The Ashes is an important cricket series — or so they say

12 November 2017 - 00:00 By Telford Vice

Eighty million, nine hundred thousand. That's more people than live in Mzansi and greater than the combined populations of Australia and England.
It's the number of results returned when you type two seemingly ordinary words into your friendly neighbourhood search engine: The Ashes.
Clearly, cricket-minded folks the world over care deeply about a series in the fuddiest, duddiest format contested by the unsexiest teams imaginable.
They will likely tell you that they and their forebears have been caring since 1882 and for 336 tests. They would be wrong: English and Australian women have contested the Ashes since 1998, but you won't find those matches counted among the 336.
There's a women's Ashes on the go as we speak, but an outrageously disproportionate amount of the coverage on the most important platforms in cricket media deals instead with what might happen when the equivalent men's sides clash at the Gabba in Brisbane in 11 days' time.
Cricket's unthinking cling to tradition explains some of that. The rest is misogyny, which often hides in adherence to tradition.
Those looking to keep up with events in the Ashes, you would have thought if you clicked many links this week, were expected to be exponentially more interested in the state of the ankle that a mediocre English seamer called Jake Ball twisted in a dreary tour match in Adelaide than anything that happened at the SCG - where Australia and England were playing the first-ever day/night women's test.
Some day, centuries from this benighted age, people will wonder how sports like cricket survived and prospered so successfully for so long despite their ignorance and arrogance.
But, for now, we are left to wonder why the Ashes matters to so many whose lives it will never touch.
There must be something better
The protagonists are ranked third and fifth, but the series does involve three of the game's top five batsmen - Steve Smith, Joe Root and David Warner - and its No1 bowler, James Anderson.
And rather than all that orthodoxy, Warner excepted, wouldn't you rather watch the magnificent madness of AB de Villiers?
Or Virat Kohli's ambition, which towers in reverse proportion to the man himself?
Or the improbably successful Rangana Herath, boep and all? Or, particularly in Asia, Ravichandran Ashwin and his fiery eyes demand, and claim, wickets?
Take the fake patriotism out of the equation and those are not difficult questions.
Each to their own, of course, but the truth is the Ashes has become a behemoth because it is the product of first-world economies spending enough money on the series to make much more, many times over, in return.
And what you can sell to Poms and Aussies - the parents of test cricket, let's not forget - you can sell to anyone who knows how to pick up a bat. Especially in places like Mzansi, where the pale, male ranks of our cricket-minded folks have always taken their example from other pale males. Like Poms and Aussies.
But here's an indicator of unstoppable change: the 2015 World Cup match between India and Pakistan was watched by one billion people...

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