Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Acid Test

To Lords, on a whim. Well, on the Jubilee Line. Clutching my M&S sandwiches I weave my way through the crowds on the Friday of England’s first Test against the West Indies. Big queues outside the entrances because the security measures now include a pat down and a thorough bag-search, incase someone tries to hijack the Mound stand, or something.  I haven’t got a ticket, but a nice lady at Lords ticket office sorts me out with a brilliant seat just underneath the media commentary position and behind the bowlers arm.  The price? £60.  This is now the price for a view of a premier sporting event, it seems.

God, but it’s cold. Mid May, but it may as well be February. I huddle in to my anorak and queue for twenty minutes for a coffee.Windies field with their hands in the pockets, body language radiating defeat as Strauss nervously picks his way to a century. I have a little radio that lets me hear the BBC Test Match Special commentators; it’s like going to the cricket with a bunch of knowledgeable friends. Henry Blofeld in classic form. Pigeon counting, silly nicknames for the players and loads of Boycott-teasing.

The first Test I ever went to was at Old Trafford in the eighties. Big crowd of Windies supporters with steel drums made for a brilliant atmosphere. Today at Lords there’s an interested buzz, but the gut adrenaline from a hard fought contest is absent. The crowd is attentive, but it’s politeness not a passionate response to the events on the pitch. That said, we rise as one to applaud the skipper’s hundred.  

Have one of the newsdesk tellies tuned to Sky Sports as England wrap it up on the Monday. Pleased that there’s a piece on the BBC Six O Clock News - but a Test victory now feels like business as usual for a side of real quality. I also think the fact that the game isn’t on free to air TV has removed it some way from the country’s radar.  The sport has lots of money now, and the team looks totally professional – but do people really care the way they used to? 


Anonymous said...

£60 for a dull day - weatherwise - is not going to draw in the casual attender is it?

Hendo said...

No, although it doesn't stop people going. People with money, that is. Worrying.

Hendo said...

Thanks for your comment btw, lovely to know somebody reads this!

Callum said...

I would happily spend £60 for a day at Lord's watching almost any international game. I went at the weekend for the conclusion of a county match that I knew my team was going to lose. It was splendidly meditative, and I got to have a few drinks with my brother. I don't see him nearly enough as we're both jolly busy.

But you're right - when Test cricket used to take up a large slice of BBC1, BBC2 or Channel 4 during the day, it was more a part of the national mood than a niche interest. Unfortunately, England being Any Good has co-incided with them not being on terrestrial telly any more.

Hendo said...

I don't think it's a coincidence; the sport has loads of cash, has professionalised the England set-up with contracts and the best coaches, and England now cruise to victories the country doesn't notice.