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India's Test Debut - A Tour of Lord's (Part II)
by
Jan 01, 0001
As you step into the Baker street tube station on any of the days between the 19th and 23rd of July, you are sure to be met with exquisitely dressed men, most wearing orange and yellow striped ties (the official MCC tie) and panama hats. This is the first indication you are close to Lord's. And the train to St John's Wood, the closest tube station to cricket's home, will have many more of these supporters of the once gentlemanly sport, who, inevitably carrying an umbrella and a copy of the day's newspaper, gradually make their way to London's foremost social event of the week.

Henley Regatta, the London Derby, and Lord's - that's how the London socialite takes its cricket these days. While the aficionado, a somewhat disappearing breed except in the members' stands, is intent on watching every ball and keen to pardon Dinesh Kartik's drop of Andrew Strauss on condition that 'he may have lost the ball in the crowd,' the new youth are keen to have their glass of champagne and pimms at the coronation ground, mocking the Grace statue in the process. These critics cherish every opportunity to castigate Kartik, while hovering around the member's stands for the entire duration of the two hours between lunch and tea. For them the cricket is incidental.

Things, however, transform swiftly. Gloom soon gives way to bewilderment if you walk up to the tunnel between the Warner stand and the pavilion. The stewards in charge are far more knowledgeable about their cricket than most of India's gargantuan television audience. 'Zaheer Khan should not have been done in by the slope after playing county cricket with distinction. Once you lose captaincy, you are done away with in international cricket. This guy, Ganguly, is truly made of mettle... The Pataudi trophy is a welcome gesture from the MCC of the occasion of the 75th anniversary of India-England cricket.' These are glimpses of a conversation between stewards while helping members on wheelchairs in front of the Warner stands.

Grace's Statue at Lord's


As you make your way around the Compton stands to the Investec Media Center, you hear a steward asking his mate, 'Do you know how many times Sachin Tendulkar finds mention in the Lord's honours board?' While doing duty, in fact stopping unaccredited journalists from forcing their way to the media center, comes the retort, 'That's a nice googly.'

And the media center is full of intriguing men all round. There's David Frith, who is just finishing a history of Australian cricket with Gideon Haigh, there are the usual Botham, Gower, Boycott and Co and our very own legends in Gavaskar and Shastri. A chat with Frith is cricket talk of simply another league. He has more than 200 original letters written by Sir Don, which includes a letter from the master about his rival, the legendary West Indian, George Headley. 'I have almost finished cataloguing my data. It goes to 1000 pages. My collection, perhaps the biggest private collection on cricket, includes everything you want as a collector—bodyline series cigarette cards, balls, bats, blazers and more than 5000 books.'
Father Time Weathervane


If you think he is a freak, you will soon come across someone who has seen India being mauled in 1959 and still recalls Pankaj Roy captaining the Indian side. 'Did India have a fast bowler then?' came the query. Before I could think back came out the youthful cheer, 'R B Desai, he was better than this Khan.'

A day of cricket at Lord's can never be complete without a trip to the museum, more when an exhibition on India's cricket history is being staged. The first glass panel will greet you with a ball that had hit a bird in 1936. The bowler, India's Cambridge Blue, Jehangir Khan. Some of the mounted photos at the entrance of the museum are some of the rarest vignettes of India's cricketing past. The one at the Roshanara Club, fondly remembering the day when the BCCI was formed, should justifiably make its way to the BCCI's own museum, which is now being put together.

While preserving the historical, the museum is determined to acquire the contemporary. There's place for Dilip Vengsarkar's blazer and of course, Saurav's famous Natwest shirt. The exhibition also includes C K Nayudu's passport and bank account books, which shows a balance of 308 Indian rupees. And just outside the museum is being sold the special first day cover that the MCC has brought out to celebrate the 75th anniversary of India-England cricket.

First Day Cover and Stamps celebrating 75th Anniversary of India's Test Debut































Yet another cardinal attraction of a Lord's day is lunch at the tavern. Adorned with memorabilia and other cricketing memorabilia, the deserts served at the Tavern are some of the best available in London. A sumptuous lunch followed by a trip to the Lords shop and a day of cricket romance completes its full cycle. At the gate of the shop hangs the T Shirt that has it embossed, "in affectionate remembrance of English cricket, which died at the Oval on 29th August, 1882".

Having helped in putting the exhibition together, I had a thought about being allowed entry into the Long Room, where the exhibition is in fact being staged. 'You should come in early on Sunday and we will give you a tour of the Long Room,' said Adam Chadwick, the main initiative behind the exhibition. A gentle reminder that one is indeed at Lord's, a fact never to be forgotten.

 
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