The Ashes: Considering the elevation of footy and the place of cricket

 

That was some Test match. Whether I was in the press box or socialising in the stands at Trent Bridge, there was one overriding question that kept recurring over the five days : where else would you rather be?

England is awash with cricket and sunshine. The latter you can’t always guarantee of course, but the wave of passion that is spreading among the cricket fraternity is remarkable considering the country is normally obsessed with the Premier League for twelve months a year.

For an Aussie it can also put into perspective our own sporting priorities. Some of us may have known already, but maybe Joe Public might start to realise that a Collingwood-Carlton ‘blockbuster’ in June is not quite as important as Andrew Demetriou would have you believe, that Harry O’Brien’s mindset is not that newsworthy and that a lot of what happens between March and August in AFL footy is not that ‘vital’.

Perspective is a difficult thing to achieve when you live in a bubble. Those last 15 runs Australia needed on Sunday were far more important than anything that’s happened on a footy field since Buddy couldn’t kick straight on the last Saturday in September last year. Now THAT was important.

We all love our footy  –  the game not the politics  –  and enjoy Saturday afternoon at the Amateurs as much as the big ones at the ‘G. But some fans, and many in the media, can’t see the forest for the trees.

There are probably 500 regulars running around in the AFL each week, and they aren’t all champions. They aren’t better sportsmen than Ed Cowan, they haven’t got nerves of steel and only a very small handful of them are champions. Most of the 500 are merely fit and willing young blokes who are playing a terrific code of footy.

Some years ago I wrote a piece about the criticism Ricky Ponting was receiving in the media compared to the glowing tributes that Nick Maxwell received as a premiership captain of Collingwood. Some thought I was harsh on Maxwell. Time has shown that Maxwell is a solid leader of men who has made a good career despite his playing limitations. It has also shown that he is in a different league to our former Test skipper.

The events of the next six weeks in this Ashes series are very important for the positioning of cricket in the Australian sporting psyche. There is little doubt that the performance in India, coupled with the arrival of the footy season, relegated cricket to the backblocks. But through Ashton Agar, Darren Lehmann and a healthy dose of us versus them mentality, the old game has fought back strongly. We need a win at Lord’s.

Comments

  1. Stainless says:

    Points well made Brendan. However, I think cricket’s loss of favour is largely of its own doing rather than a consequence of a lack of perspective in the media or the Australian sporting public.

    There was a time when an Ashes series was, in my mind, the most significant sporting contest on the planet. It isn’t any more. Sandwiched amongst endless ODIs, IPLs and T20 internationals, this series will come and go before we’ve even noticed. There are plenty of other issues blighting the game apart from fix turning that I don’t need to go into here.

    This was a fine test match andI look forward to Lords with far greater enthusiasm than I’d have predicted a wek ago. However it’ll take more than one or two decent tests to undo the self-inflicted damage the game has suffered.

  2. Yeah, I’m with Stainless. I also reckon it’s apples and oranges. The Ashes is the pinnacle of Test cricket, whereas home and away games aren’t. A real litmus test would be how the Ashes would fare against the AFL finals. My hunch is that it would blown off the back pages. All the same, I love Test cricket as much as AFL, and am happy to see the Ashes in such rude health.

  3. We need to start breeding Test cricketers like horse trainers breed stayers. That way our Test players will not be distracted by the corruption that is IPL, and we the punters can watch them grow as cricketers in the Test arena.

    The mistake that cricket made is the same mistake that politicians make: trying to be all things to all people.

  4. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Good article Brendan and as a cricket moron I understand where you are coming from but spot on re posts above cracker has only itself to blame in that there are so many other games are being played constantly and even the ashes loses it’s mo jo .
    The current series now in Aust shocking programming in so many test matches close together does not allow players to properly recover and not enough time for build up or reflection from each test match . cricket needs boards who care about the good of the overall game not just the money to be made . Thanks Brendan

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