In the wake of the news that YMCA CC’s ground has been put up for sale by the charity, there has been a public outcry around the cricketing community in an effort to save the club’s home.
For a club to potentially be left homeless after spending over a century at the ground is a bitter pill to swallow, but there is a deeper connection to place associated with cricket in comparison to most sports which will leave both the members and the local community reeling.
The sale of this ground and subsequent call to arms led me to further consider this connection to place in our wonderful sport, and prompted me to write this article following on from my Masters of Architecture dissertation; “The Architecture of Cricket in Ireland”.
Claremont Road, home of YMCA
With cricket being the first field sport to build substantial grounds, part of the sport’s character is in its sense of place. A cricket pavilion is more than just a clubhouse. it also acts as a stadium, a place for the next batters up and spectators to take in the game.
At the pedestrian nature that it is played, cricket is the perfect social sport. It is not intensely watched for an hour or two, but can be drawn out to last the majority of one’s waking hours, even at the lowest level. This leisurely pace only fosters this social interaction, between players waiting to bat, onlookers, scorers in the pavilion and passers-by alike.
However, it is not just the pavilion which aids the social nature of the sport. It would not be uncommon for full length conversations to break out between players on the field between balls. “Lap?” is a commonly heard enquiry among those watching on, and a chat will most likely be had at the majority of occupied benches you pass. Cricket grounds are among the most unique in any sport. While there are minimum boundary distances that must be met, the variation beyond this in Leinster cricket provides for a different challenge at every away venue.
Think of the short straight boundaries in Rush or Terenure, the monstrous hit towards the Pav in College Park, or the short flick off the legs towards the bowls green in Railway Union. When you consider that the playing surface is also different everywhere you go(will it turn, bounce, stay low or play two-paced?), home advantage is even more significant.
Sport is a ritual. People come week in, week out to watch their favourite teams, cheer them on and hopefully celebrate a win. James Earls Jones proclaims in Field of Dreams,
“the one constant throughout all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But, baseball marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and could be again.”
Sport is an entity that transcends time, but also one which acts a connection to both time and place. Cricket pavilions act as museums for these heroic feats that happen just outside, with team photos and honours boards adorning the walls, allowing young members coming through to learn the history of their club. They are home to so much more than just a sports team, and we must appreciate this, consider ourselves lucky to play this magnificent sport with all its quirks, and not let such a significant ground in Irish cricket history go down without a fight.