The stories of a couchsurfer

Lord’s: Built on history

Groundwork at the Lord’s Cricket Ground

I mentioned in a previous post that there aren’t too many things that I had actually planned on doing during this trip, preferring instead to take the play it by ear route and see what happens.

I explained that the few things that did exist on my “essentials list” were likely to be cities or events rather than physical structures. There are only a rare few exceptions to this.

One of them is the Lord’s Cricket Ground.

I would imagine that the majority of the random readers here will not have even heard of the Lord’s Cricket Ground. It’s not as old as the Colosseum, nor is it a particularly grand structure. It is, however, a site of great significance of lovers of the sport of cricket worldwide and, as I am one of them, this is the reason is reserved itself a spot on my must see list.

Lord’s is the self proclaimed (and rarely disputed) home of cricket. Why it’s called the home of cricket is unclear. The fact is nobody in the cricket world really questions it – it’s just one of those widely accepted “facts” that needs no explanation. The truth, though, is that Lord’s is officially the home of the Marylebone Cricket Club, the organisation which formulated the basis of the modern rules for the sport.

The sport of cricket itself had long been played in some form elsewhere beforehand and so in this fashion Lord’s cannot claim to be the birthplace of cricket. Regardless of the validity behind the claim, Lord’s remains the Mecca for the cricket fan for it’s reputation as the home of cricket has been forged through more than a century of famous matches, events and players.

When I was a child would read stories about matches at Lord’s and listen to commentators and living cricketing legends talk about the ground in such esteem as to formulate some folklore about it. To a foreigner, cricket comes across as a bland and outdated activity. It is so unlike any contemporary that unless you are raised in a cricketing country it is difficult to appreciate it’s beauty.

Even as a cricket tragic I can sympathise with consensus of these foreigners. It defies logic that a sport that can take up to five days only to result in a drawn outcome can survive in this modern day. There are not many avenues for the athletes to display any physical prowess on others nor are there any for feats of freak athleticism. The top successful cricket is built on virtues of patience, concentration and tactical nous.

What gets completely lost on the foreigner, though, is that an important facet of cricket lies off the field of play and it begins almost exclusively as soon as the players leave it. It’s the storytelling – the recounts of the fabled triumphs and devastating heartbreaks. The heroic and the detestable.

Time only enhances these tales and with it’s passing even changes of the most minute details places more emphasis on its story. Lord’s, being one of the oldest continually used grounds in the world of cricket, certainly has this aspect on its side and it’s perhaps why it has become the stuff of legends.

Because without this aura it’s fair to say that the ground would be mediocre, at best. So underwhelming is it in size that it actually took a bit of time to find and it could be quite feasible to walk past one of it’s edges without even realising it’s there. Even more perplexing is that, despite it’s reputation, the City of London doesn’t seem too fussed on advertising it’s whereabouts and after getting off at the nearest tube station, there were no evident signs pointing to the right direction.

The City of London may not have been promoting the heritage of Lord’s as much as it could have been, but that doesn’t mean that it’s ignored. The ground provides regular tours and, seeing that there were no actual matches on, this was the only legitimate way to see the ground, as it’s not really visible from the outside.

I’m not a big fan of tours, usually because I prefer to wander around at my own discretion and don’t like to pay money for it. I also typically don’t listen to what the tour guide is telling because in all honestly I’m not that fascinated in the history behind it all and only came to see the thing in all it’s glory and gain a perspective of it’s size and appearance.

Having not many alternatives, and also having a friend from Australia who was doing the tour that day anyway, this seemed like as good a time as any to join along.

It starts out in the MCC Museum just behind the oval itself. Here, you will be divided up into groups of around ten and are introduced to your guide – all of which look like they’ve spent their fair share of days around the ground.

The MCC Museum is one of the oldest sporting museums in the world and it contains many interesting artifacts from all over the world that document the history of cricket. The most famous of these though, is the Ashes Urn, heavily protected in a thick glass casing.

Our tour guide tells the stories surrounding the creation and growing legend of The Ashes and throws in a few quips too – the kind only a cricket fan would dare find humour in. After this he leads the group into the Long Room where the he points out a few notable portraits on the walls and recounts a few more cricketing stories.

Then came a tour through the two respective change rooms. Here, you can observe the famous boards that contain a list of batsmen who have scored a century on the oval and bowlers who have achieved five wickets in an innings or ten wickets in a match. Again, the guide recounts a few stories about the achievements of those appearing on the board.

The change rooms, along with the Long Room, were surprisingly modest. The Pavilion, of which the rooms are within, is a traditional building and doesn’t really make too much of an effort to accommodate its players. The padding on the benches of the change rooms seemed quite basic and the balcony can really only fit two or three men on there at a time. How, as you often see on television, the whole team crams onto there in anticipation for the winning runs at the end of a match I do not know.

For a ground of such esteem and prestige, Lord’s didn’t manage to live up to the expectations that the folklore imposes on it, and it’s a little disappointing when, after years of anticipation, this realisation comes to be upon entering the Pavilion.

Then again, in this respect Lord’s actually becomes the perfect representation of the game that is played within its confines. It is not stylish, flashy nor particularly entertaining by any physical showing. It has not been built to display grandeur or luxury but instead to display the endurance and persistence that has allowed it to become the scene of many stories over the years.

Lord’s is a fitting “home” of cricket, because it best demonstrates that one of the greatest aspects of the sport is the stories that are created out of it. Cricket is a sport built on history. Lord’s is a sporting arena built on the same stuff.

The tour continues to go inside the general seating area. The guide tells us the story of the “Father Time” weathervane and a few cases of balls being hit out of the grounds. Again, the structure doesn’t take your breath away. In fact, with the exception of the Pavilion, the ground doesn’t even look that traditional. The Sydney Cricket Ground provides a more “authentic” feel than this.

The tour concludes in the Lord’s Media Centre, the big cyclops-like structure that overlooks the field for the commentators and journalists to monitor from. While it may be the most modern aspect of the ground, internally it’s again pretty basic and leaves plenty of room for improvement.

Although this report seems to display a slightly negative tone to it, the tour of the Lord’s Cricket Ground was actually much enjoyed and I can honestly say that I was happy to part with my money for it.

Because what makes the tour is not so much the ground itself, but it’s tour operators, who display such a pure enthusiasm for the sport and possess the all important Lord’s skill to recount those stories related to the ground so vividly.

Legend and tradition only exist when there are voices who continue to portray their stories. The folklore of the Lord’s Cricket Ground is in safe hands and it proves itself a more than worthy home of cricket.

The sport of cricket will likely always be lost to the foreigner who stumbles upon it at a later age, primarily because they haven’t been educated on it’s fables. Sure, every sport has it’s stories, but it’s hard to find a sport that places such an emphasis on them as the sport of cricket.

Lord’s Cricket Ground demonstrates this perfectly.

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