Let the action begin…

Which event in the cricketing world generates as much buzz as the World Cup? Well, if you can’t answer this one then you have not been following the latest buzz word. For the last 2 months, even when Aus was still playing India. all we read about was the impending Ashes in Australia.

For any cricket fanatic, the Ashes are a series to savour and since 2005 they have become one of the best watched series for some close matches on display, which had been lacking since Border’s Boys grabbed the cup in 1989 and The Greatest Aus Team ever held onto the Urn until the famous 2005 Series.

For me, the Ashes viewing commenced only in ‘93  – The series that signalled the arrival of the greatest spinner in the history of cricket  – the one who took 50+ wickets in the 6 match series to send the English batsmen for a toss, and the one who bowled that “Ball-of-the-Century”. If you can’t recollect what it was – go watch  the video here. He almost  did an action replay in Ashes 2005 against Andrew Strauss. 

Ashes throughout the 90s and early 2000s was all about Australia’s dominance and England’s submission. Soon one had begun to hear rumours of the Urn being shifted Down Under as Australia had earned the honour to keep it forever.

And finally, the England side woke up and made up for an exciting Ashes in 2005. I followed that series ball-by-ball and my thoughts documented on my personal blog then here, for you to visit if you wish to travel back in time.

For me, that series re-defined Ashes and got back the crowds and the viewers. Can anyone forget this moment – it features at #4 in the decades top 5 sporting moments. The sight of Andrew Flintoff taking a moment out from his celebrations for having one of the closest games in history; and putting his arm around his opponent Brett Lee. I had goose-bumps after that match – did not realize I could get so emotionally involved in a match not involving India. That very moment makes you realise what that series did to England, to Australia, to the Ashes and to Test Cricket.

Post 2005 and my move to Dubai, I could not watch the Ashes live owing to cable telecast issues here in Dubai! So I may not be able to write as much as I would want to on the Ashes 2007 and Ashes 2009 but I don’t think I missed out on much. 2007 was a white-wash that England should’ve avoided and 2009 though close was more of a contest among the weaker sides rather than strong sides.

This time around though the hype has reached crazy heights; or maybe back then there was less of facebook and twitter and hence I could hear less chatter about the Ashes! This time around though our twitter timeline is only about the Ashes – KP and Warne bantering silly, Cricinfo setting up a dedicated Ashes blog and the whole set of journalists only talking and updating about The Ashes – 2010 and about Aus’s impending defeat on home soil.

And when I hear that, I refuse to accept it – I’m not a fan of the current Aussie side but running them down to make them look like underdogs in their own backyard seems a tad crazy. They have not been in great shape but who does not do well at home? Hell even a mediocre Indian side triumphed over a decent England side in 1993 – a clean sweep 3-0, after a series of disastrous tours to Eng, NZ, Aus and SA. This is Australia we are talking about.

Watson is in good nick, Hussey and Katich can be real sticky when they get back in form and how can you run down someone like Ponting and Clarke? Ponting is the worst to fear right now – he is down and beaten, people are calling for his neck and I don’t think he wants his name in the record books along the Aus captains who have lost the Ashes thrice. The only way he can pull back is by batting well and he is pretty good at that. Remember his 100th test Vs SA after the Ashes loss? 

The bowling looks decent with Hilfenhaus, Bollinger and Johnson – though I hear that Bollinger is not in for the first test tomorrow! They may not be in the same league as McGrath and Co and Aus may lack a quality spinner but it’s not an attack that cannot get you a win.

I do agree that this is England’s best chance to win but beating a hurt Australia is not going to be a cakewalk as most Pommie Fans are thinking right now. England with all the hype will feel the pressure more to perform and that may not augur well for them. Their most important match-winner is terribly out of form and if KP fails to perform – England may well be packing their bags a bit too soon than they anticipate to right now. They have a good batting line-up and Broad could well make this Ashes his, if he comes up with the performances like he did against Pakistan.

I’ve not seen Swann bowl as much as I would’ve liked too but of the little I’ve seen he is a one hell of a beauty to watch; and in my opinion he could well be the guy who makes the difference to this entire series and helps change the equation for  the two sides.

4 hours to go and I should be hitting my bed so that I wake up in time to watch the action.

I’m leaving you with some of the Ashes previews I liked reading over the last few days :

Andy Bull in the Guardian on the Ifs,Buts and Maybes from the Ashes of past.

Peter Roebuck tells why history is seldom wrong as he travels back in time analysing England’s Ashes wins in Australia. Difficult but not impossible.

My favourite though is this piece by Shane Warne. Read it and you will realise what a tragedy that he never got to captain Australia!

Watch this space as we take you through the Ashes – the one series we are collectively passionate about!

Did I not mention whose side I’m on? Let’s keep that for the next post shall we?

P.S: The featured image on the home page against this post tells you about the origination of Ashes – maynot be clear as was taken during my visit to the Dubai Cricket Stadium;-)