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Wednesday / June 29.
HomemitwocentsThe Ashes Cometh

The Ashes Cometh

Just as cricket has been helped along by the corporate world, so too have our tertiary institutions. And while the support of corporate funding would not be necessary in an ideal world, our future has become, and will remain, dependent on it.

As summer approaches in the great south land, the attention of many will turn to cricket. This in itself is not unusual, but the summer of 2010/11 is what we cricket heads call ‘an Ashes summer’.

It is something special on the white clad on greensward calendar – something that doesn’t necessarily restrict itself to the minds of close fans and aficionados of the sport.

Colonials vs. the Empire

The Ashes aren’t just about sport; they aren’t just about zinc cream, broad-brimmed hats and eskies of lager. They aren’t just about barracking for your favourite player or indeed your country; the Ashes are 130 odd years of wanting to beat the English at, well, anything really.

private investment was vital for the survival of the club which is in financial difficulties.

The British Empire was in full swing in the late 19th Century when the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), the ruling body of the sport then and the spiritual, if not administrative leader now, sent a group of flannelled professionals and wealthy amateurs to the antipodes under the appropriate guidance of Lord Harris.

His team was expected to complete the formalities of whipping the colonials at the game of XI a side, keeping them in their place and building further the influence of the never ending empire. After all it had been less then 100 years since that first barkentine crammed full of England’s scum, thieves and human detritus was bound for Botany Bay.

The Birth of the Ashes

Cricket was a game that embodied all the discipline, application and inhibitions of Victorian England — and Australia was a dependant nation created by inhabitants who were the antithesis of that Victorian era.

The notion that the convict colony would be humiliated at sport was clear to the touring cricket team; but it was quite the apposite for our Australian lads.

England’s calamitous loss in 1882-83 spawned the legend and the literal ashes, a burnt bail in a small urn that is still contested today with emotion and purpose not unlike that of the original series.

This first win for Australia was a spit in the eye ­- not just for English sport, but for the notion of empire and monarchy. It was also a huge boost for the flagging national ego of the far, far away colony on the backside of the globe.

Federation came about 20 years after our first win, what later became tagged the first ‘Test’ match was played in March 1877 in Melbourne,

‘God Save The Queen’ was dispensed of in the 1970’s and, who knows, one day soon we might get our own distinctive flag.

England’s victory in 2005 after 16 years of failure evoked a ticker tape parade from St Pauls Cathedral down Fleet Street through the Strand and into Trafalgar Square in front of 300,000 people!!! This was activity of national importance not restricted to followers of a daft sport played by mad dogs and Englishmen (Noel Coward’s words).

The Neutral Series

I have been in England watching my two former teams (I played for Australia and coached Pakistan) contest a ‘neutral ‘ series. Pakistan is not playing any home games these days thanks to terrorists. Pakistan managed to beat Australia in the second match and tie the short series.

The match was played at the Headingly Carnegie Ground in Leeds – ‘Carnegie’ because the organisation is the sponsor of the ground, and of the Leeds Carnegie Metropolitan University. The sponsorship of the tertiary institution is not new but the investment by the Carnegie institution extends to significant capital works and in particular a new building (opened formally for the Pakistan versus Australia Test match). For cricket, the building serves as a grandstand, with corporate boxes and a media centre for fixtures.

The interior of the architectural curiosity is dedicated to student class rooms and lecture spaces. As the building is brand new, the jury is out on just how well this partnership will work. From the Yorkshire County Cricket club’s view point (they are the nominal tenant of the ground and play most of their fixtures at the ground) the private investment was vital for the survival of the club which is in financial difficulties. The pointedly 21st Century building of chrome, glass, steel and wireless internet looks down on the very same playing surface where Don Bradman made the record breaking 334 in 1930 (300 of those in one day) when flat caps, cold pork pies and miners dust dominated the terraces.

Corporate Study Support

The Carnegie university/corporate partnership may be a sign of education’s direction world wide. In Australia, government funding of tertiary education has declined sharply in the last 20 years. HECS fees continue to rise and universities continue to seek corporate assistance in the form of sponsorships and investment.

Industry assistance and sponsorship was a major pillar in the funding of the new building for the School of Optometry and Vision Science at UNSW. That building became the first on the Kensington Campus to be significantly funded from outside the university. As we suspected at the time, it was a direction that has become the norm rather than an exception. Somehow I feel that a university building on a Test Match cricket ground is just about perfect!

ABC Radio

The coming summer of cricket promises a close and tense contest. Whether or not you are a cricket fan, your attention may often stray to ABC Radio to catch the scores. Not because you want to know Ricky Ponting’s score or Mitchell Johnson’s bowling analysis, but because you want to check that we are beating the former colonial masters……. just like 128 years ago!

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