Don't mention the Ashes

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

Andrew Hughes

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Michael Vaughan launches a charity bike ride, London, January 14, 2013
Michael Vaughan wittily makes a point about the cyclical nature of Ashes supremacy © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Michael Vaughan
Teams: Australia | England

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

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Posted by Prashant on (March 21, 2013, 17:23 GMT)

I so wish that all 5 Tests get rained out this time. Enough of this Ashes hype. Most times it is a no-contest.

Posted by Adam on (March 21, 2013, 14:45 GMT)

Maybe Aussies care about it just a little bit too fervently? I can see how beating the English - the inventors of modern sport - might be seen as the ultimate achievement in any sport.

But for English cricket fans, playing Australia is just another series. Its not like playing a big team like South Africa, or when we played India with the world no1 riding on the result a few years ago.

All Test series are important, some are more of a challenge than others, hence the reason England vs West Indies is no longer the marquee event it once was. If WI pick it up again it will return to the prominence it had through the 80s and 90s.

The Ashes is somewhere in the middle about now.

Posted by anagh on (March 21, 2013, 11:44 GMT)

Really, Michael Vaughan takes irritating to a new level and not just on twitter.

Posted by Sarthak on (March 21, 2013, 3:55 GMT)

KP, Swann, Starc, may be Clarke too, are currently not playing. Can't help thinking Ashes is in their minds. Like it or not that pre-historic urn has become something sacrosanct. Unsurprisingly, it seems, England & Australia players, management reserve special considerations for this series. Obviously that implies paying a little less attention to any series coming before the sacred urn fight! Have to say though, even as a neutral I enjoy the Ashes. It's always great too see that tremendous interest surrounding a Test series. I remember being really happy for England in 2005, when the whole of England celebrated a cricketing triumph. For one thing, if similar hype could be generated around few other Test series, we wouldn't have been worrying about Test matches, crowds, revenues , etc... Go ahead, attain glory, capture the Holy Urn - Poms/Aussies! And neutrals like me will be hoping for good cricket and, well, some involvement of Shane Warne, somehow, someway, that will be fun!

Posted by V.L on (March 20, 2013, 17:58 GMT)

I for one cannot understand the media's obsession with ashes. The last 10 Ashes series that I have seen were all one-sided contests with one team thrashing the other. This year its gonna be no different as the Englishmen are gonna shred the hapless Aussies to bits. It would be a miracle if the Aussies can win atleast 1 test and make it a tad less humiliating 1-4. Nuff Said!

Posted by Alex on (March 20, 2013, 16:35 GMT)

the ashes don't ruin cricket, in fact they are the biggest sporting rivalry in the world some might say. It's the series you want to play if your English or Australian, no one remembers or cares about series results like SL v Aus or WI v Eng in the long term, but you do remember what happened in every ashes series. cricket needs the ashes as it's the main test series like the world cup is to 50 over cricket.

Saying this however, i do get annoyed by the English media jumping on any chance they can get to put down Australia, it's funny how they say Australia are poor and in turmoil currently in India, and completely neglected our tight series against SA and thrashing of SL in the summer at the time. They seem to have forgotten also that this time last year it was England who where getting whitewashed in foreign conditions, and had to drop a player for unrest in the team, and Samit Patel played test cricket for them, that is embarrassing.

Posted by Adam on (March 20, 2013, 11:33 GMT)

Its only the stupid media that are obsessed with the Ashes. Your average run of the mill England fan is currently worrying about whether we can beat New Zealand in the third test without KP - and nothing else beyond that really matters.

The Ashes ruin cricket. More or equally important series are glossed over by the media, and even the players seem to get swept away in the hype and take their eye off the ball at times. See England's humiliating debacle in the 18 months following the 2005 win as an example.

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Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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Andrew Hughes Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73
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