The recent success of England in the most historic and prestigious form of cricket should be the source of much national pride. In their recent 4-0 drubbing of the previous World number one Test side they demonstrated a level of conviction and authority rarely seen in English cricket’s more recent past.
The current success has brought with it an enormous amount of comparison drawing between England’s current crop and the most dominant Test outfits of the game’s long and illustrious history. To this point England have achieved a great deal under the guidance of Andy Flower and have earned a great deal of respect amongst their peers in the International game, but there is an awfully long way to go before they can be considered one of England’s very best sides. So far they have demonstrated the form and talent required to reach such historical heights but sustaining this period of domination over a longer span of time will be the ultimate test for them.
This week I was fortunate enough to pay my first visit to the ‘Home of Cricket’. Not only did I visit Lord’s but I was fortunate enough to gain entry to the Members Pavilion courtesy of attending as the guest of a friend who holds an MCC membership. This was a fantastic experience and furthered my passion for the game and it’s history.
Some might say that the ‘old boy’ and ‘aristocratic’ nature of Lord’s and the Pavilion End is far too elitist and perhaps too stuffy for a modern era of increased equality and opportunity, but I must confess that I loved it.
Where else in British sport could you be seated in and around plump, middle-aged gentlemen wearing a glorious mish-mash of boldly coloured pinstripe suits accompanied by a flower-filled top jacket pocket and the classically coloured red and mustard tie of the MCC? It may seem way over the top, but it truly is a sight to behold.
I personally wouldn’t be seen dead in their chosen attire, but I didn’t half enjoy seeing them trying to pull it off and in a bizarre sort of a way they kind of managed it. The pride gained from showing off the traditional colours of the MCC is comparable to that of the most passionate football fans who couldn’t bare to be without their replica shirts come match day. It provides a great sense of identity for the game and pays tribute to the it’s very colourful past through remembering and representing it’s upper-class roots.
Aside from those filling the Pavilion End the place itself is so utterly and fantastically British. It is a structure of extreme civilisation containing a library, a food court, squash courts, lounge rooms, real tennis courts, a committee meeting room and of course the infamous Long Room. The place is filled with paintings and images of Cricket’s history and not just that of the home nation. Even the old-enemy Australia have their fair share of wall space with players such as the great Shane Warne honoured with a portrait.
The ‘Home of Cricket’ is a magnificent tribute to the enduring gentleman’s sport and underlines the value and traditions of Test cricket. In the modern era where shortened forms of the game are beginning to take greater precedence than they once did I think it is hugely important that the foundation of Test cricket is not forgotten or belittled.
Gladly, England’s current combination of extroverted characters suited to the modern era such as Kevin Pietersen, Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad, and more classical, old-fashioned cricketers such as Alistair Cook, Jonathan Trott and Andrew Strauss has seen them rise to the top of the world’s Test pecking order and has provided the longer format with a much needed boost.
The world of Test cricket has been lacking the sort of superiority and character provided by the all conquering Australian sides of the 90’s and early 2000’s and it is entirely appropriate that England, cricket’s country of origin, are responsible for the current re-invigoration of the sport’s most important format. Though my first visit to Lord’s was to see a one-day match between home side Middlesex and the visitors Sussex you can’t help but feel the presence of the International game within the Pavilion. I am now very much looking forward to the day when I get to witness the ground in all it’s majesty at an England Test match, hopefully this moment shan’t elude for too much longer.