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Australian players’ Ashes celebrations suggests difference in attitude amongst cricketers across space and time

Shane Watson (left) brought his son Will and Nathan Lyon brought his daughter Harper onto the SCG after Australia won the Ashes. The infant children also played with the Ashes urn © Getty Images
Shane Watson (left) brought his son Will and Nathan Lyon brought his daughter Harper onto the SCG after Australia won the Ashes. The infant children also played with the Ashes urn © Getty Images

The Australians celebrated the Ashes whitewash in style with their families. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the difference in attitude among cricketers across space and time.

The Ashes was won, and Australians celebrated the triumph in style. The WAGs and children that had been waiting in eager anticipation joined the cricketers in celebration on the lush green outfield at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG): the regaining of the urn [with the whitewash to garnish it] was celebrated with families.

In a way the outlook of Darren Lehmann’s team was entirely different from Mickey Arthur’s: there was no ban imposed on cricketers due to their inability to come up with PowerPoint presentations; the atmosphere was relaxed, and families were invited to Sydney in advance for the celebrations.

Two of the most shared photographs (on social network, at least) of the celebrations involved the two infants Will Watson (son of Shane Watson) and Harper Lyon (daughter of Nathan Lyon) playing with the coveted urn. The little trophy looked perfect in those little hands, and they made for cute memorable moments (in other words, “awwwwww…” comments on Facebook).

But.

Let us roll back in time — for half-a-century or thereabouts. An Indian Test cricketer was getting ready to play a Kanga League match. His kitbag lay idly on the floor. His young nephew, who was visiting his uncle at that point of time, found an assortment of cricket caps while browsing through his uncle’s “coffin”. These included several coveted ones including the Bombay cap, and most significantly, the Test cap.

The kid wanted one of these. Some uncles might have given in, but not Madhav Mantri. His curt message said it all: the caps were not to be gifted; they had to be earned. The words had instilled a sense of determination in young Sunil Gavaskar that was instrumental in shaping his career.

Of course, one might argue that young Watson and Lyon are infants and have absolutely no idea what the urn is all about. Of course that is true. The question remains, though: had the sons and daughters been teenagers, would the triumphant cricketers have behaved any differently?

Spare a thought of men like Doug Wright, Michael Atherton, and Alec Stewart: they have grown up with the dreams of putting their hands on the urn; they have toiled hard to make that dream come true; they have fought day in and day out with the aim and have eventually been forced to hang up their boots without being there.

There is something about the 132-year-old urn that makes youngsters of both countries take up cricket as profession; the prize may look minuscule in size, but it is second to none in the sport in terms of history and heritage. Should the urn be as easily accessible to anyone? Being the family member of a cricketer does not change the answer.

Of course, everyone knows that the urns that are given out to the victors are mere replicas of the original that rests peacefully in the museum at Lord’s. It is not about the original urn, though: it is the symbol that matters. The replicas are no less coveted than the original.

The difference in attitude might have to do with the countries involved — but one might express their doubts regarding the same. One cannot imagine a Bill Woodfull or a Don Bradman doing the same. It has got probably to do more with time than with geography.

The attitude can possibly be traced to the socio-economic changes over the years and the change in the mindset of people (and cricketers are humans, let us not forget) over the years. In a world of consumerism and instant stardom we are possibly understating the importance of the old-fashioned sweat and drudgery.

The Ashes, thus, is nothing more than a random trophy that is handed out at the end of a successful tournament. People with an old-school thought — this columnist included — might scoff at the idea of the urn being handed over to non-cricketers, but the current generation might find it completely acceptable.

Maybe it is us that are getting old and outdated; maybe the entire concept of assigning a larger-than-life to the replica of an urn in this era of instant cricket reeks of luxury; maybe phrases like “the doctor”, “demon”, “the big ship”, “bodyline”, “the don”, “the invincibles”, “Fusarium”, “ugly Australians”, and “ball of the century” should be restricted to only one interpretation.

In an alternate universe somewhere, Messrs Ivo Bligh, Charles Studd, Allan Steel, Maurice Read, Edmund Tylecote, Dick Barlow, and Billy Bates might have stopped for a moment. Making sure that their names cannot be erased from their rightful place they had resumed a game of cricket full of fun and frolic, combat and aggression, triumph and glory, and, obviously, that urn.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)

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