|The opening ball in the first game of The Ashes 2009 series at the SWALEC Stadium, Cardiff.|
After yesterday's brief post, today I will try to do better with Natasha's third topic, which is 'Ashes, of the cricketing kind.'
First, I'm pretty sure that Natasha clarified what she meant on purpose, because the last time she requested something to do with cricket, I - being completely clueless - blogged about something else entirely. *shifty* The thing is, I should really know at least a little bit about cricket because my husband worked on and off for our local cricket club for over twenty years. You'd have thought that a little of it would have rubbed off on me, but alas, it never did. Probably because I have no interest in the game and tended to switch off whenever legs, wickets and overs were mentioned.
Anyway, today I'd like to do two things. The first thing is to briefly explain officially what The Ashes are (with some direly needed information from the ever helpful Wikipedia), and then give another unofficial explanation from the perspective of a non-fan who was affected by it last year.
The Ashes is a series of Test Matches played between the English and Australian cricket teams, and happens every couple of years or so (the timing is never exact due to climate differences, and as cricket is generally played during the summer, the time between each Ashes event can be anything from eighteen months to two and a half years). Apparently the term 'The Ashes' was first coined at the end of the nineteenth century, when Australia completely trashed the English side. A newspaper reported that English cricket had died, and that the Australian team was taking the ashes back to their country. An urn and some ashes were produced to add to the 'fun' (I don't see how it was for fun to be honest, more like a mockery. Which considering the reporter was mocking his own country seems a bit odd, but there we are). Anyway, it took a while to fully catch on, but eventually the regular play offs between the two countries came to be universally known as The Ashes.
Even to those unfamiliar with the game (or to those who can't stand the game *shifty*), when you hear somebody talk about The Ashes, you have a good idea what it is they're mumbling about. Like Wimbledon is to tennis, The Ashes is to cricket. It's the biggest and most well-known series of games for the sport.
The actual ashes in the official trophy are generally thought to be that of a cricket ball or bat, though nobody is entirely certain. Whatever is contained in the urn doesn't really matter though as it is what the urn represents that is most important. *nods* Of course, this sacred urn isn't actually presented to the winning team as it is so delicate; the victors are presented with a trophy that looks like it. Youknowzitmakezsense!
Anyway, the two teams battle it out every couple of years, and who ever wins the series of games gets to take the ashes home with them (er, the replica of the urn, that is). If they draw, the present holders of the ashes get to keep them until the next series of games. Currently the English team are protectors of the metaphorically magical urn containing a bit of burnt rubber or wood. *cough*
Last year the big event was hosted in Cardiff. my home city, at the SWALEC Stadium, home to Glamorgan County Cricket Club (The Dragons). At the time my husband was working full time for the club as a groundsman, and was part of the team responsible for making sure the ground was fit to be played upon. For a whole year prior to the event, the groundsmen - including my husband - were constantly under pressure to make the ground as perfect as possible for the most important cricketing event of 2009.
Of course, the ground staff are always under pressure to maintain the venue, because they have all sorts of inspectors visiting the ground throughout the season checking to make sure everything is being done properly. I don't know how or why, but apparently you can do something to the ground itself which can favour the home team, and if the ground is found to be faulty, fines and whatnot are slapped onto the ground staff.
Anyway, my husband was pretty stressed throughout the build up to the main event, with the weeks immediately prior to the game itself being the worst of all. And don't even talk to me about the games themselves, because I don't think I saw my husband for an entire week. For twelve months I had The Ashes drummed into my head from the hubby, and I was pretty sick of it. My hubby loves the game, but even he was severely ticked off with the whole thing by the time the games actually started. The Smith House was definitely experiencing technical difficulties during 2009, owing to two teams fighting over a replica trophy (okay, that's simplifying things a tad, and most cricket lovers out there would be Tara-Bashers if they ever read this, but hey-ho, I'm bitter. *snort*).
Perhaps you can see why I hold no love for the game. Thankfully my husband no longer works at SWALEC Stadium any more, so I don't have to hear about cricket so often. And there was much rejoicing!