Thursday, September 15, 2005

Ashes to Ashes?

So to England the Ashes.

What a strange and wonderful thing it all was. Here we were, in Ireland of the eight hundred years and the chips on the shoulders and even we were rapt, on those nail-biting Sunday and Monday afternoons, hoping Freddie Flintoff would continue his transformation from human to jutting-jawed boys adventure comic character, all improbable feats ands gallant sportsmanship, watching Michael Vaughan make winning the Ashes seem like a village fete prize jam competition with his genial, twinkly ease.

Strange times indeed, but of course the England cricket team has always escaped the opprobrium felt in these parts for their football and rugby counterparts. Mainly, of course, because of the fact that throughout most of the last two decades, and particularly in the latter part of the 1990s, they were a byword for ineptitude, poster-children for incompetence, exemplars of spinelessness, market leaders in mediocrity. Many commentators have this week recalled the nadir, 1999, when England failed to qualify for the second round of the World Cup being played on home soil, and captain Nasser Hussain was booed on the balcony at the Oval after defeat to New Zealand and England's regression to being the lowest ranked test nation in cricket. I mean, in the face of all that, a little pity was obviously more appropriate.

But there was more to it than that. The English cricket team never carried the perennial banners of their football counterparts- the sense of thuggish threat, the whiff of xenophobia, the odious media corps with their screaming, sensationalist chip-wrappers; nor their rugby ones- block headed arrogance and Will bloody Carling. No, the whole thing was always much more agreeable. The cricket only hung around for a few months in the summer, the media coverage was low-key and tasteful and the gentility of the whole thing was a perfectly palatable version of Englishness. Nothing to dislike there.

But now as the victorious Vaughan and co become public property, with Flintoff the new Gazza, and Kevin Pietersen's night-time activities are as publicised as Wayne Rooney's, will this sense of timeless English wholesomeness disappear? Will the English themselves devour their hitherto chummy cricketers like they have their footballers, leaving them as haggard and dried up media whores?

The move of test cricket to Sky television certainly won't help.....


Blogger Paul67 said...

Tommy, they do make it hard for you to feel happy for them sometimes.

I am not up on the details on this game; but I understand that they won a trophy that they never actually let anyone else keep anyway, and that there is only two countries able to compete for this trophy, the other one having less than half the population of England.

This is a bit like Scotland taking Wales on at Shinty.

For not coming last in this two horse competition, played on home soil, they get what amounts to a state reception.

Let me know when it is safe to watch the TV news again.

5:10 p.m.  

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