I’m not the greatest cricket fan in the world, but as a red-blooded Brit I was of course delighted when I watched on Sky as England won the Ashes from Australia, for the third time running, in July 2013. But I’m afraid you’re now going to have to explain something to me.
Having triumphed over the old enemy in the summer, why in God’s name did we have to play for the Ashes again just 4 months later? Does this not devalue the prize? Is this not, by every criteria imaginable, really stupid?
Look, we didn’t ask Andy Murray to try and win Wimbledon again in November 2013 did we? England’s footballers were not expected to defend their hard-won World Cup trophy four months later in October 1966. Will we ask Bradley Wiggins to try and win the Tour de France again in January 2014? No.
So why the hell did England have to defend the Ashes after only just having won them? Of course they were going to crash and burn in the second series. They’d already won the bloody thing.
Physically and emotionally England peaked in the summer. They’d given their all. They’d proved that they were the best. They’d crushed the Aussies like everyone wanted and they needed the reward of a well-deserved rest. They wanted time to put their feet up, or to go down the pub and brag about winning the Ashes over a good few pints.
Of course the team didn’t want to go to Australia after just a few short weeks and play another 5 Test matches. Who would? Only an idiot. In losing the second series, in a few weeks the England players went from being national heroes to despised losers, just because they couldn’t keep winning the Ashes over and over and over again. Suddenly English cricket was broken for ever. A disaster. A joke. All of this just 16 weeks after one of its greatest victories.
Murray would have been pretty hard pushed to win Wimbledon twice in 4 months. Nigh-on impossible. Christ, it took about 70 years the first time. Bobby Moore and the lads wouldn’t have had a hope in hell of taking on the likes of Eusabio and Pele twice in one year and landing the Jules Rimet Trophy on both occasions. A one in a million shot. Did the Nazis ask for another war in 1946? Best of three? No.
Remember when you were a kid? You finally, finally beat that big smug kid in the fourth year that was really good at tennis. He was furious. He challenged you to another game. Double or quits. Go on, I dare you. If you were smart you said no. If you were stupid you said “OK”, and then the whole class watched while he beat the crap out of you in straight sets then spat in your face when you tried to shake his hand at the end. It was always going to end like that. Because you’d already given everything. You’d peaked. You’d done the job once.
English cricket is stupid. If you keep playing for the big prizes over and over again they have no value. It becomes meaningless. Who’s got the Ashes now? I’ll check. Oh, it’s Tuesday so England have got them. No, wait, Australia won them back on Thursday afternoon in a darts match in the Long Room at Lords.
Most baffling of all is why we didn’t just go and play someone else in the winter. India? Pakistan? South Africa? Don’t these countries play cricket anymore? Is Australia now the only country in the world who want to play us? OK, why don’t we just play them for the Ashes every week and see how quickly cricket fans lose interest.
Grow up cricket. Surely there should be more to the sport than financial greed and TV viewing figures. The Ashes are special, so why don’t we just play for them every 4 years. It seems to work for football and the Olympics.