The Tour of Lords
The Lords Museum is simply outstanding. As one enters the oldest sports museum in the world, you're surrounded by hundreds of historic artifacts, paintings and drawings of famous cricketers and an exhaustive range of rare cricket memorabilia collected by the MCC for over 150 years, meticulously show-cased at this marvelous museum.
I'd seen the original Prudential Cup on TV and never realized it was so huge. Clive Lloyd lifted it twice and Kapil Dev once; and I just can't imagine a not-so-towering person like Rahul Dravid lifting it that easily. I'm sure he'd have staggered a bit. On display was cricket gear from the days of W.G. Grace to the present, including those belonging to some cricketing legends such as Sir Don Bradman, Gary Sobers, Victor Trumper, Jack Hobbs, Geoffrey Boycott, Viv Richards, Denis Lillee, to name just a few. And not to miss is the much-discussed shirt which Saurav Ganguly's ripped off to celebrate the sensational win over England in the NatWest Trophy finals on this very ground. There's also the skull cap worn by Sunil Gavaskar, before helmets became popular.
A major attraction at the museum is the world-renowned Ashes Urn - the original one, mind you. As I looked at it, displayed proud in the glass case I said to me, "So, this is what the English-Aussies 'cricket wars' are fought for." The 122-year old, 4 inch high trophy was recently repaired after an x-ray showed it had a crack in the stem between the body of the urn and its foot. Compare this to the glittering, ashes-shaped Waterford trophy of the present time, the terracotta urn looks tiny and delicate; but not its long history and the emotions it contributes when the two countries slug it out on the cricket field. Legend has it that when England lost to Australia in England for the first time, way back on the 29th of August 1882, a satirical obituary was published in a newspaper called 'Sporting Times'. And the 'Ashes' - an urn containing the ashes of a bail that was burnt - came to symbolize the 'Death of English Cricket'. Since then, the bi-annual cricket battle between England and Australia has resulted in a fierce rivalry to regain the 'Ashes'.
The sparrow (now stuffed) was 'run down' by a cricket ball during a game being played at Lords. Jahangir Khan, a Pakistani playing for Cambridge University against the MCC, was responsible for 'bowling out' the passing sparrow. I can imagine the scenario at the ground what will all that blood and feathers spattered on the turf. I don't think there's any other such incident reported elsewhere; at least I haven't heard of it.
The cricket bat on display caught my attention. As I peered closer I realized that this belonged to England's prolific run-scorer, Jack Hobbs. The inscription on the bat - and its in his own handwriting - reads, "This is the bat with which I scored my 127th century beating the record held by W.G. Grace..." This was a game between Surrey vs Somerset in 1926. That's memorabilia for you.
The Lords museum isn't all that huge, but because of the sheer number of artifacts on display, from the birth of cricket to the present time, half hour isn't just. Mike, the guide's call urging everyone to move on made us skip out seeing a lot. Perhaps another time, if I do get a chance to visit London again, I might just drop in and catch up on all that I missed.
The last stop was the futuristic Media Centre, built at a whooping cost of some 5 million pounds. You've seen it on TV, heard it described by commentators after commentators, but the thrill of actually being there is something else. The state-of-the-art NatWest Media Centre is widely acknowledged as the most innovative architecture in London. And it truly is - all 100-tonnes of it. Towering over the east end side of the ground (often referred to as the 'Nursery End'), what makes it rather unusual is that it's a single-shell aluminum semi monocoque structure and was in fact fabricated in a shipyard and all 26 pre-fabricated sections were then assembled at the ground. The Media Centre is raised 15 metres above the ground, has a 9 degree forward incline glass carefully designed so as not to reflect sunlight onto the playing area.
Lucky must be the Harsha Bhogles, the Ravi Shastris, the Rameez Raja's and 200 other sports journalists and commentators of this world to be up there and watch a game in progress. What would be more thrilling; the game or the view?
As we ended the tour, we thanked Mike for the excellent commentary and bringing to life this fascinating story of Lords. Wait till I get back and tell Roshan; he'd want to take the next plane to London.
Talking of Roshan reminded me that he'd asked us to buy him a bat. The Lords Shop was just behind the media centre, so we walked across. We spent about half hour there, found no bat within our budget and instead picked up a few souvenirs, and exited through the east gate onto St John's Wood Road.
A thought struck me; would the MCC allow me to take Jack Hobbs' bat as a souvenir. Quite unlikely; but hey! I can dream, can't I?
Next: Please, Can We Have the 'Kohinoor Diamond' Back?