Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Ashes Story - From A Punch to Piss

The oldest cricketing rivalry for probably the smallest sporting trophy. England & Australia lined up to contest the first of the two Ashes contests this season. A short summary of what an Indian fan saw in passing of the Ashes.

It all began with a punch. As is rightly said - "Nothing good happens after two in the night". David Warner threw a punch at Joe Root in a bar during the Champions Trophy . No one got hurt. But the impact was felt later. Warner was dispatched to Zimbabwe - a very appropriate punishment, steeped in tradition and reminiscent of the colonial times. The coach got fired. New fellows were added to the touring party as replacements. In short, an Australian camp in total disarray just days before the start of the series. On the other hand England became the runners-up Champions of the Champions Trophy.

The start of the series was fantastic to say the least. A fly-past by the Royal Air Force. Then Ashton Agar made a fairy-tale beginning to his career breaking the world record for the highest score by a No. 11. It was a tight test and Australia fought and fought but England helped by Anderson grimly hung on to take victory.

However that was it from the cricketing front. Just when you expected Australia to fight back they shrunk away. 1-0 became 2-0 and then 3-0. In between the rain Gods also threw in their weight behind England. Michael Clarke made a big gamble and enlivened a dull end to the 5th Test. However, the stringent interpretation of cricketing rules jumped in and the public got cheated through a combination of bad light and the usual lack of common sense from the officialdom.

It was an appropriate conclusion in a series marred by umpiring and DRS debates. I won't be making any judgement on the umpires. Their job is tough and being made tougher through the technology available to everyone in the world except the gentlemen in charge of making the decisions. Hence making a wrong judgement call is part and parcel of the game. However what still baffles me is the way the authorities are interpreting DRS. DRS was brought in place to remove howlers. And howlers do not need an array of futuristic technology to be eliminated. They can be seen in one video replay. So lets remove DRS from the teams and just hand it over to the 3rd umpire (like the no-ball check on wickets). But a simple common sense approach is too difficult to expect from ICC.

Another chapter was added to the great saga of Walking/Non-walking. Stuart Broad did not walk after edging because (a) there was a match at stake, (b) the umpire did not give him out, and (c) Aussies had used up their reviews. There was a massive outrage with the usual "Spirit of Cricket" nonsense being debated.  If the 3rd umpire had the power to review, one replay would have given Broad out (more likely that Broad would not have waited for the decision himself). However when such common sense approach is missing then such controversies are bound to happen.

It was great to see Slipstream Cricket's patron saint, the Sledgehammer of Eternal Justice, Ian Bell scoring runs and lots of them and at the time when it was really needed. The only consistent batsman across the misfiring English lineup and the constantly shuffling Aussie one. 

A 3-0 verdict actually flatters both teams. It could easily have been 4-0 for England or a 3-2 Australia and all other permutations is between. A misfiring English line-up managed to hang in when required while a revolving door Aussie one performed better than expected. Both sides though need to sort out the personnel for the next bout.

It would have been a travesty if a series which had a punch as an epilogue had just ended in bad light. Post the bad light, post the presentations, the English cricketers took turns to celebrate the urn by peeing on the pitch. God only knows what they were thinking. Maybe it was some act of solidarity with Monty Panesar but certainly made for lots of bad press. [Personal Opinion - Coming from a country where sportsmen salute the ground before they enter it, the English act was blasphemous].

So in short - The series began with a punch and ended in a piss. In between some average cricket was played with more focus on umpiring and DRS controversies and Walking/Not Walking and the usual nonsense called "spirit of cricket"

Hoping for a much better return series Down Under. 

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