Thursday, November 25, 2010

The absolute pinnacle atop the pinnacle of... something.

So. Let's talk Ashes, shall we?

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:

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.

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.

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.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dear Cricket, Dhoni is smarter than you.

I'm still alive, still watching cricket, still keeping up with it online. After watching the third day's play against NZ I came across this article that reminded me just why I hate reading about cricket online these days:

He doesn't normally flick; he drags. He doesn't drive fluently; he shoves. He doesn't cut; he chops. He doesn't sweep; he hammers. He doesn't lean forward; he lunges. He doesn't defend; he stabs. He doesn't swing to the on side; he muscles and heaves. He doesn't upper cut; he carves. His most famous shot is the helicopter-whirl - a bottom-handed twirl that sends full deliveries from outside off to screaming fans beyond long-on. Even genial farmers might take offense if you call him agricultural, so we shall stick to natural. Is he effective? You bet he is, as he showed today.


A moment arrived, soon, which captured his style of batting perfectly: he opened the bat-face and steered a Tim Southee delivery that straightened after being angled in between the keeper and wide slip. It wasn't an edge. What wasn't clear was whether it was just a late adjustment to the straightening of the delivery or if he had the gap in mind? Dhoni often leaves you similarly confused about his intentions behind a shot. Often, there were cries of "catch it" from the New Zealanders when Dhoni hit them in the air, but it invariably climbed over a fielder or flew through a gap.

"Lunge". "Bunt". "Whip". Aeeeesthetically pleasing. Dear Sir. I want to watch you carressss that through the off-side as I sit here and primly drink my afternoon tea - with my little finger sticking out - ah! Just so!

RANDOM WRITER: Your batting is ugly!
DHONI: Oh yeah? Well... your face is ugly!

And then, Dhoni comes and rescues my mood with this:

MS Dhoni, the India captain, has said that Suresh Raina needs a break from cricket, and if he doesn't get it after the first two ODIs against New Zealand, he might have to be replaced for the first Test in South Africa, which begins on December 16.

Dhoni was specifically asked whether Raina would be replaced at Centurion by Cheteshwar Pujara or M Vijay if he didn't have a break for the last three one-day matches against New Zealand. "If he doesn't get a break in the ODI series [after the first 2 games] then you have to [replace him]," Dhoni said. "He is at a point where he needs a break from cricket."