Ashes: It’s time for action… We’ve all really needed it

Captains Pat Cummins and Joe Root pose at the launch of the Ashes series on Sunday. (Image: cricket.com.au)

That sound you can hear in the distance is both Cricket Australia and the England Cricket board exhaling a big sigh of relief. It’s Test match week. Finally.

Not just the night before a Test match, the night before an Ashes series, in your home country, it just hits different.

In a lead-up dominated by scandals, politics, COVID-19, border closures, late venue changes, and the regular argy-bargy that comes with any international cricket tour, we are finally ready for action.

The focus can shift to selection and strategies and showdowns on the field and the fans are ready for a big and memorable series.

While there are players on both sides who look set to get thier first taste at the game’s richest tradition, the urn may well be decided by those whose names are already etched into the rich Ashes tapestry while others will get the chance to write their names into the games rich history and folklore.

Never mind for the players who are itching to get back into action, the start of this particular Ashes series is sure to provide both cricketing boards a welcome distraction to the scandal and crisis-laden build-up on either side of the Pacific Ocean.

Cricket Australia, no stranger to drama and crisis at any time of the year, had found itself without a captain and a wicketkeeper on the eve of a series. Not less than a week earlier was the country basking in the glory of a team that had done the impossible and won the T20 World Cup when they weren’t even on the first page of the betting market.

Yet for all the glory and series wins that come and go for the men’s cricket team, there seems to be a big cloud full of drama hovering close to Cricket Australia headquarters.

It’s the guest they can’t seem to get rid of in its Hotel California. It can check out anytime it likes, but it never seems to leave.

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England’s off-field dramas have reached the top offices in the land, as the Azeem Rafiq and Yorkshire racism saga has left an indelible mark on the game of cricket. Both how it will be played and how the culture of the game’s players will participate in all the actions both on and off the field.

Joe Root, the captain of the England team and member of the Yorkshire county side for many a year has tried to distance himself from the scandal back at home, but holding roles as both senior Yorkshire player and national captain means the effects and commentary will linger on the longer the tour gets. Especially if they drop a couple of early games.

Australia has appointed their boy wonder. Pat Cummins, the 47th captain was always destined for this job, it’s probably not the ascension that he or Cricket Australia would have envisioned it.

Though just the second fast bowler to hold the top office in Australian cricket since Ray Lindwall, unlike Lindwall or any other captain that has gone before him, Cummins stands out as the captain of tomorrow that Australian cricket and its board desperately needs.

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While cricket has changed with the times by its introduction of shorter formats, big cheques, bright lights, and pink balls to continue piquing the interest of the casual fan, it’s a sport that continually shows tendencies and behaviours that leaves it stuck in a bygone era, in practices both on and off the field.

Dressing room culture is now front of mind and has been put on the agenda again and again due to our willingness to continue moving and educating ourselves with the time.

The T20 World Cup was the biggest indicator that our cricket teams and dressing rooms are now symbols for both change and messaging, with all participating nations before each game taking a moment to show their commitment to eradicating racism.

It may seem that the nature of both cricket boards’ respective issues were completely different kettles of fish, but the two are very much entwined as they bring forward issues of how we act. How we become more tolerant, how we grow and how we come to accept, understand and empathise.

While scandals are never far away from both the Australian and England cricket teams, both boards would be sipping away and praising that the on-field action is about to begin to divert the attention away from all the different off-field matters.

But such is the nature of any Ashes series, this is only the start of the journey on what is meant to be our trouble and COVID eased summer. If only anyone told Perth and Western Australia… and South Australia too now it seems.

The highway has a long road ahead of it with a number of bumps and critical junctures along the way. Who knows where we may end up, who knows what twists might follow. As every hour ticks closer to that first delivery at the Gabba, the sighs of relief get louder and longer. A signal of time for action.

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