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Lord's of the game
Publication Date : 01-08-2012
The scene was familiar, as were the conditions.
There was the gusting wind, the cool, green grass, the stands steeped in antiquity and also the iconic spaceship press box. For a second you had to pinch yourself. This was Lord's, the spiritual home of cricket and the custodians of the spirit of the game. The only worry was that the sport taking place in that famous slope was not cricket, but archery.
Not that it would bother cricket-loving journalists who were afforded a rare chance to view Lord's, not from the modern press box, but from the Pavilion End, abode until now of only the players lucky enough to have played at the venue.
One such player was present at Lord's yesterday and he had come all the way from Kent to cheer on his countryman Emdadul Haque Milon in battle against the English archer Larry Godfrey. Mohammed Ashraful is currently turning out for English side Blackheath in Kent, but the one-time Bangladeshi captain made the short trek over to Lord's to egg on his countryman amidst a raucous home crowd.
Thus, with the benefit of insider knowledge, the goal was to find out the honours board that bears the name of two Bangladeshi cricketers -- Shahadat Hossain Rajib and Tamim Iqbal.
The path to the destination was certainly eased by the company of two MCC stewards who provided an inside track of the venue akin to a guided tour. They proved great conversation as well, especially when the topic of Bangladesh was broached.
“You guys are from Bangladesh?” said one smiling. When they learned that most of the journalists present were cricket reporters, the smile only broadened.
“You guys have a talented team. It's just that the players are too impatient,” they concluded, hitting the nail on the head.
“Twenty20 cricket,” said the other ruefully. “That's were all the money is.”
So it was while discussing the gradual death of Test cricket that we were afforded a rare tour of The Pavilion. Built in 1889, The Pavilion is the main survivor of the Victorian era, and it underwent an 8 million pound refurbishment plan in 2005. The Pavilion is home to the player's dressing room and the famous Long Room. It is exclusive to members -- women were not allowed in The Pavilion until 1999 -- and hence seen by few. Players have to walk through the Long Room to get to the middle.
The Long Room is littered with paintings of famous cricketers and administrators dating back from the 18th century. Overseas players hardly feature, with Sir Donald Bradman and Shane Warne the two of only four Australians featured. There is room though for Michael Atherton and even Alec Stewart.
Photography is strictly forbidden in the Long Room. “I work for the MCC and if I said that I could let you take photos, I would be lying,” said one of the stewards.
But there is a feeling of history within those four walls. You can almost feel the presence of the players who have walked through this room to play innings at the centre of this iconic ground. Not for nothing did eminent cricket writer Lawrence Booth once call it, “the most evocative four walls in cricket.”
Unfortunately, the trek to find the honours board proved futile. The players' dressing room, a restricted territory under the best of circumstances had been taken over by WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) and hence there was absolutely no chance of an entry. “Event we can't go in,” joked the stewards. Not all journeys end fruitfully.