“The Ashes” is a concept, not a trophy. The Ashes Urn at Lord’s is not in a physical sense the trophy of England-Australia cricket supremacy. There is no logical reason to bring it to Australia, even if we have been the series winners ever since 1989.
All the calls for the urn to be handed over to Australia are, in my opinion, wide of the mark. Australian Prime Minister John Howard, showing as much understanding of cricketing culture as he does of foreign policy and international diplomacy, has lent his support to the “bring the Ashes home” cries, which for the most part are being parrotted by the Murdoch tabloids in this country.
Let’s get something clear: Australia has held The Ashes since 1989. How many times has The Urn been presented to the winning captain? None. The Ashes have been played for more than fifty times. On how many of those occasions has the Urn been presented? None. Doesn’t that tell you something?
There is a trophy handed perpetually to the winning side – a Waterford crystal trophy which was last handed to Steve Waugh at The Oval in August 2001 and which will be presented to him again at the SCG in January. Yes, it’s not the same as The Urn… but The Urn never was presented.
As far as permanent physical location for The Urn, can Australia provide a suitable permanent central location the equivalent of Lord’s? Where would it go.. the MCG Museum, the SCG Museum, the Bradman Museum at Bowral perhaps? And would The Urn be treated with the same contempt that the ACB gave to the Sheffield Shield once a naming rights sponsor came along?
If The Urn was a more sturdy artifact then there might be a case for letting it go on a grand world tour… I’m sure the kids at Kalgoorlie or wherever would love to see it when the Travelex Cricket Roadshow hits town. But it’s too fragile for that.
There’s an unofficial replica urn that the Aussies wave around whenever an Ashes series is decided. Steve Waugh held it up for the photographers at the WACA last Sunday. That’s a fabulous testament to a piece of cricketing folklore.
Cricket needs to remain relevant to the times and changing international relationships, but to keep its unique character it needs to maintain a recognition of its heritage and its charm. Demands for the relocation of The Urn to Australia show no understanding of, or interest in, that heritage.
John Howard, who has made a political career out of living in the past, should understand that.