The English cricket team will not look like this when they return home
This is a magnificent victory. It is cricket and as such has no place on a blog about soccer/football but for those growing up around that game like we did in India or elsewhere in the cricket playing world – the Aussies were damn near invincible for aeons. Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting and their band of swashbuckling merry giants ran riot over the other troll nations.
Now, it’s all over. An under hyped English team retains The Ashes. And today in Sydney won the series 3-1, their first triumph Down Under in 24 years. The mighty Aussies are a shadow of themselves. Sliding inexorably to the precipice.
Cricket in its birthplace slid to irrelevancy as its former colonies have ousted the sport. The same same topology applies to football as it left its native shores to find roots elsewhere.
The reaction to both sports by the media is spectacularly different. The English cricket team are portrayed as ne’er do well before a Test series or the Cricket World Cup and so far the results seem to bear them out. But the football team always gets over hyped and sent over with a sealed and signed verdict of virtual indestructibility. As South Africa proved, despite the proclamations a whimper would be too kind a descriptive for what happened yet again.
The difference is that along with cricket moving offshore, so has the money. A large part of England’s attraction for cricketers in the developing world was county cricket. It led to an influx of players in the 70s and 80s. There was a bit of money to be earned but it was mostly exposure to playing good pace bowlers that was the main draw. But county cricket could not compete financially and thus began the reverse migration. It is India that now has the EPL’s version of cricket on crack.
The Indian Premier League is the fifth most lucrative sports brand and is getting only bigger and better. There has been an inflow of upcoming talent and former national players who have found homes in the Rajasthan Royals, Chennai Super Kings, or Mumbai Indians. An average salary would be in the vicinity of $4 million over a year, second only to the NBA.
In football, the economy has remained in England. The sport remains within privatized clubs and there are no county counterparts. The EPL remains highly competitive with England’s players competing with top notch overseas players. The receipts from its global media and TV enterprise remains unsurpassed. It is not hard to see how this could engender a false equivalency. A similar misplaced sense has developed within the Indian media about the infallibility of the national cricket team.
English cricket seems far more real with less fatuous idolatry. But an average cricketer also appears infinitely more perceptive than his footballing counterpart. At the very least he knows it’s not all about him. Here is Paul Collingwood on his last day as a Test cricketer and given the honour of leading out the victorious English team:
“My role in the side is to score runs, I’m disappointed I haven’t done that. But four years ago I scored a double century and we lost 5-0 and I much prefer it this way round. We deserve it.”
In contrast, English football still lives in a bubble.
But enough already. We’re here to celebrate an extra-ordinary victory and yes, for many of us, an extra-ordinary demise. The English media is trumpeting the new look cricket team that will come to a heroes welcome. Congratulations England! And dare one say, better luck next time Australia?