Lord’s: emitting a sense of belonging

The splendour, the shared history, the rich textures of red, yellow, and green — no, you have to be here, says Ram Mahesh about Lord’s.

Monday, July 16: The diary enters the Tube station at Heathrow airport distinctly worried. It has neglected to pack a towel, disregarding the advice of the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and is certain it will be lost. Hopele ss with directions and possessing the colour sense of a myopic bull, the diary has little use for the tube map a kind lady handed it.

Bad memories of geography class are stirred. Maps were the worst. The diary’s strategy of marking any place on it with a dot the size of Africa, so as to cover every base, can’t work here in the real world, can it?

It turns out the diary has evolved over time, and unlike some of its friends, isn’t in a condition of general degeneration. The Tube system is mastered — this little rabbit-wren, honeycombed network, Pah! But, other matters aren’t as satisfactorily resolved. The diary is denied a look at Lord’s during the collection of accreditation. Instead, the diary lunches — at 5 p.m. — in a hotel over a river on Edgware Road.

Tuesday, July 17: The first sight of Lord’s. The diary has heard much about how the ground fails to live up to expectations. But it isn’t worried. For some reason, the diary is never disappointed. Perhaps it has to do with starting in software, where only fools believe expectations. But, the diary digresses. Lord’s is another instance of the inadequacy of television. The splendour, the shared history, the rich textures of red, yellow, and green — no, you have to be here. What clinches it for the diary is the proprietary feeling Lord’s invokes. Like the dearest in life, it emits a sense that it belongs only to you.

A respected cricket writer once told the diary that every tour feels right after the first sight of the Indian team. The diary had politely — always politely — dismissed such thoughts as sissy. But, it’s gutted to find the words true. The diary has a suspicion about Wasim Jaffer’s footwork — his trigger movement, to be precise — and camps right behind the batsman. And suddenly, the worries of finding better accommodation, of looking for a towel, of guarding against a grass allergy dissolve.

Wednesday, July 18: The diary has refrained from prose describing London, for in its mind, the city is a bit of a multiverse. Experienced second-hand through Dickens, Conan Doyle, and Wodehouse growing up, the city’s sights, smel ls, and sounds have shifted through time: the dynamic set up by the different periods the writers inhabited and an arguably maturing mind.

Moreover, the tube influences perception. The city seems like long stretches of black connected by bright patches of street cafes, lawns, chipped-stone houses, pipe smoke, trees, and pond herons. The diary will allow the images to settle before attempting description.

In other matters, the first Test begins tomorrow.

Thursday, July 19: A perk of travelling by tube is getting to read the news looking over your neighbour’s shoulder. The diary, being a naturally nosy creature, gets pretty good at it. Until an elderly lady, between knitting, tell s it off with such charm that the diary, embarrassed, alights at the next station. But, by then, the diary has finished reading about Glamorgan cricketer Mike Powell. He is the only living person to have a part of his body buried at Sophia Gardens, where Bangladesh upset Australia. Having survived life-threatening complications that necessitated a rib being removed, Powell decided to bury it. “I knew that a lot of people have had their ashes buried there, but I am the only living person ever to have part of their body buried there,” he says. “It felt quite weird when we buried it, but it was exciting. I am glad that part of me will be at Sophia Gardens for ever. That is my legacy to the club and it feels right. The grass has not grown back properly yet, so everyone can see where it is, but I will always look out for it when I am fielding out there.” And no, the diary didn’t remember the whole quote; it looked it up on the Internet.

Friday, July 20: One of the strangest days the diary has seen. Talk is of Armageddon, so dark are the clouds that hang over Lord’s. Two inches of rain fell today in London, and there are horror stories everywhere. One man was stu ck on the M5 for seven hours; The Hindu’s Peter Subramanyam says it took him nearly three hours to pass the Hammersmith roundabout. Tube stations are closed.

Earlier in the day, Boris Becker drops in on us cricket journalists, though he’s clearly troubled by the fawning. “Let me have my coffee,” he grunts at one journalist who looks remarkably like Michael Stich would if he were to grow bald and cultivate a soul patch. The wounds of ‘91, the diary murmurs, out of the great man’s earshot of course.

Saturday, July 21: Complete the sequence: Viv Richards, Ian Botham, Laxman Sivaramakrishnan, blank. Before the quizzing enthusiast turns incontinent with excitement, let diary supply a clue. The answer has nothing to do with trivia and , pardon the modesty, everything to do with the diary. The answer is David Gower of course. These fine men, in that exact sequence, have shared a lift with the diary. Gower, golden curls and baby blues still intact, looks curiously at a fellow journalist, who is trying to thumb his recorder alive before the press conference. “Not working?” asks Gower. “Well, just make it up like the rest of them.”