If there is one stadium that any true cricket lover would have grown up hearing about is Lords. Majestic as it sounds, arguably it has always stood as a mighty colossal in the cricketing empire. As an Indian, there are many cricketing moments that are linked with Lords. The 1st test match that India ever played was at Lords. The vivid memories of Kapil's Devils lifting up the Prudential Cup to the not so recent one of Sourav Ganguly doing a jig in the visitor's Pavilion after Nat West Final victory. It was one stadium that I always wanted to visit and finally got my opportunity on 5th January, 2008. I had heard about the Lords Cricketing Museum - which is one of the best cricketing museums in the world and that visitors can have a conducted tour of Lords on off cricketing days. With that info. I headed off to Lords.
God must be a cricket lover!
I think god must be a cricket lover - after all its not everyday that you see so much sunshine in London and not a drop of rain! The main entry to Lords is through the WG Grace Entrance. A feeling of excitement crept in me as I began my walk through the gate. The facade of the stadium is massive though if you compare it with Eden Gardens or Chinnaswamy stadium, it might not look so overpowering but then there is so much history attached with the stadium which makes it look larger than life. On the huge columns, there were quotes of different cricketers mentioned sharing their experience at Lords. Rahul Dravid's face & quote greeted me the moment I entered in. The Lords Cricket Museum is right inside the stadium. They charge £12.00 for the 2 hr tour which includes a visit to the Long Room, committee room, dressing rooms of the players, pavilion, stands, the new Investec media centre and of course the museum itself.
A walk down the history
The museum is a sheer paradise for any lover of the game. You will find vintage photographs of teams, cricketing moments, artefacts, old autographed bats, balls, gloves & other cricketing accessories. Bats used by famous cricketers like WG Grace & Sir Don Bradman to score some classic centuries are also on display here. Other cricketing gear used by players like Victor Trumper, Jack Hobss and some of the contemporaries like Shane warne, Lara, Glen McGrath, rahul Dravid, etc also find a place in the museum. A painting of Maharaja Ranjitsingh facing the bowler as he prepares a fresh guard adorns one corner of the wall. But the biggest exhibit is the Wisden Trophy and the original Ashes urn which is kept on the 1st floor of the museum.
The Long Room
Many times I had heard of this 'Long Room' in commentaries. Finally got to see this room. Long Room is the main room through which all players enter into the field. Its right behind the pavilion and that's the only accessible way for players. The room is more of an art gallery with portraits of may old players and cricketing events adorning the walls. There is a huge chandelier in the room. On normal cricketing days, there are benches in the room where drinks n food is kept. Right in the middle of the room, my eye caught a few old photographs of a cricketing team & some news clippings which had turned yellow. As I leaned to have a close look, my eyes just sparkled. The news clipping dated back to 1932. It had the scorecard & post match review of United India's (that's how the team was known in those time) 1st ever test match that they played against England. On 1st day of the match a sizable audience had gathered to see this team of 'unique’ cricketers. No one had given India a chance and yet within 1 hour into the match, England were reeling at 19/3. Surely, the 1st hour itself was the biggest upset for the English side and though as expected India lost the match, but this spirited performance from the Indians drew praises from the British public & media. I wish I could paraphrase the actual news clipping here (btw, photography is strictly prohibited in the museum, long room & dressing room). A diverse team which had 2-3 Mohammedans, Hindus, a Sikh too, people who had never experienced cold in India - forget the British weather and moreover captained by a maharaja famous for his royal tantrums, yet found a common cause to bond together in cricket - said the article. The vintage photograph was of the Indian team who played that day. A sense of pride enveloped in me. The long room is frequented by everyone who plays there and this news clippings & the photograph is the only prized artefact of any test playing country that has been displayed in the long room. Surely it means a lot which perhaps also shows the 'respect' the britishers showed for the 1932 visiting team.
The Pavilion & the dressing room
The door to the long room opens to the pavilion. The view from the pavilion is truly majestic. The players come down from dressing room, walk through the long room and exit out through the small pavilion gate onto the field. Just for information, if you want to become a member of MCC, there is a waiting period of only 18 years :-) Another shortcut is, start playing for Middlesex and after 10 appearances or so, you get a restricted membership.The dressing room is on the 1st floor. IN both the dressing rooms, there are 2-3 honour boards fixed on in the room that records the guys who have scored centuries or got 5 wickets or more at Lords. The guide who accompanied us shared lots of anecdotes related to the dressing room about how Freddie is possessive about a particular chair and always prefer sitting there, where do other guys sit and all. As I walked to the visitor's dressing room, I eyed upon the Hall of fame board on the top. You'll find many Indian names on the plaque but then like the guide said, having a name on the board doesn't mean they were the world's best. It was just their day or else how can you explain the name of an Indian guy who shares the world record with Glen McGrath for getting out on 5 consecutive ducks in matches highlighted there for his 109 no in 2000. That's Ajit Agarkar for you - the centurion who was not supposed to be even in the final 11 but got his lucky break on the eve of the match when a frontline bowler got injured. Everyone dreams of hitting a century at Lords and Mr. Agarkar celebrated all his birthdays that day in 2000. Interestingly, the world's top 3 batsmen, Lara, Ricky Ponting & sachin - none of them have ever scored a century at Lords. The feeling of standing in the balcony of dressing room is really awesome. As I stood there on that spot, somewhere in the back of my mind background score of Gladiator started playing - as I could imagine & feel the joy & excitement that Sourav would have gone through when he exactly stood at the same spot where I stood and flinged his shirt in air with excitement, or Kapil would have hoisted the prudential world cup trophy in air, or in the summer of 1979 when India were down and out and were trailing by over 300 runs, Vensarkar & Vishwanath scored fine centuries to bring the match to draw. Incidentally Vensarkar's name appear thrice on the board and his 3rd century in 1986 also led to India's only win at Lords. Standing there, I couldn't help but think about all this - after all like I said before, there is so much history attached with the stadium that you can't help but travel back in time.
The Nursery End
You might have heard about the nursery end in commentaries. On the opposite end of the pavilion is the nursery end. There is no nursery now but once upon a time there used to be a big nursery there. Now the ground is used by players for net practice.
The futuristic media centre
And finally the space craft shaped media centre. In 2001 it was acclaimed as one of the best 50 buildings in Britain. The view from the Investec media centre is really cool. The media centre itself is very well equipped and quite spacious unlike a few press stands I have seen in India. There are 2 floors in that giant 'cockpit'. On top floor the TV commentators sit. I stepped into the dingy little ESPN room from where Harsha Bhogle, Ravi Shastri, Gavaskar, Akram and company give their commentary & match analysis. On both corners of the media centre are 2 reserved hospitality boxes for the main sponsors - Investec.
Needless to say, the guided tour was really engaging. Our guide, one elderly gentleman (forgotten his name), was really well versed with the history of the game, the stadium, the anecdotes and made the entire duration really entertaining. His sense of humour was also flawless & so were his timings (sample this: "see that boolding there? That's where the ICC used to sit...and now they have shifted their based from the home of cricket to another wooonder-fool cricket playing nation called Duubaai").I had a lovely afternoon over there and as I walked back from the WG Grace gates and looked over at Rahul Dravid's face, I could now truly understand why Lords is known as the home of the cricket.
Snaps that I took at Lords can be accessed at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lokeshsapre/