A burly figure walked in the rain to the pitch wrapped under covers and began to shovel the water away. It seemed like a mindless exercise since it was raining buckets. Mick Hunt is the head groundsman of Lord’s and this is his last game. After 48 years of tending to the most famous cricket greens in the worlds, Hunt is retiring. In 2008, he was diagnosed with cancer in the kidney and bladder, and had two tumours removed. A little bit of rain wasn’t going to upset him or make it a wet farewell. The other men in his team would watch him from afar, from the campervan-like vehicle outside the fence. Now and then, one or two would join him. The rain persisted whole day, though.
Last time India played a Test here, a mini-monsoon of sorts had pelted down, an inch of rain in less than an hour. The light was sucked out of the sky, Lord’s plunging into darkness. The street lights had to be switched on. Even as people left thinking there won’t be match, Hunt had the game up and running in a hour after rain stopped. The drainage system can drain two inches of rain in a hour here and at the end of the game, the two captains signed a photograph of the ground at its worst and gave it to Hunt. He had no such luck here. It wasn’t heavy rain but it just kept nagging down.
By noon, one realised that this was going to get tricky and you wandered around the arena. People were still thronging the bars dotted around the periphery. It was cold, it was wet but the beers kept flowing. Champagne too but “no glasses, just bottles and it costs 78 pounds,” says a lady. You walked on. There is a queue to get into the Lord’s museum. Not fashionable to say, but it’s sort of underwhelming. Some of the objects there are interesting of course: diary scribbled by cricketers on tours in the 1880’s, and this and that. An old pad from that era, an abdomen guard that looked like a chest-armour, the trophy that Kapil’s Devils lifted here in 1983. At some point, you run into Michael Holding and the local television actually shows the moment he got out, and he laughs. Was it complacency, you ask him? And he says, “oh yes, absoloutely.” It’s not all old artefacts in the museum. Even Virat Kohli’s shoes from 2012 tour are there. And when you ask Kohli about it, he seems rather surprised. “Shoes? My shoes? I have no idea when I gave.”
Overall, it must be said that Lord’s doesn’t quite hold up to all the hype. The stands look as if they have been plucked out from here and there; there is no constant theme going around. There is that gorgeous old pavilion that luckily still remains but every other structure, stand that is, seems different. As if they have picked it on a discount from everywhere.
Sometime in late afternoon, the rain seems to whittle down, and you can see Jasprit Bumrah and Shikhar Dhawan walk to the nets. The word is that Dhawan too isn’t in the team and Pujara would play but it’s all speculations as of now. Someone puts a team-sheet on the internet that kicks up a bit of furore around the world. But it’s just the sample score-card sheet that they hand in the press box to all journalists. At Edgsbaston, it had Yuzvinder Chahal in the playing eleven. So, there you go. Following Dhawan and Bumrah to the nets area were Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings. The hopes were quickly dashed as the clouds deposited more water and finally it was called off.
The forecast is pretty good for Saturday and everybody reckons we would get a game. The way the two batting units went about in Edgbaston, four days should be good enough for a result. By the end of day, Hunt was left staring at the skies. His most favourite game was the 2002 Natwest Trophy heist and by the end, he was cheering for India. Hopefully, he would get a farewell to remember here.