Sunday, 5 July 2009

Ashes to Ashes, dust to dust…

…If Thomson doesn't get you, Lillee must!
So goes the folklore of cricket that seems to have been the hallmark of what cricket was all about – Test Cricket! Add Gary Gilmour to the attack, and cricket in the 70s and 80s was in its fiercest form of competitiveness, in spite of the fact that it was played over six days with a day’s break in between. The West Indies defined the four pronged pace attack and the spearheads like Croft, Roberts, Holding, Garner, Marshall sent chill down the spine of the batsmen. There were batsmen of the likes of Geoff Boycott and Sunil Gavaskar who would play out days and nights to blunt the above attack.

Cricket in flannels is still considered the purest form and Ashes the flag bearer. Today cricket is followed as religion in India but then the passionate following that this game has dates back to 1882 when a young London journalist, Reginald Shirley Brooks wrote a mock obituary in the Sporting Times, which read: “In affectionate remembrance of English cricket which died at The Oval, 29th August, 1882. Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing friends and acquaintances, RIP. NB: The body will be cremated and the Ashes taken to Australia.” That was to be Australia's first victory on English soil over the full strength of England.

Things haven’t changed much even to this day, Ashes conjures some of the most competitive displays of the gentleman’s game and has stood the test of time. If the overdose of Twenty 20 through the Indian Premier League and the T20 World Cup makes the modern follower feel that test cricket is losing its sheen, then look back to the year when Kerry Packer hijacked the cream of the cricketers to a new brand of coloured clothing game, which brought a revolution to the fifty over format.

The 1978-79 Ashes was played in direct competition to the unofficial WSC matches elsewhere in Australia and, while England lost a few regulars, Australia fielded a weak side that lost the series 5-1. The crowds dwindled and Test cricket seemed threatened. After things settled down the following year Ashes saw some of the most memorable performances The 1979 series was notable for the remarkable number of players who made nineties - Kim Hughes (99) Boycott (99*) David Gower (98*) Greg Chappell (98*) and Graham Gooch (99), missing out his maiden century being run-out. Those days cricket was keenly followed on BBC and ABC radio and of course through the newspaper columns. Even as One Day cricket with coloured clothing and white ball made strides, Test cricket continued to flourish and yes with some record breaking performances across the World.

After almost two decades of dominance Australia lost the Ashes to the English in 2005, but then regained it at home eighteen months later with an emphatic 5-0 whitewash. Two years later and with the cream of the Aussies leaving, the team from down under are facing a stiff challenge, not just to retain the Ashes, but also uphold the dispassionate interest that followers of the game have always had in the five day version.

July 8, 2009 is a day of reckoning, an eagerly awaited date for the connoisseurs of the game, for this will decide whether the longest version of the game will bite the dust or rise from the Ashes.

--------------------------------------------- pics : Internet--------------------------------------------------

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