I have been in London for almost six months now and it would have been sacrilege to have left without visiting the Mecca of cricket- Lord’s. This cricket ground is nestled in St John’s Wood in the heart of London. Lord’s is named after the groundsman Thomas Lord, who was told that the ground would be named after him, if he found a decent place for the teams to play their game.
It didn’t surprise me that all my companions on the guided tour were from cricket loving nations: India, Australia and South Africa. When the tour started from the Pavilion, I first saw a huge oil of Vivian Richards greet me on top of the stairs. My heart missed a beat at the sight of the green expanse and the pristine white stands. It was awesome. And even more so thrilling knowing that you were in the prestigious Long Room in the Pavilion where the MCC members watched the match from. This is the jam-packed room through which players have to pass through when their turn to bat comes. Mike Gatting is said to have remarked that his best moment was walking through the Long Room after hitting a hundred, being applauded and thumped on the back. And, also that his worst moment was walking past the silent members with their noses burrowed in their newspapers, when he was out for a duck.
When we got to the players’ dressing rooms I realized with pleasant shock that the huge chair that I had chosen to sit on happened to be Andrew Flintoff’s favourite chair! And my most exciting moment was actually seeing the balcony where Kapil Dev had lifted the World Cup. Which was incidentally where Sourav Ganguly chose to strip off his shirt to shock the conservative MCC members! I learnt that Rahul Dravid had brought his wife Vijita for a tour of Lord’s on their honeymoon. And that Sreesanth burst into tears when he realized he had reached the ground where people he worshipped had actually played. This is the kind of effect Lord’s has on most people.
Along the walls of the pavilion, the bar and the Long Room are lined a number of paintings. WG Grace dominates most of the oils. I caught a series of pictures of cricketers as we walked to the balcony where presentations are usually made- Keppler Wessels, Imran Khan, Malcolm Marshall et al and only Kapil Dev representing India. India is very poorly represented in both the Pavilion and the Museum. Except for the spanky new picture of Sachin Tendulkar, and the odd one of Harbhajan or Sehwag, you cannot see many Asian faces. Yes, there are a few black and white portraits of the Maharaja of Vizianagaram and his team, but they aren’t well labeled like the rest.
The original Ashes urn is the highlight of the museum. And as our guide narrated the story of how Ivo Bligh was gifted the urn, our Aussie friends on the tour called it a spiel written by an Englishman! There is a lot of cricket memorabilia that you can see at the museum.
The Marylebone Cricket Club owns the ground and Lord’s is prestigious as it was here in the committee room that the rules of the game were written. Membership to the MCC has a waiting list of 20 years and it is not easy to get into. While we were there we also got a glimpse of ‘real tennis’- the original tennis game which later morphed into lawn tennis as it is known now. The game looked like a cross between lawn tennis and squash—as the ball hit a wall on the right of the ground before it went to the opponent. And it looked pretty complicated compared to lawn tennis.
The cricket stadium seats 30,000. You can see a slight slope across the field and the wicket which some cricketers don’t quite like. Sachin Tendulkar has never scored a hundred at Lord’s. While I was there I heard that after his surgery in London, Sachin had rented a flat in St John’s Wood and came to the ground every morning to practice and carry out his physiotherapy.
The new addition is the ‘spaceship’- the media centre situated at one end. It drew criticism for being out of character with the rest of the stadium thanks to its futuristic design. But it did feel lofty to be seated there and visualize Harsha Bhogle or Geoffrey Boycott sitting in one of those broadcaster’s seats.
It was overwhelming to walk into the Lord’s cricket ground and touch the grass where our cricketing greats had played. Curiously, I didn’t realize that cricket made me so emotional till I stepped into Lord’s! Wimbledon will hopefully be my next stop.