Lord of Lord’s

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Lord’s has been the ‘home of cricket’ for over a century and that doesn’t seem likely to change any time soon. The aura of the venue remains perfectly intact.

About ten years ago the ground’s administrators realised, however, that an attitude of ‘superiority’ had pervaded too many of the ‘staff’. So the gatemen – popularly referred to as ‘Jobsworths’ – were sent on an etiquette course and taught how to be helpful rather than rude.

Apparently it worked, too, but only for a short time (between South African tours) so we never managed to experience the new phenomenon.

As South Africa’s warm-up game against Srio Lanka was coming to a close on Wednesday, the very excellent James Fitzgerald from the ICC informed the media that a ‘new system’ for post match press conferences was to be introduced. Instead of the awful scramble through heaving crowds of beer laden supporters from the Nursery end to the Pavilion end of the ground, journalists would now be escorted by an ICC volunteer around the boundary’s edge. It was a typical Fitzgerald idea. As a former journalist himself, he knew the value of saving 20 minutes when close to deadline.

Lord’s were informed. Or rather, Lord’s were asked for permission, with appropriate bowing and scraping. Apparently, permission was granted. So a baker’s dozen of us filed patiently down from the press-box in the sky and waited next to the barrier in front of the outfield.

Two stewards stood in front of the barrier with arms crossed and listened to our ICC escort’s explanation and the directive. And they maintained the posture for several minutes afterwards, too. They didn’t say a word. But they were very, very good at maintaining the ‘old’ Lord’s attitude of unhelpful indignation that some peasants were trying to de-sanctify the holy turf. So off we trudged through the milling crowd.

On return from chatting to Herschelle Gibbs, there was more of the same. A buffet good enough to make a five star restaurant blush in shame. Rare beef fillet, grilled fish, mushroom risotto and salads made in heaven. Players have spoken for years about the quality of the dining experience at Lord’s, and we’re not far behind.

It has been the only ‘glitch’ so far. Organisation has been outstanding, players are happy, warm-up games have been superb for all and sundry and now the real thing begins with smiles and racing hearts.

You know where you stand at an ICC ‘world event’. It’s where you are invited to stand. Except at Lord’s. There, it’s where you are told to stand. But that’s what reputation does for you.

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