As the Boxing Day test mumbled its way to an inevitable draw, appropriately concluding test cricket for 2017 with Steve Smith unbeaten at the MCG crease, I was forced to reflect on the media coverage of this match and the series in general.
As an avid sportsman and sports fan, I look forward to these significant meetings and, trust me, as an Australian living in the U.K., the Ashes are about as significant as it gets. Heading into work or meeting friends after an Ashes test inevitably involves all the usual dissection of key moments of the most recent match and, with bragging rights at stake until the next series, I appreciate every time ‘Under the Southern Cross’ is sung!
Growing up in Melbourne and playing cricket in every available moment when a bat and a tennis ball were all that were needed to get a game going, cricket was my first sporting love. Those bleak years of the 1980s, responding to England victories with childish taunts to the pommie players (“David Gower never has a shower!”), probably fuelled my desperation for baggy green brilliance in a way that was mirrored in the tough, desperate cricket of Allan Border and his teams through the following decade.
However, even a fan as ardent as I am has to stand back and wonder at the media circus surrounding this latest tour of Australia. Surely, with the rich heritage of Ashes cricket, the action on the pitch should be more than enough. I feel as drunk as a centrally-contracted England player trying to follow the dizzying latest ‘stories’ of off-field indiscretions and antics. Do we, the viewing public, really need to be shunted from one bar to the next along with the touring squad? Is the richly-varied ebb and flow of a test match, with its myriad subplots of individual battles, aspiring debutants and under-siege veterans, broken hearts and broken records not enough in its own right?
I feel that it’s about time the sport took centre stage. Look, if a player is under investigation by the police, it’s probably appropriate that this is reported and that the player in question is suspended from the great privilege of representing their country in a sporting contest (as would happen in virtually every other profession).
However, maybe it’s naive to even speculate, but if we as spectators have one wish for 2018, perhaps it should be that we’re all able to concentrate on and marvel at the sporting talents and tribulations on display a little more than we have over recent months. As such, my New Year’s resolution, starting with next week’s 5th test at the S.C.G., is to skip the ‘clickbait’ of off-field stories and refocus on the purity of sport in all its glory.
After all, who cares whether David Gower takes a shower? It’s all about whether Steve Smith can make another hundred.