The Eternal Appeal of the Ashes

Pop Culture

The Eternal Appeal of the Ashes

Illustration: Akshita Monga

In India, cricket is like traffic – it’s everywhere. We find cricketers in gullies and maidans, and commentators in bars and living rooms across the country, and everyone has designs on the Indian team. So naturally, fatigue is bound to set in. Kohli is great and all, but there’s only so many times you can have the Kohli vs Sachin debate without wanting to get hit in the head with a bouncer yourself.

In the cricketing world, the Indian team is like the hyperactive, overachieving kid at school who is on the sports team and debate squad, and is both class monitor and RSP leader. We go from playing Sri Lanka to playing New Zealand, and IPL to Champions Trophy, in an endless loop until Ravi Shastri’s voice begins to narrate our dreams. And then, once every two years, comes a breath of fresh air – The Ashes.

The 2017 edition of this vintage tournament begins tomorrow, and it’s a welcome break from the Boys in Blue. For once, here’s a series that commands our attention without cheerleaders, Navjot Singh Sidhu, or tacky corporate branding. The biennial clash between the Pommies and the Aussies is a throwback to cricket’s days of yore, where winning a Test series was considered the ultimate expression of a team’s dominance. Since 1882, the team that held the Ashes would claim bragging rights over their rivals, though the prestige has somewhat dimmed as the two nations are no longer the undisputed leaders in world cricket. However, there is still a glorious legacy attached to victory in this series, one that predates nearly all other trophies in the sport, including the World Cup.

It’s going to be a period of bliss, free of unnecessary advertising and hellish vuvuzelas, where cricket can be enjoyed as the beautiful game it truly is

This year is a tantalising one, as both sides can claim 32 victories each in the history of the tournament. Tied in this fashion, debutant Ashes captains Joe Root and Steve Smith can look forward to chiselling their names into the records of cricketing history if they break the deadlock for their country. They will join the immortals who’ve left their mark on cricket history, like Ian Botham’s 1981 Headingley miracle, or Test cricket’s second ever triple-ton by the irreplaceable Don Bradman, or more recently, Alastair Cook’s dogged battle against Australia’s quicks on fast and bouncy wickets to bring the urn home to England.

For the next six weeks or so, cricket fans can look forward to losing themselves in the old-world magic of hard-fought Test cricket. It’s all a part of the Ashes’ unique charm, even the waking up at 5:30 am to catch the live broadcast from Australia. It’s going to be a period of bliss, free of unnecessary advertising and hellish vuvuzelas, where cricket can be enjoyed as the beautiful game it truly is.

Watch the game and cherish the memory for the next two years, because you will soon feel like beating yourself over the head as the IPL drowns you in a riot of overstimulation. In the middle of that noise, repeat to yourself this mantra…. “There will always be the Ashes.”

And you will survive.