On the Front Foot: Refurbishment of Old Trafford trying too hard to make point
One of the architectural questions of the age will be answered at the Third Test, which starts at Old Trafford on Thursday. Come the close of the first day, it should be known if there is a point to The Point.
The topic is already creating apprehension. Although the old ground, refurbished at a cost of £32 million, has been used this season for 13 Lancashire matches, the Test match is still like the unveiling of a portrait or the launch of an ocean liner.
The Point is the red cube which sits to the left of the famous pavilion and initially dwarfed it. The setting has been enhanced by an extra tier being put on the pavilion and the redevelopment of the other side of the ground.
At first, the aesthetic delights of The Point were elusive, but the award-winning architect, Gavin Elliot, chairman of the design firm BDP, has explained all. It is an attempt to portray what cricket is oop north – all grit and braces.
"We didn't want to do a poor man's version of Lord's with white tents on the top of every building, and perpetuate that romantic notion of cricket on the village green, complete with cycling vicars and warm beer," Elliot said.
"Cricket isn't like that up here in the North-west. It's more of a blue-collar game, there's a different demographic and a different atmosphere. We wanted our design to reflect that."
Yes, well, an odd tent or two might not have gone amiss amidst this utilitarian scene. But these blue-collar chappies had better know their place.
The public relations company promoting the new Old Trafford said the design has been inspired by the Salford dock containers, as well as the post-industrial Hacienda club.
If Lancashire's Jimmy Anderson runs through the Aussies anything can be forgiven, naturally.
Taufel talks tech
Four-time umpire of the year Simon Taufel delivered the Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture last week. He was disappointingly coy about the Decision Review System.
Now retired as an international umpire, Taufel is employed by the ICC as a consultant and is helping to establish training and coaching programmes for top umpires. His influence over the future of umpiring may be considerable.
When Taufel umpired in the ill-fated Stanford Super Series five years ago he gently advocated the method used there, when umpires referred their own decisions. Who knows, perhaps it might have been the only good thing to come out of that week.
Although it might have been a veiled call for change, Taufel told his Lord's audience: "One performance-improvement tip I have learned from speaking with Gary Kirsten, who I respect enormously as a person and for his coaching skill, is that we need to ask ourselves every day, 'Are we doing this the best way? Is there a better way?' I would advocate applying this question to how we use technology in our sport, as there is always room for improvement and we should always self-assess and strive for excellence, not perfection."
Anderson's top draw
Bidding has started in the auction of England cricketers' sketches of each other. Top price so far is for Jimmy Anderson's portrait of Graeme Swann, with chin prominent, which has attracted a bid of £1,220. Swann's of Anderson is going for £872. Lagging towards the rear is Steve Finn's drawing of Kevin Pietersen, which has fetched an offer of £100.
All proceeds go to Cricket United – an amalgamation of the Lord's Taverners, Chance to Shine and the PCA Benevolent Fund. The eBay auction is open until 4 August at bit.ly/Englandportraits.
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