With the conclusion of the fantastic Border-Gavaskar series, and given that it’s cricket season now, we got in touch with Roger Canty, an official tour guide from the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). In an exclusive conversation, he takes us on a tour of the ground and reveals some lesser-known facts about MCG! By Team T+L
1. What are your favourite parts of the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) that you like to show visitors on a tour?
Venturing into the seating bowl, taking in the vistas of the whole ground, and walking on to the ground itself is a great way to start your day at the MCG. Past surveys have revealed that going out onto the ground is among the top experiences preferred by visitors. I also like to pencil in a visit to the player’s changing rooms—both, Australian and international teams—as well as the Members’ Long Room from where visitors can gaze at the ground from senior Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) members’ couches. Looking out at the honour boards in the changing rooms can help stimulate discussions about the greats of world cricket. For incredible views, a walk up to Level 4 will let you look out over the ground. From here, the entire city is viewable. And, of course, all the photographs and artwork throughout the stand make for a great picture!
2. Aside from being a beloved cricket attraction, what other activities or events can one experience when visiting the MCG?
The MCG is a multi-purpose stadium and the city’s landmark. During winter, it is home to the Australian Rules Football (ARF) for around 60 games a season. During this time, it attracts a crowd of over 60,000 players on an average. The finals draw close to 1,00,000 spectators, making it a great experience to watch the game! The Australian Sports Museum here—which covers around 95 sports—recently underwent a USD 17 million makeover. It also has life-sized holograms, priceless exhibits, and interactive experiences. The ground is home to a collection of statues of iconic sportspeople, including Sir Donald Bradman, Keith Miller, and Shane Warne, and also houses an honour roll of medalists from the 1956 Summer Olympics.
Outside the sporting realm, the stadium is a state-of-the-art arena for glitzy concerts and live performances.
3. How many years have you been with the MCG? What are some of your favourite memories and memorable behind-the-scene moments?
I have been a Melbourne Cricket Club member for 42 years, and a Melbourne Cricket Club tourist guide for 30 years! And during my time here, I have collected many fond memories which include meeting tourists from all over the world. We once had a Nepalese visitor who played cricket within sight of Mount Everest, and another African visitor whose game was halted because of wild animals. Meeting Olympians, Commonwealth Games athletes, and many famous cricketers like Brian Lara, Ravi Shastri, the late Dean Jones, and Alan Border were exciting! I’ve also escorted royalty like HRH Maharaj Kumar Lakshyaraj Singh Mewar, Prince of the Royal House of Mewar, and other overseas dignitaries like Suniel Shetty and Vicky Ratnani.
But one of my favourite memories is being in the presence of the unbridled enthusiasm of Indian tourists. India versus Australia cricket matches is always exhilarating as Indian fans support their team through thick and thin. Their exuberance takes the game to another level. Most recently, more than 88,000 people attended the ICC Women’s World Cup T20 final—it was was amazing! I’ve always enjoyed showing Indian tourists photos of Sir Donald Bradman and Sachin Tendulkar which were taken to mark Sir Donald’s 90th birthday in 1998. It remains one of our most popular exhibits even today. Watching Virender Sehwag score 195 runs off 233 balls against Australia in December 2003, as well as watching Dennis Lillie and the great West Indies fast bowlers bowling are other good memories. And, of course, visiting the archives section of the Melbourne Cricket Club and Australian Sports Museum is a special kind of experience.
4. What is that one hidden gem or underrated experience at the MCG that most visitors are not privy to or do not typically opt for?
The cricket Honour Boards are visible to those who opt for the tour. The board lists names of every male cricketer who either achieved five wickets or scored a 100 runs in a test match at the MCG. This record dates back to the very first test match played in Australia!
5. Can you share with us some hidden facts about the MCG?
- Five Indians feature on the tapestry outside the Members’ Long Room which displays 189 special events that took place at the MCG from the earliest of years.
- The first one-day international cricket match was played in 1971 between England and Australia due to a washout of the boxing day test match.
- The cricket pitches are all removable during the football season.
- The ground has a current capacity of 1,00,024 but has previously hosted a crowd of 1,21,696 people during an AFL football game in 1970.
- The MCG holds the record for the highest first-class team score when Victoria scored 1,107 runs in two days against New South Wales (NSW) in 1926-7.
6. While in Melbourne for a match, what are some of the local jaunts you recommend visiting in between games?
There is a wealth of attractions in and around Melbourne. Travel books outline a range of destinations and experiences, but if visitors are accompanied by young children, these deserve a special mention:
- Embarking on a ferry trip along the Yarra River.
- Visiting the Melbourne Aquarium and zoo.
- Journeying up to the Eureka Skydeck for jaw-dropping views of the city below.
- Hopping aboard the historic Puffing Billy Steam Railway for an adventure through the beautiful Dandenong Ranges.
- Going on a shopping spree at the Queen Victoria Markets, and grabbing a fantastic meal at any of the city’s renowned restaurants or cafés.
- Chalking out a day trip to the Healesville Sanctuary. It houses Australia’s native and most-famous animal mascots. You can also feed kangaroos and cuddle koalas here—something which will excite the whole family!