Notes by the Editor, 1995

The Ashes really should go to Australia

Matthew Engel

It is easy to see why England might fear such a World Championship: someone might eventually propose that the bottom country be relegated.

The consequences of the latest remarkable Ashes series cannot be ignored, as they provide yet more threads in the seamless story of cricket, and the ongoing saga of the adventures of England's raggle-taggle army. Despite their defeat in Adelaide, Australia's victories in Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth ensure that they retain the Ashes, which they have held since 1989, at least until 1997. On some reckonings this sequence is already the most one-sided ever.

Australia retain the Ashes theoretically, anyway. As every schoolboy used and ought to know, the urn and its contents rest permanently in the museum at Lord's. This is, of course, legally as it should be: they were given to MCC in 1927. But the Ashes is no longer a contest between a mother-country and its colonial offshoot, far from it; it is a battle between two independent nations. Works of art are transported round the world. It would be in keeping with MCC's historic mission if it were to agree that the trophy should be displayed in the country that holds them.

Such a move would generate enormous public interest in both nations and give a huge emotional charge to the moment the Ashes changed hands. This would not just be an act of generosity. It would be terrific for English cricket's long-term well-being: children could then be taken to Lord's, forced to stare at the empty plinth and swear that they would help bring about the urn's return. There is no single reason why England lose so often at cricket, but it is easy to underestimate the power of symbolism and patriotism and passion.

It cannot be irrelevant to England's long-term failures that so many of their recent Test players were either born overseas and/or spent their formative years as citizens of other countries. In the heat of Test cricket, there is a difference between a cohesive team with a common goal, and a coalition of individuals whose major ambitions are for themselves.

Successive England captains have all been aware of this. It is not a question of race. And of course there have been many fine and committed performances from players with all kinds of disparate backgrounds. But several of these players only came to England to play as professionals. There is a vast difference between wanting to play Test cricket and wanting to play for England. The overall effect has been to create a climate in which, as The Independent put it, "some of our lot play for their country because they get paid for it."

© John Wisden & Co