Sport on TV: It's a load of balls to say MCC are still stuck in the dark ages

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The Independent Online

Having a go at MCC is like bowling to KP; it's too easy. Four decades ago there was the D'Oliveira affair, when England's MCC selectors refused to pick the naturalised Cape coloured all-rounder for a tour of South Africa after bowing to pressure from its apartheid government. There's also the fact that the owners of Lord's didn't allow female members until 1998, a mere 211 years after they were founded. As Quentin Letts points out in What's the Point of... Marylebone Cricket Club (BBC Radio 4, Tuesday): "When the Aussies think you're mistreating the Sheilas, you really do have a problem."

Then there are the stewards, who will let you in if it looks like you've thrown up all over your tie but who refused entry to Sussex mascot Sid the Shark at last year's Friends Provident Trophy final, while Australian Matthew Hardy wasn't allowed into the pavilion because the gate man didn't like his shoes. If admission had been refused on the grounds of him being a filthy Aussie then fair enough...

Yet as the dark skies loomed over Lord's on Thursday, the lights went on in more ways than one. So it may have been one of the world's last major Test grounds to install floodlights, but that was because of the fervent misgivings of the residents of St John's Wood, who proved even more stuck up and reactionary than MCC.

But having spent £2.7m on the illumination, the club then opened itself up to half-volleys of abuse as the umpires took the players off because the lights were working too well. The reason was that they were designed for night cricket with a white ball, and you struggle to pick up the traditional red orb in the gloaming.

More brickbats for Lord's, you might think; "complete gobbledegook!" as Bob Willis spluttered on Sky. But no, you can't blame MCC. If they had their way, we might have seen the first use of a pink ball in Test cricket. MCC pioneered their use in Dubai last April and it works well in a variety of lights. But pink? Surely the old colonels would be spluttering into their, er, pink gins. So why not pink to go with the club's already garish colours?

Letts wonders about the club's relevance as the game's power base shifts eastwards with the IPL. Twenty20, he says, has changed the "charms and proprieties" of the game so cherished by MCC, and is beset by allegations of gambling and corruption. Yet he began by scoffing at how Thomas Lord had founded the ground so the rich could fritter away fortunes on betting. MCC gave that to the world.

And they still lead the way: encouraging Afghanistan's remarkable success, and trying to woo our American cousins at the same time – an impressive feat which makes you wonder if MCC might have an even greater role to play beyond the boundary.

So actually it's a club in the pink. It's just a shame they've backed the wrong horse so many times in the past.

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