Peter English
Peter English Peter EnglishRSS FeedFeeds  | Archives
Former Australasia editor, ESPNcricinfo

An old friend returns home

For three years the Melbourne Cricket Club's library collection was packed up in boxes waiting for its new home on the third level of the members' area

Peter English

December 30, 2006

Text size: A | A



The new version of the library © Melbourne Cricket Club
Enlarge

The final piece in the MCG redevelopment is complete. For three years the Melbourne Cricket Club's library collection was packed up in boxes waiting for its new home on the third level of the members' area. It re-opened in September, but the Boxing Day Test was its first major cricket event and on day three a record 1284 people visited the facility, which was founded in 1873 with donations of The Australasian newspaper.

More than 100,000 items were moved from storage into the immaculate rooms and together they form the most comprehensive cricket collection in Australia. On the world stage only Lord's and the CC Morris Library at Haverford College in Philadelphia compare. Paid for by club memberships, the staff attempts to have two copies for each book: one for show and another for the files.

The library has had a handful of homes in its 133-year history and the current site is incredible. A rare-book display is housed in the entry, with the most treasured items locked behind glass, and there are comfortable leather chairs offering an amazing view towards the city. On discovering the reading area it is initially a difficult choice whether to stare out the window or start searching for material.

A French-English dictionary from 1611, which is bound by deer hide, is the oldest resident and contains three references to cricket - "crosser" and "croser" are defined as "to play of cricket" and a "crosse" is a bishop's staff, which is also used for cricket. WG Grace's Cricket, which was donated on his final tour of Australia in 1891-92, is a well-cared for piece and the unpublished notes and final manuscripts of Clarrie Grimmett's "Tricking the Batsman" have been held since they were bought at auction in 1998.



WG Grace's Cricket is a treasured item © Getty Images
Enlarge

"Biographical and history books are popular, people love tour books and they look for prose: Cardus, Arlott, Haigh and Lucas," David Studham, the librarian since 1997, says. During a game only MCC members and their guests can visit but the general public can make appointments outside of matches.

The main exhibition for the Boxing Day Test is the 50 best Australian cricket books of all time. "We don't necessarily agree with the choices, but it's a good list for debate," Studham says. Ray Robinson, Jack Fingleton and Gideon Haigh dominate the order and it also includes state publications, the early 20th-century legspinner Arthur Mailey's autobiography and Mark Ray's mostly pictorial Cricket Masala.

Books are donated through estates and by authors, but the library is constantly searching for titles to fill gaps from local club histories - Forest Hill Cricket Club's was accepted during the game - to high-profile works coming up at auction. "Our acquisitions policy is that we get everything we can for cricket that is written in English," Studham says. "For other sports the club plays or hosts, which includes events like the Olympic and Commonwealth games, we look for histories and biographies."

Five people are on staff and 15 dedicated volunteers help fulfill requests from the members, cricket writers and students from primary school to university. The library's range is wide - it also publishes a couple of books a year - and it is on show again.

Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo

RSS Feeds: Peter English

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

FeedbackTop
Email Feedback Print
Share
E-mail
Feedback
Print
Peter EnglishClose
Related Links

'Pietersen uses his hands beautifully to get in front'

Modern Masters: Rahul Dravid and Sanjay Manjrekar discuss Kevin Pietersen's un-English technique

    Cricket cannot bend rules to accommodate chuckers

Martin Crowe: Bowlers with dodgy actions must not be given leeway to maintain a balance between bat and ball

    'You'll only improve as a commentator if you are a good listener'

Couch Talk: Jim Maxwell talks about his early days, and why commentators need to stay in touch with cricketers

    'Haven't seen anyone play as straight as Sachin'

My XI: Martin Crowe on Tendulkar's finely calibrated footwork

It's home advantage, not doctored pitches

Michael Jeh: Why do columnists look for conspiracy theories every time a visiting team collapses abjectly?

News | Features Last 7 days

How bad must a defeat be to be unacceptable?

A gutting loss to England, after leading the series 1-0, has thrown up some glaring inadequacies in the Indian team but there is little being said or done in terms of improvement

Role model Moeen setting high standard

His rapid improvement with the ball has been integral to England coming from behind to lead the series - but that is just one area where Moeen Ali continues to impress

Time to liberate MS Dhoni

After 8-0, MS Dhoni could look forward to building a team from scratch; now, there is nothing left for him to contribute. Free him from the Test captaincy and he could yet give back in other ways

Dhoni's control test

For all MS Dhoni's many trophies and accomplishments, Test cricket continues to resist his magic and indefinitely postpone his motorbike ride into the sunset

Should Dhoni focus on one-day cricket?

His decisions in the England series have seemed to confirm that he does not care too much for the Test game. Maybe he should be concentrating on the World Cup

News | Features Last 7 days

    How bad must a defeat be to be unacceptable? (139)

    A gutting loss to England, after leading the series 1-0, has thrown up some glaring inadequacies in the Indian team but there is little being said or done in terms of improvement

    Time to liberate MS Dhoni (115)

    After 8-0, MS Dhoni could look forward to building a team from scratch; now, there is nothing left for him to contribute. Free him from the Test captaincy and he could yet give back in other ways

    Should Dhoni focus on one-day cricket? (78)

    His decisions in the England series have seemed to confirm that he does not care too much for the Test game. Maybe he should be concentrating on the World Cup

    Dhoni's control test (75)

    For all MS Dhoni's many trophies and accomplishments, Test cricket continues to resist his magic and indefinitely postpone his motorbike ride into the sunset

    The two faces of James Anderson (58)

    Why does the man who is possibly England's greatest fast bowler occasionally turn into Mr Hyde on the field?