One fine day this summer, I flew to London just to watch cricket at Lord’s. England was playing Pakistan. At St. John’s Wood tube station, the closest one to the stadium, I was caught in a swirl of men in felt hats and flannel jackets, carrying well-stocked picnic baskets and ice-boxes, eddying towards the stadium. Many wore silk ties, striped red and gold. I felt underdressed in an informal shirt and sneakers, but it was too late to turn back.
We entered through the cast-iron Grace Gates, named after W.G. Grace, one of England’s greatest cricketers from the sport’s early days. There are many such historic relics at Lord’s—most stadiums tend to be impersonal, but Lord’s is a mecca for cricket unlike any other. Cricketers often describe playing here as a defining moment in their careers. My favourite cricketing moment at Lord’s is Saurav Ganguly’s 1996 debut, when he scored a fluid 131—the highest debut score in a match at the stadium. I’d heard cricket at Lord’s was extraordinary, and here I was, ready to experience it for myself.
Eating and drinking is a big part of Lord’s, and I quickly realised that most visitors decide on a strategic plan well in advance. Some collected food hampers that they had pre-ordered with their tickets, others carried picnic baskets. For the uninitiated, like me, there are bars and food joints dotting the periphery of the stadium. On match days, tents selling food and wine come up on the open grounds. What excited me more than the burgers, hotdogs, and chips, was the typical English fare: tea and scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, soft rolls with English mustard, cucumber sandwiches, and the famous Dundee fruitcakes.
Inside, though the stadium was full to its capacity of 30,000, it felt relaxed, like a neighbourhood gathering to watch a community match. The favours shifted back and forth between the teams as the day progressed. At times, the game itself seemed like an afterthought to a plush picnic. Around me, the chewing and quaffing was constant, punctuated by ripples of polite applause for a well-stroked shot.
Across my seat, I could see the stadium’s most remarkable building, a survivor from the Victorian era: the terracotta-coloured Pavilion. Built in 1890, it houses the players’ dressing rooms. The Indian team received its first ever World Cup trophy on the balcony of this very building.
During one of the breaks, I opened a book that I had carried with me. Unabashedly peering over my shoulder, the English gentleman sitting behind me remarked cheerily that it “seems like heavy reading for a Sunday afternoon.” Tickled, I agreed instantly, and put the book away. In the end, Pakistan won the match. The team saluted the crowd, which responded with a standing ovation. The local team may have lost, but the spectators appreciated watching a closely-fought contest.
As I left the stadium, I realised that it’s not just a game of cricket that Lord’s offers. Rather the experience spans food, humour, and traditions. It is also about true sportsmanship, not just from the players, but also from the spectators.
Appeared in the February 2017 issue as “Lord of the Pitches”.
From 1890 to 1999, Pavilion, one of the oldest constructions at Lord’s, was out of bounds for women on match days due to the stadium’s gender-based membership policy. Photo: Nitni Chaudhury
Orientation Lord’s Cricket Ground is located close to the centre of London, near the St John’s Wood tube station.
Tickets Schedules and tickets for upcoming fixtures are available at the stadium’s official website (www.lords.org/fixtures/ fixtures-and-tickets; £50-75/₹4,100-6,200 for one day at a test match; includes visit to the Lord’s Museum).
Tour On non-match days, visitors can go to the Lord’s Museum through the Lord’s Tour. One of the oldest sports museums in the world, it displays a collection begun in 1864. The Lord’s Tour also takes in the Pavilion and players’ dressing rooms, and the Long Room (seven days a week at fixed time slots, except match days and between 23 Dec-2 Jan; 1 hr 40 min; adults £20/₹1,600, children £12/₹1,000; book online in advance).