Elevating India-Australia series to Ashes level
In recent times, calls for elevating the India-Australia series to the status of Ashes have increased. There are facts, and more facts to justify the call for such an elevation. India, for once, is the ultimate cash cow of cricket and Australia, possibly the most spirited team of the sport. Any competition between these nations, in whichever the format, is bound to have a larger impact on the sport and subsequently help to raise its profile.
It's a fact that cricket still remains one of the marginalized sports in the world despite it's harangue claim to popularity, forborne by British Empire, where the sun never sets. Australia and India are two of Queen's greatest acquisitions. These countries kept the gentleman's game alive with their veritable contribution in the form cricket quality and financial sustainability. And what other reason do we need to glorify the contests between these two sides.
Besides, as in other spheres of modern life, the world order is also changing in cricket. It would not have been too presumptuous to assume that the order has already been changed with India, and it's super-rich Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) flexing its muscles. And, the only cricketing body with enough courage and muscle power to challenge BCCI's growing influence is Cricket Australia (CA).
England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), which once dictated the terms in any cricketing issue is now ready to share responsibilities with other boards, especially with BCCI and CA. When teams representing these two bodies play in a series, it automatically becomes the most important fixture of the sport.
There is no denying that fact that Ashes series between Australia and England has been considered the cornerstone of Test cricket's time-tested affability, with thousands thronging venues in the face of modern slam-bang versions. The prestigious series, hosted by Australia and England alternately, is still the traditional 'Test' of cricketing skills, and is still the mother of all duels.
But, the recent rise of India as cricket's financial power-house has allowed the sport to find new battlegrounds and new rivalries to emerge. In fact, India's rise as a cricketing super-power cannot be passed off by saying it's only driven by money. Since Kapil Dev lifted the World Cup trophy in 1983, India has been most vigorous cricketing nation. Comparing it to a religion was not hyperbole, but a glorification of the sport followed by every single Indian!
In contrast, the game's profile in other parts of the world especially in England has considerably waned. Lamentations from former cricketers and enthusiasts, complaining lack of participation in the sport have started to occupy public space. In such situations, Ashes remains the only saving grace for a nation which gave birth to this genteel bat and ball game.
Unluckily, in the latest installment of world's oldest sporting rivalry, English team was white-washed 5-0 Down Under. Despite their previous back-to-back series wins, the clean-sweep allowed antagonists to write yet another obituary of English cricket.
In such a situation, elevating India-Australia series to the level of Ashes – by increasing the number of fixture and the prominence – will do cricket a world of good.
The standard of Indian team's overseas Test performances over the years warrants a serious rebuttal, but that aspect can be overlooked at least for now to help the game survive. A new, intense India-Australia series will be good for the sport when its five-day version is fighting hard for survival.
Like an India-Pakistan series, an India-Australia square-off will always bring lots of crowd, more money and renewed interests.