April 2, 2017

Visiting the iconic MCG!

Hi Guys,

On a day when Dhoni’s six sealed the World Cup for India six years before, I’m back here writing a blog post on a cricket ground. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that the first cricket ground I would walk in my life would be the Melbourne Cricket Ground or ‘The G’ as it is called simply. Despite being so close to the iconic Chepauk Stadium in Chennai, I have never been inside.

Being in Melbourne on a short official trip, we were so close yet so far from the ground on the first four days when we had to put up with the hectic office hours and meeting preparations. On the final day, we had our return flight in the afternoon. But, I and my colleague were determined to not miss the opportunity to see the historical ground.
The G - from Outside
The G was two kilometres from the city centre we stayed and we decided to walk the distance bracing the chilly morning weather. After a serene walk along the Yarra River and a beautiful bridge, we were at the stadium by 9.50 am, 10 minutes before the first official tour kicks off. The 75 minute tour costs AUD 23. For AUD 31.50, you get in a combined pass for MCG and the National Sports Museum which is also in the same complex. As we were chasing time, we opted only for the ground tour. At 10, we were introduced to our tour guide, an elderly lady from the Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC). She was somewhere in her 70s or 80s, but she was the most energetic amongst the touring group and we had a tough time matching her pace (It’s a pity that I forgot her name). Along with the two of us, there were five others – two from England and three from Australia, meaning it was a group passionate on Cricket.
From the turf!
The tour started with us being let into the grass turf, where our guide explained the history of the ground and stands. The ground was established in 1853, when the settlement was just pouring in. The ground hosted the first ever test match in 1877 when 30,000 people attended the spectacle (it was a significant population of Melbourne back then). The ground has four stands – the great Southern Stand which makes a semi-circle and then Ponsford Stand, Members Pavilion and Olympic Stand which together make another semi-circle. With a seating capacity of 100,024, MCG is largest cricket ground by capacity. I have always been awestruck by the four layered seating arrangement of the MCG and that is what makes the stadium so special to me.

The Great Southern Stand - and the four layered seats!
We were slightly disappointed that the turf was being converted into an Australian Rules football turf for the AFL season that kicked off just the previous day. It would have been greater to see the ground with the cricket pitch, but still it was magnificent. After a couple of photographs for later memory, we were taken across multiple facilities across the four levels. Since, I will run into multiple pages if I describe about all of them, I am writing some of the significant ones.

While this is the home ground of the legendary Sir Donald Bradman, the MCC has made lot of credits to WH Ponsford who was overshadowed by Bradman during his hey days. This includes the stand named after him. There was names of all the players who has played for Victorian state (the state were Melbourne is located). The Home and Visitor change rooms has names of all players who has scored centuries or taken a fifer here. Bradman has scored 9 centuries here and our guide being a big fan of Bradman was going mad about it. They had pictures/photos of all the Australian teams that had travelled to England starting from the 19th century. All the statistics, pictures, photographs, artworks had to do with Test Cricket. I guess MCC recognizes only that as pure cricket.
A plaque in memory of WH Ponsford
There were lot of special amenities for the MCC members including a fine dine restaurant and a great view of the ground from the Long Hall (made in similar lines with the Lords, except that batsmen don’t walk through this one). Another special feature about the ground was the library, which our guide told is one of the best sports libraries you would come across. Anyone is free to walk in here on Weekdays and refer to the books. They have a copy of Wisden from 1916 (due to World War only one of them was published and is worth millions in value in today) and the first dictionary that had reference to cricket back in the 1600s. Of course, these are locked and are there only for display.
The Long Hall!
It was interesting to see the olden day steel benches on display and our guide was saying that with cushioned seats the facilities for spectators has very much improved. A century back, spectators were supposed to stand and watch the match in the searing heat. The ground had hosted both 1956 Olympics and 2006 Commonwealth games. There were multiple plaques and arts in memories of those events. There were lot of artworks made specifically for the 150th year of the ground.
Those ancient Steel benches!
Three stand out features to me – the ground was very accessible from the city – there was a train and tram station just outside. From city center, we were able to walk without any traffic interference. And the second one was that the entire stadium was friendly to physically challenged people including special seats for them across the stands. The final one is that they have captured and displayed the entire history of cricket in the ground and evoke strong memories out of it!
A view from the one of the ground's balconies - From Left( Practice Tennis Court, Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne Skyline including Eureka Skydeck, St Paul's Cathedral) and Train/Tram tracks just beside the stadium
Soaked in the history for the entire duration, it was time for us to come back to real world and rush to catch our flights back home… The G will always have a special place in my heart!


Happy Reading!!!

5 comments:

  1. Nice article on your first visit to a cricket stadium :)

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  2. Good one...It's awesome and imaginative..Both "the G" and your narration..

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  3. While I was reading ...I felt like I am on the tour as well... Very well written blog !!! :)

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