The age old game of cricket is hugely popular. After originally being played in the southern parts of England in the 16th Century, the game went on to become the national sport by the end of the 18th Century. The game went international following England’s imperialistic ambitions and by the mid-19th Century the first international game had been played.
Besides Britain, cricket has a huge presence in Southern Africa, the Indian subcontinent, the West Indies and Australasia.
Cricket is a sport that is east and west, north and south, white and black, and Christian and Muslim. It is a game that crosses all social divides, which all sport should. But the best thing about the diversity and multiculturalism of cricket is that it is a fantastic way to see the world. Flying over to Trinidad to watch a cricket match would certainly be an experience, as would taking up the polarising nature of Pakistan capital Islamabad.
Following a sport side around the world is a fantastic thing to do. Not only do you get to see your team in action, you get to see the world with like-minded people. And best of all, if you come from Britain, then having some time in the sun is always a welcome luxury.
So, let’s get down to the stadia itself. Below are four of the definitive cricket stadiums you should visit.
Lords – England
Considering it is regarded as the “Home of Cricket”, you couldn’t legitimately call yourself a cricket fan if you did not want to visit the stadium.
The London ground serves as the home of Middlesex and can also lay claim to being the de facto home ground of the England national side. Last year was the 200th birthday of the stadium. It was a birthday bash that was marked by Brett Lee breaking Shane Warne’s hand with an errant beamer.
With 200 years of history, Lord’s can very rightly call itself a sporting institute. It is a stadium that teems with history. It was here that the legendary Don Bradman had his finest hour and the first World Cup was won by the mercurial West Indies side who ruled cricket in the 1970s. Memories like this deserve a good home and at Lord’s the museum they are housed in is practically just as much of a memory as the moments they store there. Lord’s has the oldest sports museum in the world.
As stadiums go, it is rather on the small side with just a 28,000 capacity. However, the MCC have sought to rectify this, unveiling a £200m redevelopment to make Lord’s the best cricket ground in the world. Considering how strongly attached England cricket fans are to the stadium, it will have to be a very precise and subtle redevelopment or otherwise it will be despised.
Lord’s is very much the embodiment of the grandeur we came to expect with the Georgian era. The pavilion is one of imperial opulence. It is a shame that the cricket that is currently being played there is sub-par. Indeed, it looks like it could be even more painful this summer, with arch-rivals Australia coming over to compete in the Ashes. In the cricket betting with betfair, Australia are 10/11 and England are 6/4 as of mid-February 2015.
Melbourne Cricket Ground – Australia
“Anything England can do we can do better” – that is very much the Australian philosophy when it comes to their sporting rivalry.
It is in the cricket arena where the rivalry truly intensifies and a trip to the Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) is something that all true cricket fans want to experience.
There are no other cricket grounds that can compare to the MCG in terms of size. The place is gigantic. The ground, which is often referred to as the “spiritual home of Australian sport”, can house more than 100,000 fans. That is 25,000 more than the nearest rival cricket ground.
The MCG has been standing since 1854 and is effectively the Lord’s of Down Under. Whereas Lords has the greater history, the MCG has the greater atmosphere. If we take capacity away from the question, the MCG is three times the size of Lord’s, it is still the MCG that comes out on top. The reason is that Australians are the most vociferous of supporters and will back their team to the hilt. It is very easy to find yourself distracted from the action on the pitch due to the sheer volume of the supporters. You would think that this vocal din would start to drain you. But that is not the case. Thanks to Australians arguably being the most fun people on the planet, the chants and the general banter is just too amusing for it to start grating.
Melbourne as a city is practically party central. It was once the sporting city of the world, which is a distinction now held by London, so for any fan of sports it should be considered as a getaway. If you are a cricket fan and have the money to travel to the other side of the world, then you should. There’s cricket and then there is cricket at the MCG.
Queen’s Park Oval – Trinidad and Tobago
The Caribbean is one of the more beautiful parts of the world. The crystal clear water stunningly contrasts with the hot, white sand and both come together to form a perfect semblance with the cloudless sky.
Thankfully, the Queen’s Park Oval suits its idyllic surroundings. Many cricket critics call the stadium the most picturesque in the international game. When you see the stadium, it is not hard to see why.
Taking the common oval design, Queen’s Park is not that innovative. In fact, you could make the case that it is one of the most primitive of cricket stadiums. But, who cares about amenities and infrastructure when you have a stadium just so jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Here is a stadium that is at peace with nature. The two have been part of an alliance for some time and it is doubtful that it will end anytime soon.
Eden Gardens – India
This concrete stadium in Calcutta is by far the ugliest ground on the list. When the stadium is empty, all you can see are tired and mundane seating. However, if there is a game in full flow, then it will be the most colourful stadium your eyes would ever have had the pleasure of seeing.
Indians are nuts about their cricket and as such create a carnival-like atmosphere at every game. The Calcutta natives are a rambunctious bunch.
Where else in cricket do you have flares, fires on the terraces and riot police? Eden Gardens is a bubbling cauldron which provides a unique and wholly immersive experience.