This is one of the oldest rivalries on this planet. And though it's without any bloodshed, the trauma and turmoil on the cricket field is no lesser than that on the warfront. The Ashes - the only cricket rivalry that has a legend to tell and a legacy to take forward. It's much older than the existence of Pakistan, leave aside its 'temperature-soaring' cricketing relations with India.
Australia have dominated this contest since its inception. They have won 132 Tests out of 321 and lost 99. But the aura of invincibility and might around the Aussies has gradually deteriorated. The current team has been tipped as Australia's weakest team. But hold on! Let's just not underestimate them and write them off even before the series has begun. Five Tests stretching over a period of 45 days is not an easy task and can be draining - physically, mentally and emotionally.
Australia might have lost the Ashes twice in the last five years but they haven't got it wrong at home since 1986-87. England, undoubtedly, look better and stronger on paper but can they really make it a reality on the ground? Kevin Pietersen is one man who can win it or lose it for England single-handedly. And though Andrew Strauss, like a good captain, has held his team together, but it will be interesting to see if he can keep his players motivated throughout the series.
The otherwise loudmouth Australians have been unexpectedly quite this time because they have rarely found themselves with the underdogs tag. There is no Glenn McGrath or Shane Warne who had the knack of getting under the skin of the opponent and who knew how to play mind games triumphantly. Skipper Ricky Ponting has chosen to go with the tide and remain low profile. And I think it is a good decision. After all it's under his leadership that Australia lost the Urn twice. He knows a loss this time will put an end to his captaincy stint. Also, he has a point to prove to all the critics and he has chosen to let the game speak. Anyway he is not in a position to boast around, especially after the series loss against India. Sounding confident will do just fine.
And England should be wise enough to not take the Australians non-seriously. The new Australian team has talent, though not at par with the former greats, and those young players are desperate to prove themselves. And champions are born under tough circumstances and if you are an Australian, nothing can be bigger than the Ashes.
So instead of predicting the winner, I am all game for some high-voltage close contest between the two archrivals.