It is of course wrong to talk about the Ashes while Australia are still in the middle of a two-match series against India that has so far quivered with drama, gravitas, zip, punch, historical import, soap opera sub-plot, and, occasionally, high quality Test cricket. It is premature and perhaps even bone-headedly provincial. And yet, I think we should still talk about the Ashes, not just because it is an unfailingly seductive pursuit; and not just because there is a skein of approaching respectability about the whole business as England‘s touring party departs next month and Australia’s next-but-one Test will be the curtain raiser at the Gabba.
Mainly it is hard to resist because talking about the Ashes involves talking about Australia, and if you have a love of Test cricket it is impossible not to be fascinated by the state, at any given moment, of the Australian cricket team. Australia are still the sport’s absolute marker, its pre-1931 gold standard, a shared preoccupation in which we all have an interest, like the value of the dollar or the Tiger population of India.