The 2016 Cowdrey Lecture by Brendon McCullum, Lord’s, 6 June 2016

Brendon with two mikes
Brendon with two mikes

Janie had kept most of the afternoon clear and I had arranged to play real tennis before the lecture, so we hatched a plan for Janie to join me at Lord’s early and use the dedans gallery for a spot of watching and reading. She was yet to see me play until that day.

The plan worked well; Janie arrived soon after me, so by the time I’d changed she was already in the dedans gallery having a look at the combatants. Meanwhile, I had found out, somewhat to my surprise, that I was to play doubles that day, with Chris Swallow the coach as my partner and a couple of experienced doubles players as our opponents. It would be good experience for me but quite a challenge as I had only played doubles a couple of times before. It all went well enough and Janie said she enjoyed watching it.

I watched the next pair with her for a while, then went to sauna, shower and change before watching the end of that later pair’s game for a while. Then we put my equipment into the car (Janie had found a top spot on the St John’s Wood Road) and then wandered round to the Nursery Pavilion for the event.

The first hour was a drinks reception; very pleasant. We met Ian Lovett as we went in and spent some time talking with him, Mike O’Farrell, his wife Sue (whom we met for the first time that evening), Geoff Norris and a gentleman named Tim whom I’ve spoken to at Middlesex events in the past. Ian also introduced me to Colin Graves, who seemed very pleasant once you get used to his slightly scary grimace-like smile.

We spotted a little late that most people had filed into the lecture area, but I also realised that it was the central block and the near block that had almost filled up. We quickly walked around the front to the furthest block, where we were able to get excellent seats in the second row quite near the podium. I realised how good the seats were shortly after, when I realised that Mike Brearley and Andrew Strauss had taken up seats in the row behind us.

A man with a nose for some good seats
A man with a nose for some good seats

We sat next to a couple of antipodean gentlemen, both named Mike, which was easy to remember as I observed that the podium stood empty except for two mikes awaiting McCullum’s speech. The antipodean Mikes reported that they had been drinking in the tavern before the reception and had shared a jar with Brendon McCullum in there; they showed us photographic evidence which seemed pretty incriminating. The two Mikes were jolly company for the few minutes we waited for the speech.

Roger Knight welcomed us all to Lord’s in his inimitable style. He’s far more convincing in the welcoming role of President than he was as Secretary, if my Guardian-reported “Cow Corner: Up The Revolution” tussle with him in 2003 over women in the Bowlers’ Bar is a fair way to judge his previous tenure. Probably isn’t.

Then the speech, the full transcript of which is available here. Public speaking is clearly not what Brendon McCullum does best. Janie said afterwards that she didn’t think Brendon McCullum was coherent. Actually I think he was both eloquent and coherent in the content of his material, which was scripted, but he was a little garbled in delivery. Whether that was nerves or the Dutch courage he took before the lecture or a bit of both it’s hard to tell. In any case, it was very interesting and it was a privilege to attend and hear the lecture live.

Then after a quick podium change, video malfunction and tie-clip mike malfunction, a round table discussion led well by Mark Nicholas, with Kumar Sangakkara and Eoin Morgan joining Brendon McCullum to answer questions. Interesting, but our tummy’s were rumbling by the end of it, especially as Janie had been led to expect Big Al DeLarge’s veal meatballs with pasta and salad for dinner, which in the circumstances was a relaxing and enjoyable alternative to the grand pavilion dinner which we had considered and rejected.

We discussed Kumar Sangakkara’s erudition, relative to that of Brendon McCullum, but Janie opined that she had heard enough of Sangakkara for now, “we all know how clever he is”, so she awarded higher marks to McCullum for bravery. An interesting echo of their relative cricketing skills/appeal too, perhaps.

Regardless of all that, we’d both had a very enjoyable afternoon and evening at Lord’s.




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