Geoffrey Boycott: “You must mention your experience about taking off your jersey & flying it in the air at the Mecca of Cricket – Lord’s! Oh, you naughty boy!”
Sourav Ganguly: “One of your boys also took off his jersey here in Mumbai”
Geoffrey Boycott: “Yeah, but Lord’s is the Mecca of cricket”
Sourav Ganguly: “Lord’s is your Mecca, and Wankhede is ours!”
Well, utter the words ‘The Mecca of Cricket’ or ‘The Home of Cricket’ to any cricket fan and you would immediately get the response as Lord’s. It has a rich history dating back to 1787 when Thomas Lord opened his first cricket ground on Dorset Fields. Since then, the ground has moved to St. John’s Wood Estate, before settling in its current location St. John’s Wood Road west of Regent’s Park.
To have one’s name inscribed on the Lord’s Honors Board is something that cricketers across nations aspire for. There is no denying the fact that the legacy, charm, and tradition of the Lord’s is something probably unmatched by any other ground in the world.
But despite that, does it deserve the title of ‘Home of Cricket’?
One may think that the first Test match was played at this sacred venue. However, that’s not the case. The first-ever officially recognized Test was played at Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) between England and Australia in 1877. Lord’s isn’t the oldest cricket club either, that honour resides with The Hambledon Club in England. The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), which owns the Lord’s ground came into existence around three decades later. Currently, Lord’s is not even the headquarters of the International Cricket Council (ICC).
The famous Lord’s slope
Now let’s look at the ground itself. There is a geographical gradient at Lord’s which runs from the north to the south end of the ground with a drop of 2.5 meters. Mind you, this isn’t a normal phenomenon for a cricket ground. On this, the great Sunil Gavaskar had once said, “I had heard so much about Lord’s. The dressing room is on the first floor and when you saw Lord’s from the visitors’ dressing room, you see a slope. I thought to myself, how can a ground which is so revered have a slope.” Gavaskar had also famously rejected the MCC membership because he had been turned down entry by a steward once.
Moving on, it might surprise many, but it took the MCC 212 years since its inception to allow female membership. This landmark decision was taken in 1998. Surely, not a place which believed in inclusion and diversity for a long long time.
A stranger as an Indian player?
And now take the case of a stranger wandering on the ground with an Indian jersey along with the Indian team in the recently concluded Test between India and England. I shudder to think the reaction of the western world had this incident happened anywhere else. Such a security breach in times when players are in strict bio-bubbles definitely demands some explanation. But wait, this happened on the hallowed ground of Lord’s. So, all is well.
And this probably is not just in the game of cricket. Although Wimbledon is one of the four grand slams in tennis, it is still considered the most prestigious tournament. If one tries to dig further, the answer to this sense of British supremacy could lie in their dominance of the world for centuries.
Coming back to Lord’s and cricket, I am not for a moment questioning the rich history of the ground. It would do a world of good for other cricket grounds to take a leaf out of Lord’s book in terms of preserving history.
However, as far as the tag of ‘Home of Cricket’ is concerned, I would say, to each one its own. For Ganguly, it could be Wankhede or Eden Gardens and for Sir Don Bradman it may be the MCG.
As they say, home is where the heart is.