Oh, to be in Lord's


The book section at the Lord's Shop.-N. SRIDHARAN

JUNE 24: A visit to the prestigious Lord's Cricket Ground at St. John's Wood in London is always a pleasant experience. The most famous cricketing venue in the world has undergone many changes, in the form of modern facilities for the players and the members of the MCC who are the proud owners of this high-class property. What has not changed though are the tall iron gates opposite the Lord's View buildings. They have remained the same for years as also the stiff upper lip and the curt response from the men guarding the two main entry points, the West and East Gates. Lord's has been good to India and a few Indian cricketers. It was here in the summer of 1983 that the Kapil Dev led Indian team beat the West Indies to win the Prudential World Cup. It was here Dilip Vengsarkar scored centuries in each of his three successive appearances in Test cricket. As a tribute to the 'Colonel's' remarkable performance with the bat, MCC's one of the suites bears his name. Lord's is also where the International Cricket Council (ICC) and England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) are housed. It was very thoughtful of the two cricket bodies to have set up their offices to make things easy for the visitors, media and officials who are after information about the game. One of the officials spotted at the ECB office was South African umpire Dave Orchard. He is in England to stand in the NatWest Trophy III series. He was at the ECB office along with Steve Bucknor of West Indies for a pre-event meeting of the umpires before the start of the triangular series. Both Orchard and Bucknor are in the ICC's elite panel. Bucknor is in the news because of the record number of Tests he has supervised, dislodging Dickie Bird from the exalted position. A trip to Lord's will be incomplete without visiting the Lord's Shop. The layout of the shop has been changed, with the book section moving from the middle to the left corner of the nearly 1500 square feet area. There are plenty of new covers including the one titled: Gary Sobers. My Autobiography. There are plenty memorabilia which the visitors look for and buy.

Sachin Tendulkar autographs a bat while Manu Sawhney, Managing Director of ESPN Software India, watches. Sachin is now brand ambassador for ESPN-Star Sports.-N. SRIDHARAN

June 25: The Trent Bridge Ground at Nottingham is the venue of the first NatWest Trophy III tri-series between England and Sri Lanka. The three O'clock launch of the event is delayed by an hour. The small Indian contingent comprising captain Sourav Ganguly, coach John Wright make it to the venue in time, driving from Leicestershire, but the Sri Lankans are held up on their way. At the time of the tournament launch the captains of the teams get a chance to have a feel of the trophy. Normally, captains together hold the glittering trophy as apart of publicity campaign. The final of this event will be played at Lord's on July 13. Ganguly and Jayasuriya were cautious during the press conference. But England's Nasser Hussain, who is never known to pull his punches, questioned the logic of not treating the one-day specialists on par with Test players in England. He said Nick Knight and Paul Collingwood and those who are picked for one-day matches deserve a better deal and should be offered contracts.

June 26: The Indians are at Grace Road, headquarters of Leicestershire to play their third and final warm-up match against the local county. All in a days work. Ganguly's team sends the second string county attack on a leather hunt and post a match-winning total of 315. The foundation is laid by the opening stand of 132 between Ganguly and Virender Sehwag. Mohammad Kaif makes a neat half century lower in the order and the Indians are well on their way to a huge total. People of Indian origin always make it a point to turn out in large numbers, especially in this part of UK. They follow Indian cricket and are keen to know the personal lives of their super stars. Some of them are familiar faces whom the cricketers immediately recognise and make it a point to acknowledge their presence. So Ganguly's team is never going to be short on support. Like Durban in South Africa, Trinidad in the West Indians, Leicestershire is the place where Indians patronage cricket.

People of Indian origin make it a point to turn up in large numbers whenever India plays in Leicester.-N. SRIDHARAN

The crowd was happy with the proceedings at the Grace Road ground. They saw the Indians make a big score and the local heroes give it a hot chase. The toast of the crowd is of course Sehwag, who is now known for his Tendulkar-like ability to play shots. He cuts, pulls and drives on the up. Sehwag, who missed his first century on the English soil, was run out.

June 27: Trent Bridge is ready for the first big one-day bash of the summer. It will host a Test match between England and India in August, but excitement was all around as it is always before a one-day encounter. It is also the day when Nottighamshire CC has inaugurated a brand new 2300-seater capacity stand at the Fox Road Stand. "It's interesting they have decided to name the stand after an animal. They seem to be great animal lovers. The road by the side of Radcliffe Road is called, Hound Street," said veteran cricket writer Qamar Ahmed. The Nottighamshire CC has spent �1.9 million to construct the new stand. Upgradation of facilities has been given the top priority and Nottingham CC which hosts a Test match almost every year has taken the lead. "By grasping this opportunity to further upgrade our facilities we have taken an important step towards maintaining a truly world class sports venue," said a press release issued by the county. The county has spent � 7.2 million over a period of three years in creating the best indoor facility in England. Former England allrounder Ian Botham inaugurated the Stand. Botham had made his Test debut 25 years ago at this venue, took five for 74 and had played a part in England's win. "I am delighted to be asked to open the new stand because Trent Bridge will always be special to me. You always have fond memories of the ground where you made your international debut and I was especially fortunate to start my England career in the jubilee Test against Australia. I took five wickets in the first innings, met the Queen for the first time and we beat Australia what more could you ask for?" Another piece of news that might interest the affiliated members of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is that Nottinghamshire raised �8 million from Sport England Lottery. It did not get any big grant from the ECB. The moral of the story is, the cricket associations, in India, should have a professional set up and should make them accountable. They should raise money through enterprise, instead of going to the BCCI with a begging bowl. Nottingham CC has also found a novel way of putting up temporary lights for day/night matches. A company called Musco specialises in providing 'temporary lights.' "We do about 50-odd day and night matches every year. This is the second international we are in business. We transport the cranes and the equipment to Europe and have already made a presentation to the organisers of the next Summer Olympics in Athens for their soccer matches," said an engineer supervising the operations at Trent Bridge.

South African umpire Dave Orchard at the ECB office in Lord's.-N. SRIDHARAN

June 28: ESPN-Star Sports signs up master batsmen Sachin Tendulkar for their media and promotion activities. According to sources WorldTel, which represents Tendulkar, and the sports channel began talks about six months ago and clinched the deal, with Tendulkar signing on the dotted lines on June 27. It is speculated that Tendulkar will receive Rs. 12 crore for the three-year contract. Tendulkar's media venture is likely to force ESPN-Star sports rivals to lure players like Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, for their promotional and programming activities.

June 29: Lord's was packed to capacity. Andrew Flintoff had rendered the best possible help to boost the interest in the the NatWest Trophy with a fastest 50 (by an England batsman) against the Sri Lankans at Trent Bridge. He roared against the Indians, but briefly. England's stiff target inspired Virender Sehwag to go after the English bowlers. England had its moments though when Ronnie Irani dismissed Sachin Tendulkar cheaply. But the most memorable action in the match is the catch taken by James Kirtley when Sourav Ganguly attempted to clear Ashley Giles over long on. It is a filling day at Lord's with Marcus Trescothick striking it rich, Sehwag in full flow and Rahul Dravid and Yuveraj Singh combining well to steer India to a great win.

Tinu Yohannan carries the bird, injured by Tendulkar's shot, out of the ground.-N. SRIDHARAN

June 30: Ms. Wendy Wembush, formerly of the BBC, is the official scorer in the press box. Cricket is her passion. She was the secretary to famous cricket writer Jim E. W Swanton and former England batsman Ted Dexter at different times. In the course of India's run chase and when Sachin Tendulkar was dismissed by Nuwan Zoysa at The Oval, she ordered the journalists to remain silent. "My slaving here recording the events of the match makes no point if people are not going to be silent," she announced over the remote mike. Wembush believes cricket has to be played to entertain people. The lack of it provoked her to say: "Well, we have a job to do, otherwise we would not be here paying 46 pounds to see this match. One still remembers the voices of John Arlott and Brain Johnston after whom the television box is named at The Oval. Their descriptions how the lofted shots from batsmen would scatter pigeons at the grounds in England came to mind when a Tendulkar's shot hit a bird. Tinu Yohannan carried the bird and handed it over to the groundsman.

Derek Pringle, who is the cricket correspondent for The Telegraph wrote that Tendulkar had killed the bird with that shot. But it was not so. A Surrey CC official said that the groundsman saw the bird fly out of the backdoor of his hut.

July 1: Football supporters in England are happy that Brazil won the World Cup at Yokohama. "It's good, Brazil won the cup. Football will be alive and kicking in the next four years," said a 'Burger King' staffer at Kings Cross station. "Do you think India and Pakistan will ever play in the World Cup? I have been living here (at Leeds) for 36 years now. Football is the No. 1 sport," said Abdul Hamid while driving us from Leeds to the Holiday Inn Brighouse.