Cricket World Cup: For the first time in 232 years, MCC hosts 250 school children at Lord’s Pavilion
The MCC invited local school children to watch Bangladesh vs Pakistan in the Lord's Pavilion. (Image: Twitter/@HomeOfCricket)

LONDON: Faced with the prospect of Lord’s hosting match 43 of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 between Bangladesh and Pakistan with many empty seats, The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) did what it has not done in 232 years – invite 250 local school children to Friday’s match at the spiritual home of cricket and sit in the prestigious and privileged Lord’s Pavilion.

The MCC, the owner of the Lord’s ground and the guardians of the laws of cricket, has been in existence since 1787 and has been extremely rigid with its allowance of spectators into the hallowed venue. As per the MCC’s setup, anyone who wants to watch a cricket match from the Lord’s Pavilion must obtain signatures of four full members of the club, of which one must be on a committee. Thereafter, they must join a 28-year waiting list.

But once it emerged that this group stage match between eliminated Bangladesh and Pakistan, who needed a miracle to quality for the World Cup semi-finals, had next to no relevance, was not going to be sold out, the MCC’s chief executive Guy Lavender was prompted to email the club’s wide network of members, asking them to help save the image of Lord’s.

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As per reports in the UK media, Lavender’s email to MCC members implored them to buy tickets for the Bangladesh vs Pakistan match to avoid “damaging” visuals of empty seats the iconic venue, after it was revealed that tickets purchased by MCC patrons were “very low”.

“Members may recall the ICC Women’s World Cup Final in 2017, when unfavourable comparisons were made between the number of Members in the Pavilion and full stands in the rest of the Ground. This is damaging to MCC’s global reputation and the Committee is determined to avoid a repetition of these images on Friday,” is what the memo to MCC members read, according to The Telegraph.

Thus, the MCC opened its door for 250 school children from Westminster “under the strict supervision of their teachers and our community staff” on Friday, giving the youngsters a chance to watch a World Cup cricket match and make history.

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The MCC also has a number of overseas cricket and sporting clubs with reciprocal rights, such as the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Cricket Club of India in Mumbai, Hong Kong Cricket Club, Singapore Cricket Club and Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club, apart from 18 major English counties. These clubs offer extensive use of all facilities to MCC Full members who travel to the above mentioned cities for a maximum of three months at a time.

However, since the World Cup is an ICC event, MCC members have to purchase Pavilion tickets valued at £45 for matches at Lord’s. This is in order for the MCC to recover costs paid to the ICC. The hallowed venue has been allotted four group stage matches and the World Cup final on July 14, and the first three matches here – Pakistan vs South Africa, England vs Australia and Australia vs New Zealand – each attracted large crowds.

This reporter was in attendance at all three matches at Lord’s, but a far lower turnout was evident on Friday when Pakistan played Bangladesh.

One MCC member who CricketCountry spoke to during the match at Lord’s on Friday said that to him, personally, it did not matter much to pay £45 for this fixture and that the opportunity for 250 students to watch a match at the historic venue was something that should be encouraged. Another MCC member was of the view that saving face of the club and venue was important, and that the move to invite these children was the right one.

The children were seen enjoying themselves inside the Lord’s Pavilion on Friday, while elsewhere the MCC custodians must be looking rather relieved.