Today was the first day of the first Test, in Brisbane. Peter Siddle got three wickets in three balls - Alastair Cook, Matt Prior and Stuart Broad, causing me much delight, because, dude, fabulously hand-picked victims - and England ended up folding for 260. The Australian openers sauntered to a cool 25/0 before stumps, and look nicely poised for a team that got whitewashed by a team that struggled to win against a team that got whitewashed by the lowest ranked Test team in the world.
I'm not going to talk about what actually happened at the 'Gabba today because I didn't see it and there are more well-informed observers who can tell you all about it. Today, I decided, I was going to get to the bottom of this whole Ashes shindig. Someone asked me the other day what the Ashes was really all about - I'm suddenly considered an authority on cricket in my university, it's crazy, especially when I stand there blinking when their questions get too technical, because my expertise in the technicalities extend only to extricating myself out of the tangled mess of another Ravi Shastri metaphor - and I had to admit that all I knew was that it had something to do with England, Australia, Test cricket, a teeny-tiny urn containing the burnt remains of an old stump, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and a LOT of empty bravado.
But not much else, really.
For the shame!
So it was that I decided to do a bit of research.
As is the (very unprofessional) norm, I looked it up on Wikipedia. This is what it had to say:
Ah ha! So Douglas Adams got it wrong, did he? That sorry little urn does not contain the Ashes of the Wooden Pillar of the Wicket Gate! I feel like my teenage years have been violated.
The Ashes is a Test cricket series played between England and Australia. It is international cricket's most celebrated rivalry and dates back to 1882. It is currently played biennially, alternately in the United Kingdom and Australia. Cricket being a summer sport, and the venues being in opposite hemispheres, the break between series alternates between 18 and 30 months. A series of "The Ashes" comprises five Test matches, two innings per match, under the regular rules for Test match cricket. If a series is drawn then the country already holding the Ashes retains them.
The series is named after a satirical obituary published in a British newspaper, The Sporting Times, in 1882 after a match at The Oval in which Australia beat England on an English ground for the first time. The obituary stated that English cricket had died, and the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia. The English media dubbed the next English tour to Australia (1882–83) as the quest to regain The Ashes.
The urn is erroneously believed by some to be the trophy of the Ashes series, but it has never been formally adopted as such and Bligh always considered it to be a personal gift. Replicas of the urn are often held aloft by victorious teams as a symbol of their victory in an Ashes series, but the actual urn has never been presented or displayed as a trophy in this way. Whichever side holds the Ashes, the urn normally remains in the Marylebone Cricket Club Museum at Lord's since being presented to the MCC by Bligh's widow upon his death.
Since the 1998–99 Ashes series, a Waterford Crystal representation of the Ashes urn has been presented to the winners of an Ashes series as the official trophy of that series.
So much fuss for this? It reminds me of a once-renowned clique trying to maintain illusions of their ~exclusivity~ and relevance in a world that's moved on and doesn't really give two shits anymore. Damn Indian money and eyeballs, we are still the most important things in this sport! So let's milk this tradition for all it's worth, even if we are playing for a tiny fake urn every two years!
Y'know, this can be a good thing, too. It's amusing to see/hear people compare any decent rivalry in international cricket to the Ashes (Ashes marketing dudes need to take classes), and occasionally these two teams produce sensational contests. I watched highlights of the Ashes '05 a couple of years back, and it isn't possible for me to love cricket any more than I did while watching them. It was the cricketing equivalent of rainbows and bunnies and unicorns. Of course, after that, I watched the Ashes '09, and that was the cricket-equivalent of a three-week long Pharmacology lecture. Like watching Rahul Dravid on freakin valium. God.
Probably the most amusing thing is the testosterone-sloshing, uh, I mean, the 'verbal duels' before the series. Because, lord, it is funny. Everybody builds it up so much that when somebody farts during an Ashes Test, it's a special fart, because, you know, it's THE Ashes.
The contest for the tiny fake urn has started off well this year. I eagerly await more amusement, and hopefully, some great cricket.