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From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 29, Dated July 25, 2009
ICC: A Century of Cricket  
history & heritage

Back To The Future

The history of the gentleman’s game must be compiled and chronicled

Curator, MCC Museum

Quiet flows the don A visitor films a scene at the historic Bradman museum

THE ECONOMIC OUTLOOK, in the UK, continues to be bleak and optimism for the future is decidedly muted. In contrast, the profile of heritage has never been higher.

On high street, thrift and vintage is in. Marks & Spencer is dressing their mannequins in retro. Sainsbury’s has been advertising its long history of innovation. Even museum attendances have increased by as much as eight percent.

There is a definite accent on heritage within sport as well. The National Trust has dreamt up a range of events and publications called ‘Played in Britain’ and has headed a partnership with MCC to recreate the historic Sheffield Park cricket ground.

In Oxford, late in July, the ICC too will turn its attention towards cricket’s heritage as part of its centenary celebrations.

Why is such a conference important? Look no further back than the England vs. India World T20 match. Peering out from the Lord’s pavilion, I marvelled at the capacity crowd drawn from all sections of the population watching a 150-year-old form of club cricket recycled for the international teams of the 21st century. What an atmosphere.

Greater emphasis should be made on chronicling the history of the game to ensure its continued relevance. The transformation of the cultural sector, particularly museums, in recent years is an advance, which cricket museums need to imitate. The ‘cabinet of curiosity’ has metamorphosed to a multi-dimensional entertainment and educational resource.

Advances in technology and changes in narrative style can benefit our sporting collections and capture the magic the game holds for us.

The spirit of cricket, in its purist form, is nurtured in a myriad of clubs and schools. All over the UK, cricketers gravitate to tucked away pavilions, on tree-fringed downs, in city spaces screened by Victorian terraces, following in the footsteps of previous generations, hearing the same sounds, smelling the same smells and tasting victory and defeat. Their stories are important and digital technology offers the opportunity to capture and savour them as never before.

Museums can act as catalyst to this work. The Baseball Hall of Fame – granddaddy of such institutions – is the quintessential example. Established in 1939, it has turned individual stories into a national shrine. The collection not only embraces ‘Hall of Famers’ but even little leagues as unlikely as those established by the Japanese interned during WWII.

At Wimbledon, the ‘ghost’ of John McEnroe recalls his great duels with rival Bjorn Borg just as Shane Warne’s holographic image, at The National Sports Museum in Melbourne, sings the praise of the MCG. These great collections provide a touchstone to the essence of the game.

There is an opportunity for cricket museums to map the game and its place in society

What cricket needs now is an international partnership of museums that can collect and chronicle a major part of our social history. There is an unparalleled opportunity for cricket museums to build on the game’s huge literature and oral traditions and map out our game and its place in shaping society.

MCC remains the ‘guardian’ of the laws of the game and is now advising the ICC and others through its World Cricket Committee. It promotes the Spirit of the Game through the IPL amongst others and now stands ready, through its own heritage arm, to galvanise and promote efforts to safeguard the game’s history for the future. The MCC Ashes Exhibition in Australia was a huge success, promoting the true origins of the England vs. Australia series.

Nowhere is there greater potential or need for a similar venture than in India.

From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 29, Dated July 25, 2009

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