When I got off the tube at St John’s wood, and proceeded in the direction that most people were walking, I felt a strange sense of home coming with a bunch of strangers. I paused for a second, I took a deep breath. This was not for taking in oxygen in a crowded place, but rather to come to terms with reality of a dream that was a 100 steps from coming true. The enormity of being right next door to the Lords Stadium was overwhelming me. It probably was about the place, but not the occasion as a lowly West Indies team were playing England on the ascent, Johnny Bairstow was making his debut, Kemar Roach was ripping leather bolts-Not quite the stuff that cricket fans would be relishing to compromise their sleep over, but it was enough to make me like I was entering a magical kingdom. I walked out of the station, and felt the chill in the Summer air, hit my face. It was summer as they said, but it was chiller than Bangalore where I lived.
Lords Ground in London
I heard touts selling tickets, outside the ground. I obviously had not planned coming to London to have booked tickets earlier at Lords, so I went forward knowing fully well that I would probably go upto 50 Pounds to buy a match ticket. There are something in life you feel priveleged to be paying surge-pricing, and I was not going to argue on price. Once I had the ticket in my hand, my chest swelled with pride, and I strode into the Lords ground, walking my way to the John Edrich stand. I turned around and checked that the Middlesex county had no stand named after Mike Gatting, one of their more famous sons. Maybe if Gatting had not done that reverse sweep in Kolkata, and England had won the 1987 World Cup, he would have a stand in his name. Guess what, as I was thinking and settling into my seat, I happened to bump into the man, who’s here conducting a fans activation show for the local sponsor.
When I started to settle in my seat, I quite enjoyed the view from the Edrich stand. It was a view facing the grand pavillion and while I was at Thirdman, the replay screen was diagonally opposite me which meant, I could also watch replays of how the action panned out. Good seats for the 50 pounds!
Aleem Dar Reversing a decision
The greens of the grass against the brown of the players pavillion, brought out the contrast of the players in white very well. The only constraint was the morning sun, which never came in the time I was there. Here’s Ian bell shepharding the tail as England march to a first innings lead. Watching the cricket in London was so different from watching it in India in the sense that people would come all buttoned up and upright in coats. They seemed to have a schedule of sorts in watching the cricket, and getting to one of the stands called the Tavern stands, where the cricket fans would drink. The members would sit opposite the edrich stand at the Grand stand, and would stand and applaud as the players would walk through them. This is something I had heard when I had earlier gone on a Lords tour. Also there were no restrictions on bringing in Cameras. Back in India, I remember being stopped for bringing my Nikon SLR by the police, despite the fact that I had ICC’s letter as an official fan engagement photographer for the 2011 Cricket World Cup. The fans came first here. The ECB had a fan engagement program called the ‘The Twelth Man’ back then, and it showed how much they valued the fan, who was paying money and spending his time watching a bunch of people entertain in flannels over leather and wood.
Driving at Lords
By the time, the afternoon came, the ground was partially flood lit, owing to the simmering rain clouds which threatened to pour. It was a surreal sight watching a panorama of the ground being completely lit up.
Panorama of Lords Ground
England were playing out overs, and were content to score at a snail’s pace. I decided to head out during the interval to check the scenes in the ground. I found Phil Tufnel, the yesteryear finger spinner signing autographs for his book,while a Carribean fan decided to dedicate a whole shirt to autographs. Now comes the question of asking, if these autographs were accumulated over the years.
Back in the 1990’s, my mother used to work in the hopitality industry, which opened quite a few doors for me, whenever the cricketers were playing in Chennai, I would have access to meeting them. I would meet them, listen to their inane jokes and wait for hours for their autographs. The nerd that I was,I would also rattle stats to them about their own batting. I remember doing that with a rather young Sanath Jayasuriya in 1992 when he was part of a World XI playing a Wills Indian XI at Chepauk.
While someone managed to get one on a test match hat. I remember using autograph books, shirts and bats but never a hat for memory.
Meanwhile, lunch was being served, and I could have none of it below, since there was no vegetarian fare on display. I had to make do with cup cakes.
A little further down were dancers from the Carribean country of Barbados. They hired a bunch of dancers and and an offline activation booth outside the Edrich stand. I somehow felt that commercial tourism could be sold better. All these tourism agencies have the same ideas which go on the lines of “Lets-show-some-local-flavour-and-dance-and-sell-tourism”. I am not quite sure that’s the way to sell travel. As a traveller, I would have loved to hear a cricket connect to the place, and then hear about possibilities of Barbados like visiting certain beaches/experiences that only Barbados could deliver. Maybe someday when I have enough influence in the world of travel, I will love to help tourism agencies tell better stories at why travellers should visit them.