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MCC and the home of cricket

Although the match is tense and poised it did not seem to absorb the spectators round me who were by the afternoon chatting, sleeping, drinking or doing a crossword.  Drink is drunk in industrial quantities at cricket right from the start so on a hot humid day the consequence is fatigue. If I were a betting man or advising John Pargiter I would be backing Pakistan for three reasons: they have already a lead of 281; they have a leggie in Yasir Shah who will  exploit a 4th innings  pitch; and England only have three reliable batters – Cook, Root and Barstow …

Alan Tanner was with me and he hailed the MCC CEO Derek Brewer, a Fulham fan of his vintage who stood near him in the Old Enclosure in Craven Cottage. According to Alan this was the best possible place to watch football. The two were soon revelling in Fulham in the 60s. I was interested to learn that the MCC turned over £50m a year. I found myself reflecting how it has transformed from the moral and legislative authority of world cricket to a money spinning venue. Harold Wilson weakened it first with the ECB; the D’Oliveira affaire was its worst hour morally; and then there was the seismic power shift to the sub continent. The MCC, like the Wimbledon debenture holders and the Royal and Ancient, is one of those sporting body curios that the UK throws up which nonetheless seems to work. In the bigger picture you can add the Royal Family, BBC, House of  Lords and Church of England. The MCC seized on its USP as the home of cricket. They had to contend with gender issues, a low capacity – the MCG can hold three times their number – the global decline of test cricket and continual stand refurbishment. Yet it is guaranteed a test every series, sells it out and has few other finals, the T20s  and ODI. The decision to impose a alcohol limit to bring into the ground ensures the bar takings are plentiful. Creating a new type of membership in the Upper Mound and Pavilion was another stroke of genius. The long MCC waiting list is circumvented, the cost is 10 times MCC membership, you enjoy a superb view and amenities in a more relaxed ambience and above all you have a dedicated padded seat. I find it  uncomfortable to sit all day so appreciate the bigger space. Having encountered the surly   jobsworth at the North Gate (“gates not open, get in the queue …” ) it’s such a pleasure and relief to reach the Upper Mound and be treated to a service that made me feel I was in Emirates First Class. The food is good and everyone helpful and obliging.

I chatted  to  my neighbour, an Indian with a South African accent. Later in a mini-documentary on the Robin Jackman affair on SKY SPORTS in the lunch interval I saw the very same gentleman who was clearly some Soth African cricketing  grandee. The Jackman affaire took place 11 years after the d’Oliveira one when Guyana refused to allow Jackman to play in the test as he lived in South Africa and the Gleneagles Agreement of barring South Africans was breached. It was well debated on SKY. The contest between bat and ball on the pitch is fascinating but off it cricket also generates a huge number of issues which are considered – if not resolved – in a far more sophisticated and cerebral way than other sports.

About Douglas Heath

Douglas Heath began his lifelong love affair with cricket as an 8 year-old schoolboy playing OWZAT? Whilst listening to a 160s Ashes series on the radio. He later became half-decent at doing John Arlott impressions and is a member of Middlesex County Cricket Club. He holds no truck at all with the T20 version on the game. More Posts