Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) is ready to throw open the doors of Lord's in London to any nations wanting to play Tests at the 'home of cricket'.
Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) is ready to throw open the doors of Lord’s in London to any nations wanting to play Tests at the ‘home of cricket’.
MCC, which owns Lord’s, will be sponsoring the neutral Test and Twenty20 series between Pakistan and Australia in England this July.
The series, which features Tests at Lord’s and Headingley, Yorkshire’s home ground in Leeds, will be the first time a neutral Test has been played in England for nearly a century since the 1912 triangular series, which also featured Australia and South Africa.
Keith Bradshaw, who took over the running of the 223-year-old MCC in 2006, likes to stress its role as cricket’s “conscience”.
And staging ‘home’ Tests involving Pakistan, a no-go area for international cricket since the 2009 terror attacks on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore, can be seen in that light.
“MCC is committed to the health of Test cricket, and by sponsoring the series and hosting the first Test, the club is supporting Pakistani cricket at a time when the country’s Test calendar has been decimated,” Bradshaw told reporters at Lord’s on Monday.
Tests are the pinnacle of the game
“We often speak about Tests being the pinnacle of the game—now we are acting to back up those words,” the former Tasmania batsman added.
It is more than 40 years since MCC ceased to be responsible for running English cricket, although it remains the ultimate global authority for cricket’s Laws or rules, and Bradshaw said: “We are independent and feel to some degree that we are the conscience of the game.”
“For us this is very much a not-for-profit exercise. It’s about assisting Pakistan and spreading the word.”
But there is also commercial logic at work here too.
More grounds than ever before in England are now Test match venues, with Durham’s Riverside and Cardiff’s Sophia Gardens having joined the likes of Lord’s and Headingley in recent years.
In such a climate, MCC accepts Lord’s can no longer count on being guaranteed England home Tests, for all that the ground’s history and tradition make it an enticing venue for overseas sides.
But with crowds for Tests in England holding up well compared with the rest of the world, neutral matches offer the chance to generate additional revenue.
Last year, MCC signed an agreement with the Abu Dhabi Cricket Association in a bid to help raise funds towards the planned £400-million pounds redevelopment of Lord’s, which will also be financed partly by the sale of luxury flats.
And MCC even considered becoming involved in a franchise team in the Twenty20 Indian Premier League before pulling out last month.
‘The guardian of cricket’s spirit’
Bradshaw, who clearly believes MCC can be both commercial and the guardian of cricket’s spirit, said: “I don’t think you can have too many Test matches at Lord’s. Where there is a Test match available, we will be bidding for it.
“If the Tests are neutral Tests, we are very happy to open our doors and have neutral Tests.
“The last neutral Test was played here in 1912 and I hope we don’t have to wait the best part of a century to play another one.
“Certainly there is far more competition now to host Test cricket (in England) then there ever has been.
“We want to attract the best cricket we can and we believe every team should have the chance to play here.”
The Pakistan-Australia Test series in England will be played at Lord’s on July 13-17 and at Headingley on July 21-25 with both the Twenty20 matches taking place at Edgbaston on July 5 and 6.—AFP