Home / Sports / Cricket / MCC ‘rebels’ fight to retain legacy of Lord’s

MCC ‘rebels’ fight to retain legacy of Lord’s

Special meeting today on heritage varsity matches
Mansur Ali Khan ‘Tiger’ Pataudi, playing for Oxford in 1963
Mansur Ali Khan ‘Tiger’ Pataudi, playing for Oxford in 1963
Sourced by The Telegraph

Amit Roy   |   London   |   Published 27.09.22, 03:32 AM

The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) has been forced to convene a special general meeting on Tuesday (September 27) at which an attempt will be made by rebel members to reinstate the annual Oxford vs Cambridge and Eton vs Harrow fixtures at Lord’s.

The origins of these matches, once important dates in the London social calendar, go back to 1827 and 1805 respectively.


But in February, the MCC committee, which runs Lord’s, angered many of its members by announcing these fixtures would be cancelled and 2022 would be the last time they would be played.

The reason given was that the committee wanted to “broaden the fixture list” by encouraging a “greater diversity” of teams. It argued that “it was no longer sustainable to use two days’ cricket on the Main Ground to stage, on an annual basis, the same four institutions”.

What the MCC committee did not anticipate was a furious backlash from its own members, 212 of whom have formed a group and tabled a resolution calling for the reinstatement of the cancelled fixtures: “It is resolved that Members do not agree with the MCC Committee’s decision-making, namely in that it failed to consult the membership before reaching its decision that the fixtures will no longer be played at Lord’s. Furthermore, the decision does not accord with the views of the membership or reflect that Lord’s should be the venue for these traditional and historic fixtures. The Members request that these fixtures be reinstated.”

The former England captain, David Gower, 65, who did not go to Oxbridge or either Eton or Harrow, is batting for the rebels. He has threatened to resign from the MCC over its “bonkers” decision.

“I acknowledge MCC’s plans about inclusivity but history is one of the key elements at Lord’s and the traditional matches, as well as new competitions, should be included,” he said. “It is perfectly feasible to play both and that is the view of people, groundstaff, who have looked after the ground.”

Another leading rebel is former BBC commentator Henry Blofeld, an Old Etonian, who has also threatened to quit the MCC, said: “I’ve always loved the MCC. To play cricket implies honesty and loyalty and the committee should be the epitome of everything cricket stands for. I do feel for the first time that the club is not coming clean and is going behind my back. Dropping these two fixtures has been done in an underhand way without consulting the members. There is a nasty taste to this.”

Over the decades, many Indians — from Prince Ranjitsinhji and his nephew Duleepsinhji to the Nawabs of Pataudi, father and son — have won “Blues” (dark Blue for Oxford, light for Cambridge) by playing for either university.

Indians who represented Oxford and progressed to playing Test cricket for India include: Abbas Ali Baig (10 Tests); RV Divecha (5); AH Hafeez (he called himself Hafeez Kardar when he played for Pakistan) (3); Iftikhar Ali Khan Siddiqui, the 8th Nawab of Pataudi (3); and his son, Mansur Ali Khan (“Tiger”), the 9th Nawab of Pataudi (46).

The 8th Nawab scored 106 in the first innings and 84 in the second in the drawn 1929 Varsity match but made history in 1931 when Oxford won by 8 wickets. He scored a record 238 not out.

In the drawn Varsity match at Lord’s in 1960, Tiger Pataudi hit 131 in the first innings.

Jahangir Khan played for Cambridge and 4 Tests for India.

MCC members in India can take part in Tuesday’s special general meeting which will be held online and begin at 6pm (10.30pm IST). They can vote either by ballot paper or online but the deadline is 12noon (4.30pm IST) on Monday, October 3.

The MCC committee chairman, Bruce Carnegie-Brown, 62, who took up the role in September last year, will probably have to resign if he loses the crunch vote.

He has written to all 23,000 members: “I hope you will support the committee by voting AGAINST the resolution. The outcome of this meeting will have an impact on the club’s ability to deliver our cricket strategy and the credibility of MCC as a leading voice in making the game we all love, a game for all.”

He has set out his side of the argument: “Lord’s should be a ground for all, focusing on excellence not privilege.”

But he also had to enclose a document from the rebels, signed by Michael Hall, “on behalf of The Committee for the Reinstatement of The Historic Fixtures at Lord’s”.

He said: “In our opinion the MCC Committee’s decision to remove the Historic Fixtures not only trampled over the history and traditions of Lord’s, but by failing to consult and engage with members beforehand, it was also arbitrary, undemocratic and hence disrespectful to all members. This disrespect was further to be seen in the attitude of the Club’s Chairman towards older members, with his comment about colostomy bags at this year’s AGM.”

Carnegie-Brown had been disciplined after joking about members that “they are taking an age to empty their colostomy bags” during a break at the Lord’s meeting on May 4. The remark was picked up by the microphones, which had been turned back on in preparation for the meeting re-starting.

Letters in newspapers appear to be mostly in favour of the rebels.

One in the Daily Telegraph pointed out: “Cricket should be for everyone and I’m sure that you’ll be aware that some of India’s and Pakistan’s greatest cricketers did not enjoy a private education. However, what makes playing at Lord’s so great in the sense of history and if you remove that, then playing on the hallowed ground will cease to have its appeal. I sincerely hope that the rebel group succeed and that the MCC committee are forced to backtrack!”

Another drew a comparison with the Queen’s funeral: “As we saw on Monday, tradition and mystique can unify, too.”

Copyright © 2020 The Telegraph. All rights reserved.