Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Ashes 2009 – Where to go now? By Mimitig

So to the Oval we go again with all to play for. Less than 10 days now before England and Australia go toe to toe in South London to decide who gets to keep a little urn.

Unlike 2005, this series has not made the front pages of every newspaper on a weekly basis. Fred’s knee has taken a few headlines. The booing of Ricky Ponting has garnered a few column inches of tut-tutting but this series has failed to capture the interest of the public. We all have agreed to forget the whitewash when we went Downunder, but why has this series been so different from 2005?

When you look at the bald facts, nothing is wildly different. A nail-biting draw at Cardiff this time (a fantastic first innings from England at Lord’s but a loss in 2005), to Lord’s this year for an historic win for England – we go 1-0 up in the series. Edgebaston again and of course you could never get a repeat of 2005, but the Aussies were as excited at the draw there as they were at Old Trafford four years ago.

Imploding at Headingley was not what England intended or needed – obviously but when they lost so badly at Lord’s in 2005, the papers cared, it seemed as though the people cared. England got behind the team, supported them. I see nothing of that now.

There is discussion amongst the sportswriters and cognoscenti about what should happen next – should Mark Ramprakash or Robert Key get a call up to the England side, but it’s hardly making headlines.

And yet there is no other national sport to support at the moment. England football will play Holland in a “Friendly” – something I really don’t understand. Surely an International is important? England are no longer part of the Badminton World Championships having come home from India because it’s too dangerous – Scotland and Wales are still there along with many other countries. I found the English excuses horribly confused – they said they feared being attacked like the Pakistan cricketers were.

Get it sodding right – it was the Sri Lankans. I found that offensive to Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka, let alone anyone who was caught up in that atrocity.

So why, why is there no Ashes Fever in 2009?

Is it too simplistic to say it’s because of Sky? Four years ago everyone could have the cricket on the TV from ball one to stumps. Now thanks to Rupert sodding Murdoch and the EC fucking B, all we get is 45 mins at a rigid 1915 slot. So even when play was still going on at Cardiff and Edgebaston, there were recorded highlights.

It’s not good. I spent the last overs of both of those matches worrying how Sunset and Vine could get the highlights on rather than enjoying the cricket on Test Match Special. Mind you I’ve spent a fair amount of time during this series wondering and worrying about why after years of hating Matthew Hayden as the Queenslander destroyer of England bowlers, I really like him now as a commentator.

If I had Sky, I’d probably feel warm and fuzzy about Shane Warne – and that’s a place I don’t want to go!

But despite these personal views, there is something in this Ashes series that has failed to catch the public attention and I’m at a loss to know why.

The more I think about it, the more confused I am. Today I have spent my afternoon studying where other sports are and there really isn’t much. Hot news is that Casey Stoner is taking three races out – well, we’re not MotoGP-ing at the moment anyway, and Casey was hardly in contention for the win. Oh there is the Schumacher come-back but he’s not going to contend for the title. The Armstrong story is over for this year – bloody well done though Lance and RESPECT, but there’s no headlines.

I think Brad has had a hair cut and a bit of a shave, but however much me and my friends whooped and yelled about his fourth place in Le Tour, and Cav’s fantastic win on the Champs – no headlines were made.

So you would have thought that despite the utter awfulness of Headingley, the press would get behind England and the country would care about the Oval.

Have we, as sports fans, just given up? Was Headingley so disasterous that there is no hope at the Oval? Is the only passionate sports fan one who gets stopped at the airport on their way to Holland?

Is cricket a busted flush that can never relive 2005 Ashes Fever?

10 comments:

andrewm said...

No terrestrial coverage, few big personalities (or great players) in both sides, far fewer dramatic twists - for the casual fan, this series is in every way a pale imitation of 2005.

I'm enjoying it though.

Dodgy Jack Greengrass said...

I know, Mimi, I know - it all seems to have gone off the boil, eh? Even crown-green bowling has lost its legendary ability to whip Joe Public into a frenzy, flat 'ats sailing through the air to a chorus of "Eeeh, bah gums!"

I'm surprised you left out the big Headingley story: Offie's fish-botherer's gross dereliction of duty.

offsideintahiti said...

He's got antennas, you know, the Tahua. I'd be careful if I were you. Don't come complaining if something really dodgy happens to any of your favourite teams.

Dodgy Jack Greengrass said...

Offie,
it already has.

Pinkerbell said...

Mimi - it pissed it down here in Yorkshire on Monday (and possibly Tuesday), if only they'd managed to hold out maybe they could have drawn it. Such a shame. Still it makes for a nail-biting finish in the end.

I think Headingley was soooo appalling and quite frankly confusing. How did they manage to make such a balls-up of it? They were like a different team.

I don't think there's much trust in the selectors (why keep on giving Bopara a chance?), but also people are very quick to judge a team on one performance, when cricket is much more of a long game. You can see Strauss treating it as such giving the young ones like Broad the benefit of the doubt and trying to build up their confidence in more general terms rather than competely fixing on the game in hand. That's the trouble with taking people out of the side when they don't perform in one match, there is no cohesion in the team. We don't have a strong opening pair because Cook has generally been average. But I think probably also it's been like andrew says there are no big personalities either. The booing might not be good cricket, but I think at least it's trying to hype up some edge to proceedings.

I do have Sky (am I some kind of corporate whore?) so I did follow it (although some days were really hard going and I've spent whole days not bothering to watch it as it was too painful - so you haven't missed that much) and you can always follow it on the radio, especially as most people wouldn't be free to watch during the day for all five days anyway I can see how it would be an annoyance only being able to catch highlights but I'm not sure that's enough to stop people being enthusiastic about it.

I think people have lost enthusiasm for most things recently actually, sport is seeing the downturn the same as everything else.

Shane Warne? he's been a very interesting commentator actually. He's very fair, commenting positively on the England performance as well, but mostly arguing with Athers about hats.

David Barry said...

Even if the cricket was on free-to-air in England, the interest wouldn't be the same as 2005. The quality of the cricket is lower this year, and the matches haven't been as close.

2005: explosive first Test, great second Test, great third Test, near-great fourth Test, and even the relatively unspectacular fifth Test still had a blistering KP hundred to secure the draw.

2009: Batting-heavy game that became a nailbiter only late, comfortable win to England, rain-spoilt draw, thumping win to Australia.

2005 was one of the greatest series of all-time, 2009 is a reasonable series but nothing special.

Allout said...

Mimi

As others have said 2005 was the greatest series of all time - it's unrealistic to compare other series to it.

The 2nd, 3rd and 4th Tests of 2005 were probably the most exciting consecutive three Tests of all time. Plus, the contest really was between the two best teams in the world whereas this is effectively two middle ranking teams fighting it out. The fact that both teams have as many weaknesses and strengths is making for interesting viewing though.

Zephirine said...

Sorry Mimi, a bit late to this party - life interfering with blogging at the moment.

So far, in spite of a few heroics, this series seems to have been about one or side or another tipping over from indifferent into inept, with England probably reaching ineptness a bit more often. The question now is whether the Australians have truly improved (more slaughter on the way)or whether Headingley was actually an aberration for both sides (draw or even England win possible).

Apart from Flintoff, who has done a good job of marketing his farewell tour, with Pietersen out there are few big personalities to latch onto - perhaps that's why some of the crowds have resorted to making Ponting a pantomime villain and booing him accordingly. The most famous Australian in England is still Shane Warne, who has neatly stolen the limelight from his former captain. (It's a good thing you don't watch Sky, Mimi, the way Warney laughs whenever he mentions Ian Bell would upset you, I fear).

So this tour is one for the enthusiasts. BUT don't let's forget that there has already been a cricket contest this year which did catch the imagination of quite a few people who aren't normally big cricket fans, and that was the T20 World Cup. The highlights programmes are more satisfying when it's a shorter form of the game, and I heard lots of people saying they'd got quite hooked on watching it in the evenings.

mimi said...

Zeph: I had a perfectly splendid day yesterday with the T20 Finals, and although Somerset didn't win, I did enjoy Tresco discussing his dreams in the pre Finals break!

Well done Sussex.

Wooley said...

I wouldn't put it all down to the lack of terrestrial coverage (I think its a bit too easy to slag off Sky - Channel 4 had a great commentary team but their coverage of anything other than the home England tests was laughable).

Mainly, I think its the fact that even Australia are clearly not the team they were. 2005 was a close series between two in-form sides at the top of the world rankings. This is a contest between two sides trying to get over the loss of many of their best players.

In a way though, I'm oddly pleased. I loved the 2005 series - but part of me didn't like the public interest aspect. What were all those people in Trafalgar Square doing in 1997, when I was watching Steve Waugh never ever seem to get out?

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