The charm of Lord’S

The Lord’s Shop sells merchandise ranging from miniature balls, with Lord’s 200 (yes, Lord’s has turned 200) embossed on it, to T-shirts and cricket books. Maybe the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) can replicate this at leading Indian cricket centres, writes K. C. Vijaya Kumar.

There is a buzz around NW8 at St. John’s Wood, a leafy enclave in central London. It is Test match time at Lord’s, and when you add a dollop of history, heritage, the love that the British have for the game and the boisterousness of the Indian fans, you get a grip on the varying emotions that swirl around this hoary venue.

The past lingers heavily in the air, and though the space-ship style media centre is an eyesore in an otherwise aesthetic venue, there is no denying the innate charm of Lord’s. And if your are the type that loves memorabilia, wants constant proof for the ‘I-was-there’ moment, just head to the Lord’s Shop inside the venue.

Merchandise ranging from miniature balls, with Lord’s 200 (yes, Lord’s has turned 200) embossed on it, to T-shirts and cricket books are sold at the shop. Maybe the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) can replicate this at leading Indian cricket centres and reap some commercial benefits from the undying thirst of fans for a slice of history. More than the money, it will generate goodwill too.

Gastronomic journeys

Just as the Punjabi culture overwhelms Bollywood films, the cuisine from the State that is split across the Wagah border, too acquires a pan-Indian garb in the United Kingdom. Most restaurants that specialise in Indian food actually dish out Punjabi fare and that includes ventures owned by either Indians or Pakistanis. The Bangladeshis too run Indian restaurants, but mostly the taste isn’t authentic.

Lost between British food and Indian-Punjabi meals, it is time to venture out and seek the sub-continent’s diversity in Wembley. A taxi is hired and as the miles vanish, hunger multiplies. It is time to step into Saravana Bhavan! A hearty Chennai meal is lapped up. Just one request though, can we please have some Ilayaraja of the 1980s?

The lady at the counter says that customers prefer Hindi music.

Surely, there is no running away from Bollywood. A friend suggests: “Next time try the Sri Lankan Tamil joints. You get the food and the music too.”

Being the world’s first global city, London is home to diverse races and communities. A night is largely spent, wading into Edgware Road, a predominantly Arab locality. Restaurants have names like ‘Beirut’ and the food traverses the entire ‘Middle East’ zone. A meal, consisting of Iraqi biryani and naan that is twice the size of what we get in India, is savoured.

On television, there is a debate on Israel’s ground-force attack on Gaza. It is a sobering reality in a week during which a Malaysian Airline plane over Ukraine is shot down. It just drives home the point that cricket is just a game and that there are other critical perspectives in life.

A veteran scribe

Qamar Ahmed should be a familiar name for old-time readers of The Hindu. Though 76 now, Ahmed is sprightly and has a sharp sense of humour. At Lord’s, he is a well-respected figure. Having spent a considerable time of his life in London, freelancing for newspapers and agencies across the world, Ahmed now shuttles between Karachi and the England capital. He has reported over 400 Tests.

A left-arm spinner in his youth and with the added allure of having dismissed the famous Mohammads — Hanif, Sadiq and Mushtaq — Ahmed has played 17 first-class games.

One of his favourite anecdotes is about a friendly match between Indian and Pakistani journalists. “Strangely, Pakistan team did not pick me and my Indian journalist friend Rajan Bala said, ‘Qamar will play for us, after all he was born in India!’ I played for India and got 10 wickets! Later, the Pakistan team realised its folly and we had a good laugh,” he says while other veteran journalists vouch for his perfect-10!

DRS, here we go again...

Meanwhile the Decision Review System (DRS) and India’s refusal to embrace it triggers a constant chatter from the Sky Sports commentary box. Every time a decision goes against India, Michael Atherton, Nasser Hussain, Andrew Strauss, David Lloyd and Michael Holding raise the DRS bogey. And when Bruce Oxenford adjudged Ajinkya Rahane as caught behind, when the catch went off his arm-guard, DRS again became the most repetitive word in the Sky Sports commentary box. Later Rahane deftly handled a question about DRS in a press conference. “That is for the ICC and BCCI to decide, I cannot comment,” he said.