Ashes 2013: Cricket Fever Started

Ashes photocallPosted by Rida Zaheer

Historical event of Cricket between two Common Wealth countaries statrted on  on 10 July 2013 when, from 11am, England take on Australia at Trent Bridge in Nottingham, a moment eagerly anticipated by players and supporters alike, not least because it’s been known for an entire series to be shaped by events on the first morning.

Whether they will still be as enthusiastic by 7 January next year, after the teams have played 10 Test matches at up to five days apiece home and away, not to mention a slew of Twenty20 and one-day clashes, is a moot point to say the least. With back-to-back Ashes Tests in the same year for the first time, the next six months represent the most concentrated spell of Ashes cricket in its 131-year history.

But for David Collier, the chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), the impending avalanche of Ashes can’t be too much of a good thing.”On the contrary, it has created intense excitement. I don’t see how it can diminish the achievement. If we can retain the Ashes over two series, then it would be an even greater achievement,” Collier said.

“All the tickets are gone. Sold out. You’ve only got to look at the demand for tickets, at the fact we’ve got 300 clubs signed up to show the action on big screens, to see how big it is. I don’t think anything in cricket captures the imagination of the British public more than the Ashes series.”

Collier said England’s cricketers would go into Wednesday’s first Test hoping to build on the feelgood factor created by the Lions rugby union side and Wimbledon winner Andy Murray. Following a wet summer in 2012 that was dominated by the Olympics, this year is seen as a crucial barometer for the health of the sport in a year without a major football tournament to draw the attention.

The climactic fifth Ashes Test in August at the Oval, south London, was sold out before Christmas for the first time and the same was true at Trent Bridge. “We couldn’t process the orders quickly enough,” said a Trent Bridge spokesman.

David Cameron, the day after his No 10 reception with Murray, released a message of support for England: “Whether you remember Botham and Willis at Headingley, like I do, or Kevin Pietersen’s defiant stance at the Oval in 2005 – I remember where I was when that happened – nothing captures the public’s imagination quite like a Test match against Australia. The nation’s got high hopes. We’re right behind the team, and I’m sure they’re going to rise to the occasion. So best of luck from everyone at Downing Street to [England captain] Alastair Cook and the boys.”

Collier said the huge demand for tickets proved the switch to pay TV in 2005 had not diminished cricket’s appeal, despite concerns it had lessened its ability to become part of the national conversation.

The back-to-back series have been scheduled to realign the Ashes so they do not take place in the same year as a cricket World Cup, which is due to be held in Australia and New Zealand in 2015.By next January, Cook’s sside could have won four Ashes series in a row.

The Australians are in some disarray, after a 4-0 Test series defeat in India and a disappointing showing in the Champions Trophy, interspersed with an unsavoury incident in a bar when David Warner aimed a punch at young England batsman Joe Root at 2am. Warner, a batsman, was fined £7,000 and suspended until the start of the first Test.

As a result, Cricket Australia sacked their coach Mickey Arthur just 16 days before Wednesday’s opener. He was replaced by straight-talking Darren Lehmann, a move which former players including Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath have said can give Australia back their momentum.

But some former England players, including Sir Ian Botham, have predicted a 10-0 whitewash.

Collier said it would be closer than that and, even if England won relatively easily, it wouldn’t diminish the appeal of one of the oldest and most keenly fought rivalries in sport. When England won in 2005, it was the first time they had captured a series since 1987.

The ECB points to the strength of the elite game, where England have prospered since regaining the Ashes in 2005, and further investment in the grassroots to justify the removal of live coverage of the sport from free-to-air TV.

Sky, gearing up for a battle with BT Sport, has renamed one of its channels Sky Ashes and will screen only cricket on it for the summer.

Aside from the investment of £260m over four years, Sky says it is able to devote more resources and airtime to the sport. Yet some insist something has been lost along the way, including the ability to inspire children whose parents may not be cricket fans.

“All the objective facts totally rubbish that argument. What is critical to engaging people is local club facilities and local coaches. We have invested a lot of time and a lot of effort and that’s paid off. People tend to forget there was no terrestrial bid for cricket on the table, so it’s a redundant argument,” said Collier.

Courtesy: The Gurdian

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