"At 12 minutes to six on a soft late summer evening with glorious sunshine, England regained the Ashes that they had surrendered so abjectly in Australia three winters ago. It had been a hard slog" - Mike Selvey wrote in his column in the Guardian after England surprised cricket fans by managing to betray statistics and lift the cup.
At the post match ceremony, Andrew Strauss was quick to react when he said that ‘England won the key moments of a series which was evenly fought.’
Strauss probably hit the right note by being gracious in victory, as he knew pretty well that a loss here could have been disastrous for English cricket.
But somehow in all this madness and wild celebration on the streets of London, and even in the sports editing tables of some famous media houses, I was looking for a header which provides some sanity amidst the thunderous celebrations.
And I was not disappointed as Matthew Engel wrote in London’s Financial Times, “DELIGHT, NOT HYSTERIA, IN ASHES VICTORY.”
Engel wrote; “As the shadows lengthened over The Oval, England sealed their triumph in the latest re-enactment of the never-ending joust for sport's most myth-encrusted trophy."
So the question now arises, how England managed to encrypt its name on ‘Sport’s Most Myth-Encrusted’ trophy and reclaim the Ashes urn?
Many may rightly argue that it was Ponting’s failure to seize the momentum with an army that was a shadow of its past team.
Australia without Gilchrist, Hayedn, McGrath, Warne and Brett Lee were never the force that can beat anyone, anywhere.
England regained the Ashes from the Kangaroos despite the (then) world number one team having three highest wicket-takers and six of the top seven run-scorers of the series. Out of ten centuries scored during the series, eight came from Australian batsmen and still, they were on the losing side. Surprisingly, statistics would mislead one to believe that it was the failure of skipper Ricky Ponting in marshalling his resources that led to Kangaroos downfall rather than anything else.
The above theory which is highly circulated in media and press belies some certain facts and deprives England’s Andrew Strauss of the much needed credit.
Where Ponting failed to get the best use of Mitchell Johnson in Brett Lee’s absence, Strauss managed to overcome the sudden injury to Kevin Petersen and the emotional announcement of Andrew Flintoff’s retirement. Who would have thought that when the situation would demand, it would be Stuart Broad’s name which would rise to the occasion?
At least yours truly did not! When Strauss threw the ball to Broad on that second day of the final Oval Test, it looked like a move which was stemmed out of the ‘no option’ phenomenon that captains world over have to grapple with, on occasions in international cricket.
Reflecting on the victory, a modest Strauss said, “when we were bad, we were very bad, but when we were good, we were just good enough.” The statement clearly highlights that skipper was not pretty sure of his chances, but managed to challenge all odds and help his team in gelling together and hide each other’s inadequacies. It was his determination which dared to challenge failure in its eyes, used adversary as an opportunity and instilled a belief among his colleagues.
Cricket, unlike Football, is a sport which can vastly be affected by a spell of individual brilliance, but then Strauss and Co. proved that when the hunger in the belly is intact, greatest mountains can be scaled and toughest terrains be concurred.
Strauss is also an example of sounding sincere in victory, rather than looking like an arrogant bloke, a trait which has found its way in the Australian dressing room. It is a mindset which makes greats like Roger Federer, who know that difference between a win and loss sometimes can be in a mere fraction.
It’s not often that these greats are humbled. Once world chess champion Viswanathan Anand told me, “Never lose to a relatively younger player as they tend to remember it for their life time.” Australia have lost the crown to a relatively weaker team like England and have a lot of retrospection to do. The last couple of weeks have thrown some surprising results to ponder, Yelena Isinbayeva, the pole-vault queen, failed to clear a distance of 4.5m, and lost her five year stranglehold. One would have expected her to easily achieve the feat in her regular practice. Tiger Woods too was humbled by YE Yang in one of the greatest sporting upsets ever at the PGA Championships and left him pondering about the road ahead.
It would be interesting to see how these greats make a comeback, and sports would be the ultimate winner and philosopher cum guide to all those budding sportsmen/sportswomen who are nursing a dream of representing their country. Be it cricket, tennis, football golf, or for that matter, any sport.
Meanwhile a harsh reality is setting Down Under… the era of invincibility has been lost and the world is awaiting with bated breath whether Australian domestic cricketing structure can bounce back and regain the top spot. For the moment guys, take a bow, for Andrew Strauss – who indeed is the man of the moment.