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January 16, 2001

The aura of Lord's

Roshan Paul

Hey everyone, we've been going at the Board of Control for Cricket in India quite hard for the last few days, so we're going to give our favourite punching bag a breather and talk about something else. The subject of today's diary is the pilgrimage that every cricket fan must make; a pilgrimage to the Mecca of cricket: to Lord's.

The subcontinent may be the where the pulse of the game beats and Australia may be where the game is presently ruled from. But the soul of this great game is still very much in the Marleybourne Cricket Club, in London.

I was in London for three days for romance and also to catch up with friends scattered around Europe, none of who had any interest in cricket. Time was short and we were harried tourists but I simply had to part with the disinterested pagans I call my friends to make the visit to Lord's.

And what an experience it was. Initially, I balked at the price of the tour (£5) but decided to wait some more tables when I got back to college to make up for this extravagance. It had to be worth it, I reasoned to myself, this is Lord's! I was not disappointed.

The tour lasts about 90 minutes. It begins with an amusing and anecdotal lecture on the history of cricket at Lord's while seated in the Long Room looking out at the ground. You are then taken to both the Home Dressing Room and the Visitors Dressing room, where you get to step out onto the Presentation Balcony (remember Kapil punching the air from there in 1983?). If you like you can even hold a replica of the urn that carries the Ashes, which provides quite a high. Both dressing rooms reek of sweat, but although those of less nasal fortitude might be inclined to hold their nose, the stink of sweat and used shoes adds an authentic tint to the atmosphere and reminds you that as pristine as the MCC is, it is still a place of battle, a place where blood and tears have been shed on the way to both individual and national glory.

The author at Lord'sOnce you've soaked up the dressing rooms, you are then shown an exhibition of Real Tennis, a game that seems to be a curious mixture of squash and tennis. It is played by very few people today and it is said that there are less than 100 Real Tennis courts around the world, most of which are in ancient castles, forts and other historic buildings. The current world champion of Real Tennis is from, well, where else, but Australia. Surprise, surprise.

A trip to the Lord's Museum follows. It was an excellent store of cricket history and memorabilia, including everything from the original Ashes urn to original newspaper articles during the Bodyline series to Shane Warne's shoes, when he bowled Australia to their World Cup victory over Pakistan last July. But it was also just another museum. Or maybe I had already seen too many museums by then. (We really were the quintessential tourists, you see.)

After the Museum, we walked across the stands to the Nursery End, where the "spaceship" otherwise known as the NatWest Media Centre was erected just before the 1999 World Cup. At the Nursery End, you are allowed to take a couple of steps onto the hallowed turf. Many of my tour-mates took pictures from here. I plucked a blade of grass.

The Media Centre too was spectacular. The view is wonderful and if I was a journalist covering a match from there, I think I'd be thrilled with the facilities. That rounded off the tour and we were encouraged to head off to either the gift shop or the Tavern, where we could squander more money in order to enrich the MCC coffers. I must admit that I was quite caught up in the aura of Lord's and splurged my hard-earned money on souvenirs. Sigh…more waiting tables in store for me.

So that was Lord's. While sitting in the Long Room, surrounded by portraits of some of the most influential people in the history of cricket such as Lord Harris, Douglas Jardine, Sir Donald Bradman and Dr. W.G. Grace, and listening to the wizened old tour guide crack jokes about the 'good old days', I began to relive some of the greatest moments of Indian cricket at Lord's. From the World Cup triumph in 1983 against all odds to Dillip Vengsarkar's three Test centuries; and from Kapil Dev's follow-on-avoiding four consecutive sixes to the stunning debuts of Ganguly and Dravid, India have had some extremely special moments at the home of cricket. Laugh if you like, but it was quite an emotional moment.

I could talk about the beauty and majesty of Lord's till I am blue in the face but words simply won't do it justice. You have to go there yourself and soak in it's history and tradition and only then will you fully understand what I mean. And if you are at all a tennis buff and in London, don't miss the chance to visit Wimbledon. It is every bit as awesome as Lord's is.

PS:  Some interesting trivia...
Lord's cricket ground is considered the world headquarters of cricket. It is the oldest cricket ground in Britain. The first match was played here in 1814. The present site was laid out by Thomas Lord - hence the name Lords.

The first Test match to be staged here was in 1884. Since then 100 Test matches have been played here - the maximum Tests played at any venue.

Graham Gooch's 333 against India in 1990 is by far the highest at this venue, while Ian Botham 8-34 against Pakistan in 1978 remains the best bowling.

Dilip Vengsarkar has the unique distinction of being the only visiting batsman to score three Test hundreds at Lord's - the Mecca of Cricket". Vengsarkar scored 103 in 1979, 157 in 1982 and 126 (not out) in 1986.

Lord's has the rare disinction of hosting four World Cup finals - in 1975, 1979, 1983 and 1999.

West Indian Viv Richards' unbeaten 138 in the 1979 World Cup final against England remains the highest individual score in a ODI match at this venue, while Sri Lankan Muthiah Murlitharan's 5-34 in the Emirites Cup final against England in 1998 is the best performance by a bowler at this venue in ODIs.

Design: Devyani Chandwarkar
Illustration: Dominic Xavier   

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