Thursday, 1 December 2011

Capacity isn't everything

I rejoiced in the news today that the Marylebone Cricket Club have decided against major redevelopment of the Nursery End of Lord's. Reading report after report of the proposals the question kept springing up in my head - WHY? Why irreversibly spoil the beautiful vista from the pavilion end? Why move the Real Tennis court underground? Why - and this was the biggest question - does the MCC need this extra £100 million? The answer to all these questions seemed to be "to maintain and enhance the reputation of Lord's as the pre-eminent cricket ground in the world", but I am pleased that in the end people have realised that pre-eminence is about more than simply how many seats the ground holds, as this is to miss the point entirely.

If you have ever been to Lord's, you will know that it is sacred ground. To travel there is to make a pilgrimage to cricket's holiest place, and to sit in the stands as play takes place can feel almost spiritual. It is to worship at the high temple of cricket. If Lord's is to maintain its status it is THIS experience that must be preserved, and ultimately the best way to guarantee its future as a Test venue is to guard this atmosphere jealously, as then touring teams will forcefully demand the right to play there.

On those happy occasions when I have been blessed with the offer of a 'members and friends' ticket from my father's MCC-member friend to go to Lord's my chosen vantage point has been the Warner Stand, and from here the vista is almost entirely devoid of anything that is not part of Lord's Cricket Ground, and all the better for it. It is a little oasis of calm in one of the world's busiest cities. The tree-line behind the Media Centre is a huge asset to the atmosphere of the ground, and while I wouldn't mind too much if higher stands were built at the Nursery End, the idea of having four large tower blocks - however beautifully designed - looming down on the pavilion just leaves me cold. The MCC is often held up as a pretty stuffy organisation but for once I am only too happy to stand on the side of stuffiness. There is a place for muscular modernity, but Lord's isn't it.

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