A bare-chested Sourav Ganguly emphatically waving his jersey, on the hallowed balcony of Lord’s after India won the Natwest series in 2002. Now that’s a sight cricket fans can never tire of. No wonder the video has received over two million views. It’s also the spot where India won its first World Cup in 1983. Who can forget the image of a moustachioed Kapil Dev, beaming from ear to ear, with the gleaming silver trophy in hand? Lord’s, better known as the mecca of cricket, has many a memory for lovers of the sport. Who would have thought watching a match at this 204-year-old cricket ground is actually like a party, carnival and picnic all rolled into one.
So, when my friend learned that I had never been to a cricket match before, he remarked, “You haven’t lived.” And thanks to his childhood friend, an ardent member of the East India Club (an exclusive gentlemen-only club founded in the 19th Century in London), he got us tickets for a Surrey versus Middlesex game, live from Debenture seats at Lord’s — The Home of Cricket.
With the capacity to pack around 28,000 people, the sloping Lord’s ground is impressive. I’d been sent a link to the attire requirements on the eve of the match and had to stow away my tracksuit to be débuted another time. The Debenture, Box and Pavilion seats require guests to follow a strict dress code — no shorts, flip-flops, T-shirts, fancy dress and no showing your midriff. The Lord’s website announces loud and clear, their right to refuse entry to anyone in unacceptable clothing.
A bit of a nervous wreck and half-certain I was going to get kicked out, imagine my surprise when only a few feet below us people lounged around in shorts, slathered in sun-cream, making the most of a glorious summer day.
Eat, drink, cheer, repeat
Watching a cricket match at Lord’s is more about the experience of being in a stadium and the palpable energy around, than about the game. “It is the only international cricket venue that lets you bring your own wine,” says the friend. A brilliant excuse to start off on a sparkling Chapel Down brought in the cool bag, followed very quickly by the dry, fruity L’Oiseau d’Or Muscadet Sur Lie.
Eight hours may seem a lot for a cricket rookie, but it whizzes past when you have olives, cheese and crackers, sausage rolls, home-made curry-filled milk buns, strawberries, short bread, and cake to keep you company. And of course, a not-so-discreet binoculars for celeb-spotting!
For cricket geeks, watching the game alone is not enough. Fortunately, Lord’s houses the MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club) Museum — one of the oldest sporting museums in the world. For £5, you can read all about cricket during the days of war and colonialism, gawk at the original Ashes Urn, see the unbelievable women’s uniforms, and spend time admiring cricket memorabilia.
Every worthwhile experience in the UK comes with mandatory afternoon tea. Pre-book a table at the Long Room within the Pavilion, to complement your cricket-watching with a spot of Earl Grey served in the finest china, for £49. Upgrade to a champagne-tea for an additional £10. Connoisseurs of food too have it good here. The Players’ Dining Room Experience lets you sample the same menu players select from on a match day. What’s on the menu? A home-made soup, choice of four main dishes and two desserts, with a glass of wine, beer and soft drinks included. Imagine, this is where Sir Donald Bradman dined.
If it is a tour of the grounds you desire, the Lord’s tours priced at £24 will satiate your every cricket-titbit craving. The guides have an ammunition of stories to regale you with, including superstitious beliefs that players have. A walk into the home team and the away team’s dressing rooms is sure to give you goose pimples. And I could swear the young man next to us channelled his inner Sachin Tendulkar as he walked down the stairway that the players use to access the ground. We don’t blame him. Lord’s does that to you. Incidentally, Tendulkar never scored a century here. How do I know? The dressing rooms have large wooden boards that list the names of cricketers who have scored the magical number here in Test matches. Dilip Vengsarkar, Sourav Ganguly, Mohammad Azharuddin and Rahul Dravid are some of the names from India that feature on it.
The emotions associated with Lord’s are a different story altogether. It is a tourist haunt, locals too like to frequent it with a sense of pride, and there are travellers who add this to their must-visit list, no matter how many times they come to London. No wonder then, that the historic rooms here can now also be hired for parties, conferences and — hold your breath — weddings even. Let’s drink some Champagne to that and hope these partnerships last forever.
(With inputs from Priyadarshini Paitandy)