From left: Sir Len Hutton, Geoff Boycott and Sir Herbert Sutcliffe © Getty Images
From left: Sir Len Hutton, Geoff Boycott and Sir Herbert Sutcliffe © Getty Images

The Headingley Lodge combines cricket, history and hospitality in an unique manner. Arunabha Sengupta looks at how the cricket lover‘s dream hotel converts itself into a collection of hospitality boxes during the International matches.

As a hotel, the Headingley Lodge is one of a kind, a dream accommodation for the cricket connoisseur.

Situated within the stadium campus in the new East Stand, it houses 36 rooms offering spectacular views of the ground. One can wake up in the morning, in rooms named after Len Hutton or Brian Close or Herbert Sutcliffe or Geoff Boycott. Yorkshire knows how to honour their past greats. And on getting out of bed, one can open the curtains to find the sun shining in full glory on the historic pitch.

It was here that Don Bradman stamped his authority on England with 334 in 1930, 309 of them on the first day. There were 105 before lunch, 119 in the afternoon and a quiet 89 after tea. He returned to score 304 in 1934, a magnificent match-winning 103 in 1938, before signing off with 173 not out as Australia chased down 404 on his final appearance in 1948.

It was here that Ian Botham performed his mesmerising magic in 1981 and England triumphed after following on. It was here that Freddie Trueman reduced India to zero for four with his fiery, frightening fast bowling in 1952. It was here that Dilip Vengsarkar single-handedly vanquished the Englishmen in 1986, hitting 61 and 102* in nightmarish conditions even as the next best score in all the match was 36. And it was here that the Indians batted on in murky light on their way to a famous series squaring victory in 2002.

Pages of history seem to flit by in front of one’s eyes, like a flicker book caressed by a cricket loving thumb, as one stares at the ground from his window, savouring his continental breakfast on bed.

One can even watch county games from the room, perhaps enjoying a cup of tea. Or one can sit propped on his bed, lazing on the stacked up pillows, the newspaper idly resting in his hand, while Joe Root and Gary Ballance bat in the middle.

As I have said, Headingley Lodge is without parallel.

There is the Red Rose version of it in the form of the Old Trafford Lodge, situated in the hallowed cricket ground of Manchester, but that establishment does not boast half the ambience.

For one thing, half the rooms at the Old Trafford Lodge look at the Talbot Road, with the occasional passing cars and the corporate parking lots forming the sole, incredibly dull and depressing view. Last time I was there, I had been informed that a corporate booking was required for the pleasure of waking up while looking at the ground. I wonder how many corporate eyes will turn rheumy with nostalgia at the sight of the ground where the Archie MacLarens and Brian Stathams strode about performing their magnificent deeds.

Besides, unlike their Roses rivals, the Lancashire hotel has little in the way of historical charm. A giant coloured photograph of Andrew Flintoff is all that they offer in terms of the past of the club while we meet the spirit and soul of venerable Yorkshire greats at every step at the Headingley Lodge.

Coming back to the lodge at the home of the White Rose, one may wonder why I restricted myself to county games when talking about the pleasure of watching live cricket from the cosy comfort of the bed. No, Test matches and One Day Internationals cannot be viewed that way. The Yorkshiremen take their cricket seriously, and also have sound business sense.

On the evening before a scheduled Test match or One Day International, a couple of giant trucks drive to the gates of the hotel and a group of uniformed and extremely efficient workmen disembark. The next hour is spent in removing the mattresses from the 36 rooms, and refurnishing them with cushioned balcony seats, metamorphosing them into private hospitality boxes.

Each room, converted into a private box, accommodates 12 guests. For the customers, there is breakfast on arrival, and as the day wears on a three course lunch followed by afternoon tea. There is of course the private toilet and bath, as well as a fully complimentary bar. These boxes are currently rented out at £4000 + VAT for each day of a big game.

The idea is nothing new. Back in the old, old days, when Bradman had arrived in England for the first time, and had hit that 334 at Headingley, the hysteria surrounding the fifth Test match at The Oval had been almost insane. One man had hired a window of a house near the stadium just to watch the Australians practice. He had been regaled by the sight of Vic Richardson batting in a bowler hat.

One landlady, with a big room overlooking the ground with three windows, had provided accommodation to 40 persons during the Test match and had set a price of two shillings and sixpence per day. She had claimed to have made profits over £150 during that Test.

Now, at the Headingley Lodge, this concept is taken to its modern day logical conclusion. The hotel rooms cannot be booked for stay during the days of International matches. The guests of the private hospitality boxes enjoy excellent atmosphere during the matches, getting their full money’s worth.

And after the conclusion of the match, in the wee hours of the morning, those huge trucks appear again with the stream of uniformed workers. And soon out pop the mattresses and are taken up to all the 36 rooms. The chairs and the cushioned balcony seats are carried away until the next international match.

By the time the first guest arrives to check in at 3:00pm, the Lodge is back to its usual form of a dream hotel for the cricket lover.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twiter.com/senantix)