It’s that time of the biennium when England (and Wales, and a bit of South Africa) take on our antipodean rivals to fight over the silliest trophy in the world. Not that the trophy is stupid, more the size. Lifting a 6 inch ceramic urn above your head looks like you’ve just become a subbuteo champion not the victor in a long-standing cricket rivalry.
Today the start of the summer Ashes, and by this point you will either be one of the majority that has groaned with indifference about week-long matches or, if you are like me, giddy with excitement. I guess you opinion. On cricket is going to dictate whether you press read more, but go on…give it a try.
Even my American wife is intrigued about the Ashes, it’s a rivalry half as old as her nation, and although she’s not stocking up on Pimms for the weekend sessions of play is still willing to let her husband take over the TV for nine hours a day.
She’s even took me to Lord’s for Christmas to go see the Ashes urn itself. Granted she fell over in the display room but I attribute this to the emotion on being on the most hallowed of cricket grounds. I was emotional but I didn’t feel the need to prostrate myself in front of it. I’m English so I have to show a stiff upper lip and tuck a forelock.
This year she even got me tickets, which was an amazing thing to do…and then I was more amazing and have given them up so we can go to New York instead. We are both amazing.
It will also be the Feliciraptor’s second Ashes, and hopefully will see a better result than the last which was a 5-0 whitewash.
The next few weeks are going to be full of the dulcet tones of Test Match Special, a radio programme that for fifty years has been commentating on matches in its own idiosyncratic way. As much as it is a way to follow what’s going on in a match there is the joy of listening to its presenters talking about pigeons and the number of aircraft landing at Heathrow airport. Interspersed between wickets are cakes and the gentle bonhomie of watching a match with your friends, pint in one hand And a copy of Wisden in the other.
Evenings spent watching the highlights on Sky, the grumpiness of a plethora of ex-England captains (what is the collective name for captains?) who wouldn’t have done things like this in their day. The rhythmic thwack of willow on leather as someone throws a solid ball at 90mph at the groin area from 22 yards.
For me cricket is a game to be savoured, it is a three course meal of a sport. It is not meant to be rushed (looking at you t20) and this is what makes it special. It ebbs and flows, it has real momentum in a game that can change back and forth over the period of the match. Having the upper hand on a Wednesday morning does not mean you will be celebrating come Sunday evening. Victory in the first match does not translate to success in the fifth. It is a sport that weaves a narrative that requires investment, and rewards those who stick with it.
So if for the next few weeks you find yourself living with an Ashes junkie remember there could be worse things we are addicted to, like golf or drugs. Don’t try to make them go cold turkey or deprive them of the action just accept that for the next month and a half a small urn filled with the charred remains of a cricket bail from 1882 are more important than you.
I’m only joking.
Those Ashes are more important than you all of the time.