Checking something off the bucket list is fun. It is where prayer meets planning meets reality. Attending major events at three iconic sports venues is the entirety of my travel bucket list and I hadn’t visited a place on my list since a freezing January morning in 2004 (I was at this game). Until July 17 2014. Tickets won via the official raffle, a cousin willing to loan the air mattress in his living room for six nights, enough money for the intercontinental air travel and most importantly – permission from the wife came to a confluence to get me to Lord’s. Here below is five memories from five unforgettable days at Lord’s. Through these I hope to give you the reader a taste of the experience and hope to inspire you the cricket fan to make your own pilgrimage to the ‘home of cricket’.
Here were the five things that I wanted to make sure I wrote about among the many things that make cricket at Lord’s such a fun and fulfilling experience.
The comfort: Watching a cricket match especially a test match at Lord’s is very comfortable. I have been to over 20 sporting venues in India and the US and no venue comes close in terms of comfort. Spectators are allowed to carry food and alcohol in to the stadium. The security checks, ingress and exit in to the ground as well as the stands are non-intrusive and brisk. The concourses are wide and there are big screens, picnic areas and TV sets everywhere lest you miss any action. Many of the seats had cushions and all seats had ample leg room. The ground even offered free Wi-Fi to all fans. The Wi-Fi was shockingly reliable and fast. Seeing how hard it is to use the phone at most venues during live events, the people at Lord’s have figured out some magic recipe that lets them scale quality internet access across the stadium. More power to them and here’s a huge thank you to them! Here’s also hoping other grounds can figure this out so fans can tweet and Instagram their fondest memories instantly.
The alcohol: The liquor flowed liberally thru the test match. The amount of beer, wine, Pimm’s and champagne consumed across the stands blew my mind. The lines to buy alcohol were full all the time and the picnic areas were full of people well into their fifth or sixth pints by lunch. I wasn’t used to this much drinking and stood out very much like the lightweight I am. The alcohol also brought out the best cricket debates. One group of three English fans sitting next to me were into their fifth pint each when Alastair Cook was dismissed Sunday afternoon. They quickly started making ‘All decade XIs’ and I fell off my chair when their discussion on the 90’s was a succinct “Lara and ten Aussies right, mate?” I had tickets for five different seats around the ground over the five days and I didn’t see any rowdy or raucous behavior induced by the drinking. There were chants, boos, cheers and debates but nothing rowdy and nothing that you would expect from a day of continuous drinking.
The history: Lord’s is not just the ‘home of cricket’. It tries really hard to showcase itself and be the home of cricket. There is history everywhere. Photos of star performers from all test playing nations, two different shops selling memorabilia and merchandise, two cricket museums and a variety of legends using the test match to interact with fans make for a showcase of cricket history at all times. You walk by the store and you run into Steve Waugh. Walk by the practice fields and there is Alec Stewart. Go to the loo and you’re standing next to Henry Blofeld. Look towards the pavilion and there’s Rahul Dravid ringing the five minute bell. The fans too were very knowledgeable and always interested in debate and discussion. For what it’s worth, the folks I met weren’t particularly fond of Cook and have invested a large amount of trust and faith in Joe Root. To me, it was wonderful though to see the level of interest, knowledge and passion for a game I care deeply about.
The food: Lord’s had quite the spread. There was a centrally located food village with five stations. There was a station each for burgers, curries, burritos, baps and pies. The lines moved quickly, there were a plethora of vegetarian options and the stations were open till end of play. There were also several other cafes and dining options within the stadium where I could order sandwiches, juices and desserts. Of course it is less expensive to pack your own meals but the options available make Lord’s quite the culinary destination. Not something I have been able to say of any sports venue I have been to before Lord’s.
The match: Last but not the least is the match and the actual game of cricket itself. The match was a wonderful advertisement for the format. The cricket on the field was glorious, unpredictable and entertaining. Young players carved their names on the honors board, old greats struggled and a cavalcade of fearless Indians stormed the English fortress for a spectacular triumph. As a fan of the Indian cricket team, the occasion and cricketing memories will stay special ‘til death. Every session was tight. Every session was absorbing and outside of the manic last half hour, the game was truly in balance at all times. A partnership like the one Root and Moeen had on the morning of Day 5 would be the highlight of many tests for how gritty and skilful it was. It was only the twelfth most important story line of a test match with too much bloody good cricket. Rahane, Anderson, Ballance, Vijay, Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar, Moeen, Root and Ishant were all inspired by the venue, the occasion and displayed their skills at the highest level to really make the visit an unforgettable one.
A great venue and an even greater game of cricket made my bucket list a little smaller and my life a lot happier. Here’s hoping every one of you gets the opportunity to do the same. Cheers to cricket and cheers to Lord’s.