. I suggest the following accurate if not particularly sexy billing for the forthcoming Anglo-Australian hostilities:

"The Ashes: It's the team who aren't as good as they thought they were, versus the team who probably are as bad as everyone says they are. You won't be able to miss it."

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here