MCG: A tour to remember
A personal account of a fan who visited the hallowed MCG recently.
Trevor Chappell registered his name in the history of cricket, notoriously, bowling an underarm delivery on specific instructions from his elder brother Greg. The first ever Test match was played in 1877. The longest ever Test match was played from March 8, 1929 till March 16, 1929. ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 final is going to be played at the stadium referred popularly as ‘The G’ by the locals.
All the above are not just random facts or famous instances, but they direct towards the largest cricket stadium in the world, the Melbourne Cricket Ground. I, along with my wife Aditi, was privileged to visit ‘The G’ recently when we were in Melbourne for a vacation. The stadium is 15 min walking distance from Flinders Street, which is close to the Yarra river. It is visible from a considerable distance from Flinders Street. Your expectations start to build about its aura right from that moment.
Though I had done enough research on the guided tour beforehand from India, we reached just in time for the last scheduled tour for the day. What followed in the next hour or so will be etched in my memories for the lifetime. We were greeted by a bunch of very friendly guides who spoke to us like long lost friends. In a few minutes, we got to know that they are really fond of Indian tourists who come with immense passion for the game and never miss an opportunity to visit this stadium. And so the tour began.
We headed straight to the outfield and that just set the tone for the tour. Never have I seen such a lush green outfield, which has been maintained so well. Of course, with the World Cup starting in a few days, the preparations would have been to the T.
When one starts looking around the stadium from the outfield, then you somehow feel belittled by the grandiose of ‘The G’. Calling it a huge stadium is an understatement. The seats in the 4-tiers which roughly cross 100,000 in total look as if someone has painted them with a brush in a picturesque of the stadium. It was very difficult for me to leave the field and continue the tour as a true cricket fan would like to spend hours on the one and only MCG.
Leaving the field, we went indoors to the players changing room (both home and visitors). The visitors’ changing room had an honour board with Indians featuring right from Mankad to Gavaskar to Tendulkar till Kohli and Rahane for their test centuries, while Prasanna, Chandrasekhar, Kapil Dev and Kumble are featuring for their 5 wicket hauls.
Then, we went to the room where MS Dhoni gave his last press conference in the white clothing i.e. the media room. Going into the media room, I remembered his entire career, sacrifices and the attitude towards the game. Going ahead, we went to the following areas:
- Indoor practice nets
- VIP box: All who are members of the Melbourne cricket club for more than 50 years are given seats
- From all the 4 tiers of the stadium, it is truly magnificent to see the cricket field. It made it so harder while leaving Australia knowing that I won’t be watching a single match at ‘The G’
- A small gallery which stored some memorabilia of the legendary matches, special moments and signatory bats from the who’s who of cricket
The tour guide
It would be unfair on my part if did not mention in detail about our tour guide at the ‘The G’. Roger, who in his sixties, oozed of cricket from every word he spoke. He recalls all the matches at ‘The G’ easily. I have never met any person before who knew so much about cricket and a true cricket fan. They are a rare breed these days.
A man of his age would have trouble remembering his own family, but he remembers every tour he has taken till date at ‘The G’. I don’t know what he knew about India, but sure did he know that most Indians work in the IT industry. He said he always got some Indians working in the IT industry in all of his tours and we did not make an exception as my wife works in IT.
And time for sharing a personal highlight of the tour. Roger was sensing that I am a cricket lover and wanted to test my knowledge about the game. When we came near a painting denoting the first Test match of all time, which was played at ‘The G’, he asked me who was the first Indian to play Test cricket. He specifically added – No Indian has ever given the correct answer for this and will gift me a kangaroo if I get this right, assuming that I would never give the correct answer.
The image definitely suggests that I was the first Indian to give the correct answer – Ranjitsinhji – and Roger sure lived up to his promise.
What baffled me for a minute when I got to know that Roger worked voluntarily as an MCG tour guide and this made me salute him and his passion for the game.
Some crazy facts about ‘The G’
Some facts you get to know when you ‘Google it’. But for some crazy ones, we need to visit the actual place and talk to the locals.
- The Melbourne Cricket Club has over 100,000 members over the year, but astonishingly it has over 230,000 nominations in the waitlist. The latest entrants in the membership had applied way back in 1996
- We got to know from Roger that an expectant mother filed an unnamed nomination for her unborn child
- A man continued the membership (technically illegal) after his father’s demise to derive the benefits of the same
- The restroom close to the commentary box and the member’s box offers the best view of the match and it is known that during a live match the queue grows as long as it can just to catch the view
The above certainly denote a thing for sure; that being a member of MCG is a prestigious affair Down Under.
Food for thought for Indian stadiums
I could not stop myself from thinking what Indian stadiums also can adopt. Though, all the Indian stadiums do not match in terms of richness with MCG but it is surely worth starting a tour at all cricket stadiums. I guess, at least the famous stadiums like Wankhede, Eden Gardens, etc. can step up and start their journey towards creating a cricket museum in their own terms. BCCI being the richest sports body can definitely create such cricket museums in India.
It will be nothing but a sheer pleasure for a cricket-crazy country if such a thing starts in India.
I could take some liberty and say, “In a lifetime, one should definitely watch a cricket match at these stadiums – Wankhede, Eden Gardens, Lord’s and MCG”.
I have been just 25% lucky as I have watched a match only at the Wankhede. This experience certainly gave a perspective on how people outside India talk about cricket. I have made up my mind for sure to have a guided tour at every stadium I visit henceforth. My next dream stadium tour is at the mecca of cricket – The Lord’s.
To sum up, it was an unforgettable MCG tour. I would recommend all cricket enthusiasts to take this tour when in Melbourne city.