Melbourne Cricket Ground - fascinating history and cricketing folklore
The Melbourne Cricket Ground's (MCG) hallowed surface will add another feather to its cap when it hosts the final of the 11th World Cup between tournament co-hosts Australia and New Zealand on Sunday.
The ground will be the second venue to host the Cup final more than once after another iconic cricket ground - the Lord's in England - hosted four final matches. The MCG previously hosted the 1992 final when Pakistan beat England by 22 runs.
The ground, one of the oldest in Australia, has a fascinating history. It began way back on November 15, 1838, when a handful of men decided to form a cricket club, and thus the Melbourne Cricket Club was established. Eventually, in 1853 the club's greatest achievement - the MCG - was built.
The stadium hosted the first match in 1856 between Victoria and New South Wales, followed by a match against the English XI in 1862 and, of course, the first Test between Australia and England in 1877.
The iconic venue also hosted the 1956 Olympic Games. In the 2006 Commonwealth Games, the ground played a similar role.
The venue boasts of a total capacity of 1,00,024. It also witnessed other sporting spectacles which included Australian World Cup football qualifiers, rugby domestic and international matches and Australia Wheel Races.
It might not be known to many that the stadium is also home to the National Sports Museum, Australia's finest storehouse of sporting artefacts and history.
The iconic sports stadium also staged many smash hit musical concerts including musical icons Madonna, U2, Michael Jackson and the Rolling Stones. Even Pope John Paul II held a mass there when he visited Melbourne in 1986. But the gentleman's game remains the backbone of the club.
The venue has witnessed and felt the presence of cricketing legends including Warwick Armstrong, Donald Bradman, Bill Woodfull, Leonard Hutton, Garfield Sobers, Wilfred Rhodes, Dennis Lillee, Steve Waugh, Shane Warne, Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar.
The famed venue also engraved its name at the top with record breaking attendance at mega events. The 1992 cricket World Cup at the Antipodes drew a crowd of 87,182 for the final between Pakistan and England. That was well in excess of the crowd that attended the 1987 final at the expansive Eden Gardens in Kolkata, which was estimated at 70,000.
The other most notable record achieved at the ground came 15 months ago when the first day of the Boxing Day Test attracted 91,112, the biggest recorded crowd for a day of Test cricket. The venue also hosted some record breaking and nail-biting cricketing encounters and some of the game's greatest performances have been enacted at the ground.
In a 20-year span, Australian batting great Donald Bradman missed a Test century only once against England at the ground, scoring 79 and 49 in 1946-47. He scored 132 and 127 not out against India in 1947-48 and in a memorial match in December 1948 he played a farewell innings of 123.
Bowlers too proved their worth here. Pakistan's Sarfraz Nawaz captured a memorable 7-1 to steal victory in 1978-79, finishing with second innings figures of 9-86. Also former India leg spinner Bhagwat Chandrasekhar captured 6-52 in each innings of the 1977-78 series for match winning figures of 12-104. These figures are no less than outstanding.
One of the most noted clashes here was the Australian bowling great Dennis Lillee and West Indies' Michael Holding in 1981-82. Lillee finished the match with bowling figures of 10-127, while Holding went one ahead with 11-107.
Controversy is a major element of cricket and the ground is no different.
In the 1980-81 series, the then Indian skipper Sunil Gavaskar wasn't happy when he was adjudged leg before wicket. He ordered his batting partner, Chetan Chauhan, to leave the ground with him, threatening to surrender the match. But India routed Australia in the second innings to win the Test.
On Boxing Day 1995, a massive crowd was astonished when umpire Darrell Hair no-balled Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan seven times in three overs for throwing. In 1971-72, former West Indian batting great Garfield Sobers scored 254 in the second innings in what Donald Bradman described as the best innings he had ever seen.
Keeping in mind the history, drama and emotions that are attached to the historic venue, the Cup final match on Sunday will bring about a blockbuster end to the mega event.