World Cup diary: From historic Lord’s to a one-room Worcester pub, English museums honour cricket’s journey
The Warwickshire County Cricket Club Museum at Edgbaston. (Image: Jamie Alter)

LONDON: Cricket museums in England are a tribute to the fabric of county cricket, and to be able to tuck into them while covering the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 across the country is a treat.

Housed in cricket grounds, these little museums, run mostly by unpaid volunteers and with help from charitable trusts, honour history and tradition in a manner of dedication, love and fastidious detail which makes visiting them an experience. In sepia-toned nostalgia, these cricket museums take you down the years, educate and entertain, and offer you the opportunity to chat with new faces.

Sharing space inside the Somerset County Cricket Ground in Taunton is the Somerset Cricket Museum, a small yet well-stocked exhibition of Somerset’s cricket history, and also the only place in England with a section dedicated to England women’s cricket team. This is also because Taunton’s County Ground is their headquarters since 2006.

David Wood, the custodian of the museum and secretary of the Somerset board, proudly displays the section on the upper level of the museum where memorabilia and a history of women’s cricket in England is showcased. “Only one in the country,” he says.

Somerset Cricket Museum
The history of women’s cricket is celebrated at the Somerset Cricket Museum. (Image: Jamie Alter)

The museum, housed 15th century stone barn, is the last remaining structure of Taunton Priory, established in 1120, estimates Wood, and dissolved in 1539 by Henry VIII. Wood points to the original stone walls and then to the boundary of the museum and the County Ground.

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In 1980, the newly established Somerset Cricket Museum purchased the property and began to reconstruct the original building. In 2010, major legacy funding helped completely renovate the museum.

Run by volunteers – unpaid, underlines Wood in his soft-spoken tone – the museum houses lovely pieces of memorabilia of some of Somerset cricket’s legends: Marcus Trescothick, the local hero, and of course Ian Botham, Viv Richards and Joel Garner.

There is also a display covering I Zingari, a cricket club formed in 1843 and one of the oldest wandering clubs in the world.

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Nestled under one of the stands at the Edgbaston Cricket Ground in Birmingham is the Warwickshire County Cricket Club Museum. It is not as refurbished like its cousin in Taunton, and hence has the feel of an old library.

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Its backstory is interesting, and speaks of the dedication and perseverance of those who run it. In the winter of 2011, three cricket lovers got together, with just £150 between them, and in less than a month turned what was essentially a storage room into a remarkable collection of cricket memorabilia and artefacts.

Warwickshire CCC Museum
A collection of autographed bats over the decades, collected at the Warwickshire CCC Museum at Edgbaston. (Image: Jamie Alter)

Inside the two-room space is pretty much everything about Warwickshire cricket. There are photos of countless cricketers to have played for the county, both domestic and international: WG Grace, Brian Lara, Shane Warne, Nick Knight, Bob Willis, Eric Hollies, Frank Foster, Michael Smith, Norman Gifford, Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott and Alvin Kallicharan to name a few.

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The selection of photographs in the museum range from the 1890s to today. There is also a tiny library, with hundreds of books on cricket.

The museum is a veritable treasure trove of memorabilia. Anything from blazers, bats, helmets, ties, spoons, scrapbooks, match reports, books, almanacs and commemorative plates and plaques. There is an oil canvas painting of Lara, who famously rewrote the history books in 1994 when he scored 501 not out for Warwickshire against Durham. Two of Kallicharan’s West Indies blazers and caps are proudly hung up as he you enter the museum.

Brian Lara Warwickshire
An oil canvas of Brian Lara, who scored 501* for Warwickshire. (Image: Jamie Alter)

A bat signed by the 1934 touring Australia team rests among the many autographed pieces of prized English willow. The cricket ball used when Sydney Santall took his 1000th first-class wicket in August 1909, getting one WL Foster of Worcestershire lbw to claim the landmark.There is even a section dedicated to a local umpire, as one of the WCCC custodians, Steven Sheen, points out.

Steven them draws your attention to an arm guard, but not one worn by a batsman. It is brown, the leather looking almost wood-like with age. It has a connection with the great WG Grace, perhaps the most famous cricketer from England. In 1902, a local fast bowler, E Warden, bowled Grace twice in a match. Prone to tantrums, Grace complained about Warden’s action and the bowler was subsequently forced to wear an arm brace.

The grandson of that same fast bowler, once contacted by Steven, graciously donated the arm brace to the Warwickshire museum. So quick was Warden, according to legend, that the captain of the 1902 Australian team termed him the quickest he’d ever seen.

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And then there is the most famous cricket museum of all, the one at Lord’s, which boasts an array of memorabilia.

Here you can find artefacts from every decade of the sport. There are bats, balls, bails, jackets, letters, diaries, reports, sweaters, batting gloves, batting pads, wicketkeeping gloves, cleats, and flannels. A 1947 letter the MCC touring team to Australia, with Wally Hammond as captain, regarding the 1946-47 tour fixtures; Viv Richards’ passport from 1970; one of Adam Gilchrist’s autographed wicketkeeping pads; Matthew Hayden’s Mongoose bat; one of Sourav Ganguly’s NatWest jerseys. A stuffed sparrow killed when it was hit by a cricket ball on July 3, 1936 when one TN Pearce of the MCC played a fierce shot of Cambridge University’s Jehangir Khan. The same ball is here, too.

There is a letter from the BCCI to Sachin Tendulkar, dated December 31, 2003 informing the Indian cricket legend that he had been selected to represent India for a tri-series involving Australia and Zimbabwe after being passed fit by then coach John Wright, team manager Shivlal Yadav, team physiotherapist Andrew Leipus and team physical trainer Greg King.

BCCI letter to Sachin Tendulkar
A letter to Sachin Tendulkar from the BCCI in December 2003. (Image: Jamie Alter)

In it, one line stands out: “Your tour fee will be advised to you shortly. You will be paid Daily Allowance in Australia Dollars equivalent to USD 50 (Fifty only) during your tour period in Australia for the Triangular ODI series.”

The history of cricket, from the village version to T20, is chronicled inside the Lord’s museum, with memorabilia from each era. There are souvenirs from the first T20 trophy in England, as well as the IPL and BPL.  There is a section on the Lord’s media centre history and a wall on reporting, scoring, broadcasting at the venue from 1787 to 2017. There’s space on the MCC photography of the year awards. The Under-19 World Cup Trophy rests here, among several other pieces of silverware.

Viv Richards maroon cap
Viv Richards’ maroon West Indies cap and a copy of an old passport. (Image: Jamie Alter)

There is a section on the rules of cricket and, very interestingly, a room dedicated to the history of cricket games, ranging from table and board games to trading cards and video games. There is a display of miniature figures and other accessories from decades ago, when collecting as a hobby became popular after World War II, the same time as the consumer boom. A company called Subbuteo, at this time, developed a variety of ‘extras’ that could be bought by cricket enthusiasts, such as scoreboards and boundary fences and Australian baggy greens and West Indies maroon caps.

The display continues through the decades. From the 1950s, there’s one called ‘He’s Out!’ with the tagline ‘The new “Test Match” game’; from the late 1970s, a game simply titled Cricket Card Game; from the mid-80s, there is ‘Top Trumps’ and ‘British Cricketers’; a card and dice game from 1991 called ‘Clashes for the Ashes’.

Subbuteo Test Match Edition
‘Test Match Edition’ – a game from Subbuteo in the 1950s. (Image: Jamie Alter)

Then, there’s a brief history of cricket video games. In 1982, the ZX Spectrum 48K, designed by Sinclair Research Ltd, which was founded in 1940 by British inventor, mathematician and entrepreneur Sir Clive Sinclair. The Sinclair ZX80 was the UK’s first mass market home computer to cost under 100 pounds, and available by mail-order. Not long after, the ZX Spectrum 48K was released, which featured sound and colour.

Ian Botham's Test Match computer game
Original cassettes of cricket computer games from the 1980s, titled ‘Ian Botham’s Test Match’ and ‘County Cricket’. (Image: Jamie Alter)

It was this game that changed the phenomenon of computer games in the UK, apparently. Original cassettes of two popular cricket games from the 1980s are on view inside the Lord’s museum, one titled, simply, ‘Ian Botham’s Test Match’ (1985) and ‘County Cricket’ (1989).

North American electronics manufacturer Commodore International Ltd, founded by a former US army officer and entrepreneur, in 1982 developed the world’s best-selling desktop computer, the Commodore 64. In 1985, Commodore released the Amiga computer which was the first multimedia personal computer. Amiga later created cricket computer games such as World Cricket (1991) and Graham Gooch World Class Cricket (1993), and a floppy disk of each of the originals are on view inside the Lord’s museum.

At the turn of the century, the Sony PlayStation range included Cricket 2000, a CD of which is also here at Lord’s.

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I have long wanted to visit New Road, arguably the most scenic little cricket ground in England. Pictures of the ground, with the church steeple in the background on pretty summer afternoons, as well as fully submerged due to flooding, are imprinted in memory. Less than an hour’s train ride from Birmingham is Worcester, where the home ground for Worcestershire County Cricket Club has been in existence since 1896.

basil d'oliveira worcestershire
The wall dedicated to Basil D’Oliveira at New Road. (Image: Jamie Alter)

New Road is as pretty as I picture it to be, the white picket fences all around the ground and the cathedral looming behind it. There is no match on the day I visit, and no security to ask me where I am headed. I walk around the ground and stop at a wall beneath the Basil D’Oliveira Stand. The South African cricketing icon, who became a symbol of the fight against apartheid, played for Worcestershire between 1964 and 1980 and represented England in 44 Test matches.

There is a section of the red-bricked wall dedicated to D’Oliveira, and also to Worcestershire’s most famous cricketers as well as each one to have represented the county. Among the 17 Indian-born cricketers among this long list are Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi, Kapil Dev, Zaheer Khan and R Ashwin. Another name that stands is out is WHN Shakespeare, player number 99 at Worcestershire CCC.

Zaheer Khan Worcestershire
Zaheer Khan – the 436th cricketer to play for Worcestershire. (Image: Jamie Alter)

A five minute walk from New Road is The Cricketers pub, in the city centre of Worcester, on the ground level of a building from the 1600s.

The India vs England match at Edgbaston is on four TV sets in the pub, and a handful of people are watching. The bartender tells me that The Cricketers is where the likes of Ian Botham, Graeme Hick – the most famous of all Worcestershire cricketers – and Graham Dilley used to frequent in their playing days.

It is a small pub, which houses a quaint little museum on the first floor dedicated to the history of Worcestershire cricket. Inside the one-room museum is a good collection of bats, jerseys, jerseys, books, magazine, almanacks, photographs and other memorabilia down the years.

the cricketers pub worcester museum
The one-room museum above The Cricketers pub in Worcester. (Image: Jamie Alter)

The bartender tells me that a few retired cricketers who lives on Worcester occasionally drop in, and that they are among the generous donors to the upstairs museum.