I’VE been disappointed by the build-up to the Ashes.

Apart from a couple of pokes by the Australians at the nerve endings of the English there has been a sad absence of mind games.

As someone who enjoys cricket more for the banter and political power struggles than what happens out in the field this concerns me.

I know cricket hasn’t gone soft – I’ve been too immersed in the local cricket shenanigans around Lancashire over the last few years to think that.

But the signs are it’s going that way.

One of my favourite characteristics of cricket is the mind games.

One of the great names of Bolton League cricket, Peter Stafford, was dead set against the act of sledging (verbally trying to get under the skin of opponents).

I disagreed with him when we had a conversation about it, and I still do.

Cricket is as much about a strong mind as a strong game.

If you can get inside the head of an opponent and put them off you give yourself a far greater chance of winning.

It’s part of the game.

A few choice words can have a major impact on the outcome of a match or a series.

By the same token, being able to handle trash talk without letting it affect your game can also have a bearing on the result.

The mental power struggle is a key element of the sport. Always has been.

There’s a new breed running cricket, though, and they love a bit of management speak.

The game is now riddled with terms like “pathways”, “programmes”, “initiatives” and “partnerships” to put a gloss on what is underneath just the good old-fashioned process of training kids up to be professionals.

The carefully managed appearance of how these spin doctors want the game to look like seems to be spreading.

In the old days the Ashes was a fiery affair, no pun intended.

The joke in the build-up to this series is some people claimed a couple of Aussies were out of order with what they said.

What one said was an England player had let his team down by putting himself in a position where he couldn’t play for them and the other said England were scared the last time they played for the Ashes in Australia four years ago.

That was it. Boring.

England players didn’t respond. Whether it was because they want to appear above such crude behaviour or because the attempted jibes were so insipid they didn’t deserve the effort of a response is unclear.

What is clear is the Ashes are in danger of becoming just another few games of cricket if we are not careful.

It’s an age-old rivalry and those involved should regard it as such.