Walk in the committee room in the Melbourne Cricket Ground and you see some wonderful photographs that tell you about the evolution of the ground. There's a picture of an Ashes Test in 1894 with the newly constructed upper decks. You can see trees lining the ground and a number of spectators standing to get a glimpse of the action. Close by is a shot from the 1911-12 Test by when the tree-count had reduced with the big scoreboard and dome-like constructions taking over.

There's a picture recalling the Prince of Wales' 1920 visit, accompanied by celebration and fanfare. The snapshot of the 1937 Ashes Test shows rows and rows of flags lining the ground, apart from a number of loudspeakers, indicating the popularity of public-address systems in cricket grounds at the time.

Cricket is only a part of the MCG's history, of course. It's also hosted some memorable football contests (the Aussie Rules kind) with Essendon and Collingwood (fierce rivals in the local leagues) playing in front of packed audiences. And there's also a concert, the one by the Three Tenors in 1997. Paul Sheahan, the former Australian batsman, pointed out an interesting stat: the 100,000th run run at the ground was scored today. "It's not difficult to know which ground has more," he said referring to Lord's. "That's the second best ground in the world."


Jim Higgs was a popular Australian cricketer in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. He tasted some success as a legspinner before being part of an important selection panel in the late ‘80s and ‘90s. He was also credited with teaching Shane Warne to bowl the flipper. What most people remember, though, is Higgs’ antics with the bat; he was one of the most notorious No.11 of all time. He finished with an average of 5.55 and only three times did he manage double figures.

Rewind 27 years, to an Australia v New Zealand Test on this ground, and you have one of Higgs’ most memorable stints. Australia were struggling at 261 for 9 with Doug Walters fast running out of partners. “I think Doug was on 70-odd when I walked in on what was a really difficult pitch to bat on. There wasn’t much bounce but a lot of shooters, the kind that go all along the ground.

“So I walked in and played some French cricket. Just stood back, put my bat in front of my pads and hoped the ball wouldn’t go past.” The innings wasn’t without controversy. Lance Cairns got a rare one to lift and was confident Higgs had gloved one to the wicketkeeper. “Umpires Bailhache thought it hit the elbow and also warned Lance for intimidatory bowling. I felt it was a marginal call. I wouldn’t have minded if it was out but the rule at the time prevented bouncers at tailenders. So I stood my ground. And it helped Dougie. He soon got his hundred.”

But Higgsy, chuckling all along, just won’t forgive what happened next. “I was on 6 off 61 balls, had stood there and then he got out. How selfish is that. I supported him till he got his hundred and he didn’t wait till I got my fifty. How rude. I ended by Test career with an average of 5.5. It could have been much more had Dougie stood around.” More chuckles.

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is a former assistant editor at Cricinfo