England should want to win everything, not just the Ashes

In 11th Century England, Saint Anselm of Canterbury developed an argument for the existence of God. In essence, his argument states that God has all good qualities, existence is a good quality therefore God exists.

In 11th Century England, Saint Anselm of Canterbury developed an argument for the existence of God. In essence, his argument states that God has all good qualities, existence is a good quality therefore God exists.

This somewhat circular Ontological Argument has been carried on by many philosophers and thinkers since then. Not least Rene Descartes.

There is, however, a newer version of this same line of reasoning that has arisen over recent years, in connection with the Ashes. It goes along these lines: The Ashes has all good qualities, importance is a good quality, therefore the Ashes is important.

We are told that it is the be all and end all of English cricket. It doesn't matter how well they do in any other tournament, series or format. If they have the urn all else is irrelevant.

They can lose every ODI, every T20, and perhaps even every Test as long as those matches against Australia are a success. Almost 30 percent of England's Tests are against this opposition. With the reduction of Tests played against other teams, this imbalance is only set to increase.

The Ashes generates publicity, money and spectators for the sport. It is steeped in history and fought for ardently. There are so many wonderful performances and brilliant stories that it has created. There is a reason why it is so revered.

But as with everything you can have too much of it. By August of next year England will have played 15 Tests versus Australia in two years. People are still hungry for more, but a malaise is setting in.

Whereas before the most passionate of cricket fans would be so full of anticipation they could hardly sleep, which was an advantage when it was played on the other side of the world. Now it is starting to lose its sheen for those that are the most involved and engaged in the sport.

That is not true for everyone, but a significant minority of the hardcore fan base are starting to get a bit bored. The Ashes is starting to look like a new toy on Boxing Day. You are still glad it is there, but it has lost some of its exciting sheen.

As England's World Cup hopes lie in tatters, many are already looking to next summer's Ashes. There is talk of Alastair Cook stepping down from the One Day captaincy so he is ready for the role as Ashes winning leader.

There is mention of not sending Jimmy Anderson to Australia this winter so his legs are fresh for next summer. There are people saying that the World Cup, the only truly global tournament in the sport, doesn't really matter any way.

This is all the more galling when you consider that this Ashes fixture log jam was created to separate the Ashes from the World Cup to give England a better chance in the latter. Now any realistic chances of England winning the World Cup are gone England are back to their default position. Ashes or bust.

It does not have to be, and nor should it be, a choice. England have more than enough funding and talent to be competing at every tournament in every format. If a choice is having to be made that is more to do with the crow barring of more cricket into the schedule to squeeze yet more money out of the already bone dry sponge.

The quality of cricket is far more important than the quantity, but that is not how the schedule is designed. To state that England's fortunes are entirely dependent on their success or failure against one opponent is to disrespect the sport and the other nations they compete against.

It may mean more emotionally, it might generate more passion, it might extend beyond the sport. Those are the reasons to preserve its specialness, not to play it as often as possible and hype it up to the exclusion of all else.

England's targets should be to beat the best sides in the world at that time, regardless of who that might be, to get to world number one in all formats and to win the World Cup and the World T20.

You can put them in the order of your choosing, but the Ashes shouldn't be on the list. If England get the other stuff right success in the Ashes will follow anyway.

To paraphrase David Hume, 'whatever we conceive as important, we can also conceive as non-important. There is no cricket tournament, therefore, whose non-importance implies a contradiction.' Or something like that.

<b>Peter Miller</b>