Any Australian who tells you that the loss of the Ashes in 2005 was “good for cricket” clearly doesn’t know what they’re talking about (excluding, of course, the bean counters at Cricket Australia and the five Test venues across the country). Under no circumstances can any loss to England in any sport be viewed in a positive light.

That said, you suspect the Aussies wouldn’t have been as motivated to pummel the Poms quite as much if the Ashes winning streak hadn’t ended so unexpectedly during that Australian winter of discontent in 2005. And, as we have since discovered, that loss gave us 18 more months of Warnie, so it wasn’t all bad.

But where does this series whitewash leave Test cricket? How healthy is the game when the world’s best team smashes the country that is widely acknowledged as the second best outfit on the planet?

Perhaps we are about to find out. With the departure of Warne, McGrath, Langer and Martyn, the rest of the world has been given its best chance to knock Australia off its perch as the undisputed king of world cricket, a title it has held for the past decade.

You suspect, however, that if the Aussies can sail serenely through what should be a rough ride in the wake of losing these champions of the game, Test cricket is (again) facing a real struggle for relevance.

While interest in the five-day game hit fever pitch in this country in the lead-up to this Ashes series, the same, sadly, can’t be said of the game in other parts of the cricket-playing world.

That situation will be apparent for anyone who tuned into the absorbing three Test series between South Africa and India this past month. With the series delicately poised at 1-1, viewers were greeted with near empty stands in a virtual play-off for the mantle of third best team in the world.

In that third Test in Cape Town, played over the same dates as our own Sydney fixture, the average attendance for each day came in at just under 10,000 spectators a day. To put that into perspective, Sydney attracted nearly the same number of people on the first day of the dead Ashes rubber as Cape Town did over the entire five days of its series decider.

If the Aussies can come back to the field a little, it may be that interest in other countries might once again be reignited. If that is the case, perhaps it might indeed be “good for cricket”, and we  could live with that – but only if “back to the field” doesn’t translate to “Ashes defeat”.

Peter Fray

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