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Millennium Post

On a nostalgic trip

Visiting MCG and SCG can turn any composed adult into a squeaky child whose enthusiasm has swerved well beyond the boundary

I recently returned from a trip Down Under to Australia and New Zealand. Initially hesitant, my brother's insistence, encouragement and diligent efforts convinced me to hop on the tour. My nephew, his wife and son, who now live in Australia, were more than eager to host us. My children and grandchildren were also overjoyed at my decision to go.

I am an avid sports lover. In my youth, I had spent significant time watching and playing various forms of sports. Though I primarily played Table Tennis and Badminton, I did enjoy cricket as well. Now, I enjoy watching cricket the most, no matter its format – one day, T20 or test match.

When we landed in Sydney, the first thought that crossed my mind was that I have now reached the land of Sir Don Bradman! And, naturally, my first enquiry to our cabbie and my nephew was – "Where is the Sydney Cricket Ground!" My nephew reminded us that we will be staying in Sydney primarily but we will take a trip to Melbourne in the following week. I immediately thought, "Ah MCG – I shall step on the ground where history has been made."

Australia is a land of opulence and magnitude. The country is spotless and the Darling Harbour indeed transcends description, buzzing with activity while standing captivating in its grandeur. The road sides have an abundance of bars and eateries in this land of plenty. There was a sharp chill in the air at this time of the year but the warmth of being with loved ones and having our little grandson as our tour guide along the Parramatta river, was indeed enough to counter the cold.

We visited Melbourne in the coming week and stayed in a service apartment. It was indeed gratifying to see the four light posts of the legendary Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) – to my delight, MCG was visible from where we stayed beside the Yarra river. On the next day, we took a conducted tour to MCG. The chills that I felt when I stepped on the emerald green grass of MCG is tough to depict in language. It was a strange kind of thrill! It was overwhelming to touch the annals of cricket history made there. I was now a part of all the unforgettable moments that have played out on this ground. It was a sublime experience of looking back on the visuals of unforgettable moments crafted by legendary players that are etched in my mind forever, alongside the present that is proudly carrying that history forward.

MCG is spectacular indeed. I was inadvertently looking for memories of Sir Don Bradman. However, there wasn't much except a stand dedicated to him, a bat used by him, some pictures and mementos. This absence, I realised, could be because Melbourne is under the state of Victoria and Sydney is under New South Wales. And, I guess, in Melbourne, players hailing from Victoria would gain more prominence. Sir Don, of course, in my mind, is an exception that transcends all boundaries. MCG is a magnificent well organised structure. It was also pleasant to see the multitude of well-stocked bars in the ground; I have not seen such a set-up in any cricket ground in India.

I saw just two statues of cricketers on the ground; one belonged to Dennis Lillee and the other was of Shane Warne. I saw no other statue though there were several photographs and memorabilia. There was the legendary picture of Sir Don meeting our own cricket maestro Sachin Tendulkar. Sachin had gone to meet Sir Don to fulfill his desire of meeting him.

On a wall, exceptional feats performed by some cricketers were engraved – such as 300 runs by Bob Cowper, 250 runs by Alastair Cook of England, 9 or 10 wickets taken by Sarfaraz Nawaz of Pakistan and so on. The craftsmanship of the statues was also a marvel! It seemed that the players were frozen in their bowling action. In fact, Dennis Lillee seemed to be balanced on his toe ready to pitch the ball in his signature style with his left foot forward. What was disappointing was the lack of awareness about some greats. The person who was conducting the tour was oblivious about Richie Benaud's contribution as a player and dismissed him as just a commentator!

The tour guide then took us right up to the boundary line of the cricket ground. This was a thrilling experience indeed to stand on the field at the boundary which has witnessed such uncountable marvelous knocks. The tour was quite strenuous but the excitement kept me going. We were then taken up to the fourth tier of the stadium using escalators and elevators. We visited the players' changing rooms, gym etc., which are all maintained with precision and care. When we were returning to our apartment, the cab driver asked us where we had been. On hearing that we had been to MCG, he was overjoyed and said that someone from India or Pakistan had told him that MCG is the Mecca of cricket. I don't agree with this; for me, Lords remains the Mecca of cricket. Nevertheless, visiting MCG was an exhilarating experience.

Two weeks after this, we went to the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG). It has around 40 per cent less capacity than MCG and is much smaller – but the ground is magnificent in its own right. Also, SCG seemed more compact, better organised and evoked more nostalgia as the structure was deeply reminiscent of colonial architecture and Victorian style left behind by the British in Calcutta; this was particularly noticeable in the members' stand which brings an old world charm.

The facilities in SCG seemed even better planned, especially the changing rooms, gym and other amenities. We were taken for a conducted tour right from the ground boundary line to the upper tiers of the structure. Here, it was somewhat salvaging to see a huge statue of Richie Benaud with his shirt unbuttoned halfway in his usual style while bowling leg break deliveries. There was also a statue of Steve Waugh. However, even here, there was no statue of Bradman. Maybe there is one in Adelaide, I told myself. In fact I told myself that even if his statue isn't there, his aura, reverence for him, and his legend pervades every cricket lovers' mind. He played for New South Wales and had scored 400 plus runs against Victoria. There is a chair dedicated to Sir Don. There was his gloves and bat as memorabilia. There were also objects used by cricketers from India. There were gloves used by Ravi Shastri, a bat signed by Sunil Gavaskar.

Overall, the experience of touring SCG was more memorable as it lent more historical evocations. This is not to belittle MCG is any way. Both were life time experiences to cherish forever. During the conducted tours of both grounds, a few names of famous Australian cricketers came to my mind like Lindwall, Miller who I have not seen playing and others like Davidson, Harvey, O'Neil and the like, who I have seen in action. I don't recall seeing any mementos of these greats either.

I wish to sign off with an indelible memory created in SCG. I met with an accident during the SCG tour, falling straight on my face – it could have been hazardous but I got away with some bruises and a broken front tooth. Every time I watch a match at SCG, I will now remember the tiny bit of me I have left behind there on the grounds.

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