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Truly urn'ed it!
by Venu Palaparthi
Sep 16, 2005
Whatever you think of Australia’s performance in the Ashes, these sportsmen from down under should be given some credit for helping the cause of cricket. Thanks to Ashes 2005, England has caught the cricket bug again.

Their hard fought battles successfully reignited the cricket spark in England whose fans have had to contend with lackluster results, rain, and frequent humiliation for some years now.

When Australia won the first Test at Lord's with great ease, the Australians quickly went on the offensive and Glenn McGrath bragged: "I thought (we will win) 3-0 or 4-0 about 12 months ago, thinking there might be a bit of rain around. But with the weather as it is at the moment, I have to say 5-0."

But the master craftsman, Andrew Flintoff, had other plans. He denied Australia that pleasure with his all-round exploits. In the process, he stirred up a patriotic fervor rarely seen in England in a cricket stadium.

Interest and enthusiasm in the Ashes series exceeded the frenzied atmospherics that only India-Pakistan confrontations have created in the recent past. Over 7 million people watched the climax of the series on TV in England alone.

Cricket not only KO’d football off the front pages of all newspapers in England (indeed all of UK), cricket rightfully got its own parade after a long time - an estimated 25,000 people lined the streets from West End to Trafalgar Square. In the words of the culture secretary, the Ashes series was “one of the great moments of national exhilaration and excitement.”

The short term benefits have ranged from interesting to downright hilarious. For instance, the general patriotic fervor has somehow translated into greater sales for flowers as guilty husbands, who spent five days watching the games, attempted to pacify their wives. Without doubt, the cricket ball shaped jewels (costing GBP 50,000, we are informed) worn by Kevin Pietersen will set off a craze for cricket jewelry.

It is the long term benefits that should really change the way cricket is perceived in England. ECB has said that fewer than 10% of the state schools have a cricket program where they play at least five organized games of cricket annually. I come from a country where there is hardly any organized sport in state schools (in fact, most state schools don’t even have proper grounds any more). So what do I know?

But when I am told that 97% of schools in England offer football and only 10% offer cricket, even I get a bit concerned for the game that I love so much.

These dismal statistics are certainly going to change after the Ashes series. Especially because voices that sang lusty renditions of Hope and Glory and God Save the Queen are now talking excitedly of rebuilding the game, building sports facilities, hiring coaches and recruiting volunteers.

 
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