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History in the making

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Mihir Bose | 10:28 UK time, Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Sport as a metaphor for life is an overworked cliche.

For many years I dined out on Neville Cardus's great saying that if everything about England was destroyed except for the laws of cricket, life in this country could be recreated. I am not sure if even Cardus would advance that position today.

Sport like all social activities reflects life but may not tell much about how to live it.

Yet modern sports, helped by the growth of technology, have a unique capacity to pull the nation together and help us commune with a player or a team. Sports administrators may oversell this as modern sports helping nation talk to nation, going where politicians cannot.

So football claims to unite people across barbed wire and an Indian and Pakistani can form a doubles partnership at this year's Wimbledon when the politicians of the two nations struggle to be in the same room as each other.

Hyperbole? Perhaps.

Ashes 2005

Nevertheless sport has the ability to recreate the modern version of the old village square meeting place, albeit in front of a television set and not the village well.

Wimbledon this last fortnight has been the supreme example of it particularly during those moments when Andy Murray looked like he might make history.

I always judge these moments by the number of times many of my friends, who have no interest in sport, indeed great indifference to it, ask me rather detailed, specific questions about a particular player.

It happened at Wimbledon in 2008 when Murray beat Richard Gasquet and got the centre court to react like a football crowd. And it happened several times this Wimbledon, or at least until late on Friday evening when Murray finally lost.

But perhaps the best example of how sport reaches out to parts of society not easily reached is best provided by the 2005 Ashes series.

The 2005 series ranks with 1981 as the two great Ashes series of the last quarter of a century, their greatness lying not so much because England won but because memorable performances on the field of pay lifted the play and the players on to a different plane. It made many people who would not normally look at a cricket match sit up and take notice.

Sport also enables us to evoke history without creating divisions, not often true in other walks of life.

Also often when you invoke sporting history you almost effortlessly wipe away the bitterness and rancour that attended the past. So this Wimbledon much was made of Fred Perry being the last British men's champion in 1936 without too many references to how wretchedly Perry was treated by the then bosses of Wimbledon because he was not from the right social class.

Cricket as the most chronicled of games is full of history and a Test series has the added inbuilt advantage that it provides a narrative for the entire summer, sports version of the classic story with a beginning a middle and an end.

Both 1981 and 2005 were similar in that respect, a beginning belonging to Australia, a middle dominated by England and an end that saw England finally triumph. The 2005 series was in retrospect more satisfying as the certainty of the English triumph was doubtful until the last few hours.

It reminds me of my old colleague Jim White, when Manchester United beat Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final through Ryan Giggs wonder goal on the way to the Treble in 1999. While the match was on he was in turmoil and feared the outcome and did not enjoy it.

United's chairman at the time, Martin Edwards could not even watch it but in retrospect it was the most wonderful of triumphs.

But, by the end of the match, Jim, a keen United supporter, could sit back and savour every moment.

Whatever the result if 2009 provides even half the memories of 1981 and 2005 then it will be worth all the media hype it has already generated.

Comments

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  • 1. At 2:05pm on 07 Jul 2009, Paul-Clifford wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 2. At 3:26pm on 07 Jul 2009, Medlaw wrote:

    Should be a fantastic series. Think that England's chances are pretty good but we shouldn't underestimate this Australian side. THey may be lacking the big names but Australia have never toured with a poor side.

    I think a 2-1 win for England!

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  • 3. At 3:37pm on 07 Jul 2009, Lowep81 wrote:

    Does anyone know the point of what has been written?

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  • 4. At 3:44pm on 07 Jul 2009, Moutarde wrote:

    "3. At 3:37pm on 07 Jul 2009, Researcher 3465051 wrote:

    Does anyone know the point of what has been written?"

    I certainly don't.

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  • 5. At 3:45pm on 07 Jul 2009, Mav wrote:

    I think the player that will make or break the series is Jimmy Anderson - If he turns up for 3 of the tests we win.

    I do think however if Aus get on top of him in the first test his Ashes are over.

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  • 6. At 3:45pm on 07 Jul 2009, saintChopper25 wrote:

    I think it means that we're all looking forward to it. Let's hope it lives up to expectations.

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  • 7. At 3:49pm on 07 Jul 2009, BigT8408 wrote:

    Bose's blog never have a point, he gets paid lots of money to say nothing

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  • 8. At 4:11pm on 07 Jul 2009, jhfgdsaw wrote:

    That age old question again arises: who edits the editors?

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  • 9. At 4:21pm on 07 Jul 2009, Don't Argue With Me wrote:

    the blog is talking about how sporting moments are defined in history and how people who dont even follow a certain sport can end up being interested in it

    what part of that dont you get.

    why dont u try and get to the position where Mihir Bose or Phil Mcnulty are at? Chief sports editors....

    I thought so. You're too busy going to pick up your benefits every monday.

    lay off the bbc blog writers.

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  • 10. At 4:26pm on 07 Jul 2009, barkonk wrote:

    no 1 ever makes out what he says. anyways it will be a good series.

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  • 11. At 4:57pm on 07 Jul 2009, Hold those Cue Cards wrote:

    Yes, let's all bash the editor!!!

    It's fun to do this on the internet, to discredit someone with a rather pointless put down.

    It's a build up, it's what the Ashes mean to Mihir, and probably a lot of other people.

    Not every article has to bisect potential key performers, sometimes it's just good to bask in the glory of this wonderful sport.

    I suspect however, these are the same nay-sayers who would happily cut the England team to shreds the moment things start looking a little pear-shaped. And even if they succeeded, they would bemoan that it was "never as good as 2005" etc etc.

    Sit back and enjoy the summer, hopefully the weather will play nice and we can enjoy a top summer of fiercely competitive, yet sporting, cricket!

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  • 12. At 5:56pm on 07 Jul 2009, Npd McNpd wrote:

    It's been a good summer of sport so far, but inevitably something has to come along at some point and spoil it. And here it is, eleven men standing in a field watching grass grow, watched by a bunch of middle aged men who are under the illusion that this is a mildly less embarrassing activity to confess to than train spotting, with which it shares so much.
    If it quietly all minded its own business it would be fine, but instead we get media saturation for days and weeks on end, much of it permeated by the familiar whiff of the english xenophobia towards its former "colonies". And then it all ends in a draw...

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  • 13. At 6:38pm on 07 Jul 2009, Stev wrote:

    I think this will be a very tight series and fiercely contested. Many people think that the Aussies are weak, but in truth they are, only by comparison of there previous standards, I still think they will pose a competitive and significant challenge for England.

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  • 14. At 9:27pm on 07 Jul 2009, Bournemouthy wrote:

    Npd - if you don't like it don't watch it, skip through the pages in paper and put the kettle on when it comes on the news!

    We don't all have to like the same thing, let those who want to enjoy this tantlizing game of skill and tactics wallow in enjoying a true Summer Sport and you can do what you want!

    My advise would be to sit down and absorb a fanasinating series of 2 teams who have a historic sporting rivalry. Its your loss!

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  • 15. At 9:56pm on 07 Jul 2009, stanalquin wrote:

    For the posters questioning the point of this blog, I actually feel a measure of pity for you: for you, sport is simply the events, the players, the balls, the result, whatever. For you not to see the cultural significance and impact something as big as the Ashes has- especially after what happened four years ago (when, for a month, even my mum knew what a nightwatchman was)- means you lack the sense of flavour, the relevance off the pitch, the things which make sport truly wonderful.
    Mihir has this appreciation, and a lot more, and he is able to express it succinctly and in an entertaining manner. That's why he's the BBC sports editor, and you are just some schmucks with an internet connection.

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  • 16. At 10:35pm on 07 Jul 2009, Reaper_of_Souls wrote:

    I just watched the news re the showing of sporting events on terrestrial television.

    Regardless of the issues, this seemed to be a blatant case of the BBC using the licence fee to lobby for itself.

    --------

    The question with such issues is surely why satellite broadcasters are always able to outbid terrestrial ones for the most popular sports (the "crown jewels" list was almost certainly put together by a public school boy rather than one of the masses); perhaps if less was wasted on minority arts programmes, or maybe commercial funding was sought, encouraging the BBC to produce programmes people want, it may be able to come up with reasonable bids; but with sport being central to the strategy of many satellite broadcasters, and therefore their coverage being superior...

    There is actually an argument that showing events on satellite TV brings people together more than having them on terrestrial TV.
    After all, people are often encouraged to go to the pub to watch an event on satellite, making it a social and sporting occasion, rather than sitting at home in front of their own TV.

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  • 17. At 10:41pm on 07 Jul 2009, WebbyFoxes wrote:

    Mihir Raises a good point here.
    The 205 Ashes ranks alongside 1981 for the one of the best Ashes in History.
    However we have to hope the hype of 2009 matches the hype and excitement of 05 and 81.
    I also agree with they hype surronding Wimbledon that Mihir says, we dont seem to get very hyped up for it until it happens but with Cricket, you sense that hype long before the series starts.
    Plus we have a chance if we lose 1 match.
    England to do it again and win 2-1.

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  • 18. At 10:47pm on 07 Jul 2009, Reaper_of_Souls wrote:

    Re post #15

    As a cricket fan who played the game for several years, the interest created by the 2005 ashes was an interesting phenomenon, providing a short term boost.
    The increased interest actually seems to have done more for the women's game than the men's.

    In 2005 we were playing against one of the best sides the world has ever seen (although in a degree of decline), we [England] had a lot of things come together for us and only just edged a series victory.
    The games at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge could've gone either way; the Aussies held on at Old Trafford and England (via Pietersen) survived at the Oval.
    The only decisive victory went to the Aussies, but probably the decisive moment of the series happened on the morning of the Edgbaston test with McGrath getting injured.

    For that series we had a seam attack in its prime and one of our best ever captains, we're sadly lacking this time around (losing the series in the West Indies through 1 awful batting performance, some negative captaincy and a bowling attack unable to get 20 wickets without helpful conditions, against a poor side).
    Our one hope of salvation - the Aussies are nowhere near the team they were. (they still whitewashed us in their own back yard).

    There will hopefully be drama, and I'll be watching all I can - but I'm not expecting anything like the 2005 classic (here's hoping Pietersen fires and I'll be wrong).

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  • 19. At 10:49pm on 07 Jul 2009, aflfan wrote:

    Aren't the Ashes played every 18 months/2 years and not every 4 years? Perhaps some cricket fans can enlighten me - I thought they also played series in Australia but the media seem to be playing a different tune for some reason.

    I think I should stick to football with this gaffe! Oh wait a minute...

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  • 20. At 2:47pm on 09 Jul 2009, ark_28 wrote:

    England have made a very useful start to their 2005 Ashes Campaign, by posting 435 against Australia.

    Resuming on 339-7 overnight, England; lower order batsman Graeme Swann came out and batted in a very positive, fashion Swann was unbeaten on 47.

    In reply Australia took the attack to England, with Ashes d├ębutante Phil Hughes looking in ominous form early on as he played a serious of cut shots which raced to the boundary.

    Desperately needing a wicket, England's captain, Andrew Strauss turned to his go to man Andrew Flintoff, and Flintoff as he so often does, provided England with the breakthrough that they so desperately needed, when he had Hughes caught by Matt Prior for 36 to leave Australia 60-1.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/cricket/england/8141938.stm

    Flintoff was man of the series 4 years ago when England regained for the first time in 16 years, however 18 months later the all rounder captained his country to a 5-0 Ashes defeat in Australia.

    http://www.englandbettingodds.co.uk/ashes-series-2009

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  • 21. At 4:02pm on 09 Jul 2009, sweetsmellofsuccess wrote:

    Good Lord,

    I was at a loss to know what the point of Mihir's blog was, and then ark_28 showed up with that little offering.

    Please tell us you aren't going to do that 25 times this summer?

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  • 22. At 5:02pm on 09 Jul 2009, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    Sport is a reflection of life and things like fair play and honorable behavior have been replaced by winning at any cost and lack personal integrity. Society as it is today.
    Wanna fight about it!

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  • 23. At 10:21am on 10 Jul 2009, jhfgdsaw wrote:

    To all those who defend the editor and attack those who criticise (such as post 9): pot, kettle, black... Why is it so bad to criticise a poorly written blog whilst somehow credible to criticise those who post comments?

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  • 24. At 11:47am on 10 Jul 2009, shinywillie1980 wrote:

    no 23, i believe you are now criticising the critical who were criricizing the Editor, the critical analysis could continue for a very long time, i believe the posts defending the editor were justifiable as the early criticism could hardly be called that, How does ' Anyone understand the point of this' constitute as criticism, i along with many fully understood the point and the topic. It becomes most infuriating when the ill educated think they are trying to be clever by bemoaning this blog, a lot of them do it for the hell of it and have no actual reason for doing so. Whilst Mihir blogs are not always the best written they do appeal to some people. If it does not appeal just leave it, if he has incorrectly quoted someone or has wrongful information, fine criticize, but it is little point criticizing someone for their personal style.

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  • 25. At 3:39pm on 23 Jul 2009, daisydaisygive wrote:

    "For the posters questioning the point of this blog, I actually feel a measure of pity for you: for you, sport is simply the events, the players, the balls, the result, whatever."

    This is far from the point. I personally gain much excitement from the feeling that the rest of my town, my county, my country, or my continent, is sharing these defining moments of (sporting) history with me.
    What I don't get is why this blog needs to tell me of the writers excitement for an upcoming series. Of course he is excited, he is a cricket fan.


    "Sport like all social activities reflects life but may not tell much about how to live it."

    Sorry but how does cricket reflect life? Maybe in this country it could reflect our governments attempts to take everything from us (our wickets) and give us very little protection (a small bat).
    Only a tiny majority can survive living like this, but in the end everyone gets out, or time runs out.


    If only Cardus's saying was still true!

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