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   A victory at Lord's like a victory in the series... (December 6, 1986)

A victory at Lord's like a victory in the series, even if you lose the rest of the Tests on the tour. There is a mystique about Lord's and cricket as there is about the Wimbledon courts and tennis or the Epsom Downs and horse racing. That all these venues happen to be in England speaks a lot for the English and their sporting traditions.

In fact, the only other sporting arena with which such mystique is applicable is Madison Square Garden and boxing in New York. There is also a golf course in Scotland where every golfer would consider his sacred duty to play. But I am not very familiar with golf, it is a rich man's game and I am still on my way to becoming rich.

But Lord's and cricket; how fortunate for Kapil Dev to have won his first ever Test match as captain on this hallowed ground. Just as winning at Lord's like winning the series, so also winning at Lord's is like not losing the first 20 Tests in a row.

I have visited Lord's only once, and it was not to see India play; it was the opening day of a Test between Pakistan and England. By the end of the day, uninterrupted by rains, I remember that Mohsin Khan had god a century. But it was not Mohsin Khan or cricket that I had gone to see; I had gone to see Lord's.

The English take their cricket more sedately, as the Madras fans used to do some years ago. Walking though the leafy lanes of St. John's Wood, I could see ahead of me Englishmen with their blazered schoolboy sons, quietly talking to one another. Outside Lord's there were notices saying that money would not be refunded if the weather forces abandonment of part or the full day's play.

There were no tickets at the gate, a man collected the money as you went though the turnstile. For a moment, I looked for somebody to show me to my seat, then realised you could sit anywhere in the whole historical stadium. Though stadium may, perhaps, not be the right world for it. Other cricket venues stadia, Lord's is grounds.

I spent an interesting day at the grounds. Visiting stands with familiar names, the Taverners, the one with Old Father Time, the Nursery End, the clubhouse, where the dressing-rooms are with their familiar balconies.

I visited the Ladbroke's tent, studied the odds on the various horse and dog racing events, on the ongoing cricket match, on other country matches in progress, on the likely date of Prince Charles's wedding. I drank beer, unfortunately in plastic tumblers, ate pork pies, visited the press enclosure and met Mihir Bose. It was lunchtime and he was having a buffet spread and white wine, courtesy the MCC, I gathered. A marked improvement on the packed puri-bhaji that Indian Test venues supply correspondents.

I also visited the Lord's bookshop, browsed through a new biography of Gavaskar, cricket knick-knacks, bought a greeting card with a picture of Lord's. I sent the card to Sharad Kothis, at that time editor of Sportsweek. He had never been to Lord's or England. Now he is reporting from Lord's, the circle is completed.

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