Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

LORD'S CHIEF ISN'T AFRAID TO BRING IN SWEEPING CHANGES; THE BIG INTERVIEW KEITH BRADSHAW; Revolutionary Chief Executive of the MCC Is Planning More Dramatic Developments for the Game of Cricket Which He Hopes Will Continue to Attract People Back to the Sport; EXCLUSIVE

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

LORD'S CHIEF ISN'T AFRAID TO BRING IN SWEEPING CHANGES; THE BIG INTERVIEW KEITH BRADSHAW; Revolutionary Chief Executive of the MCC Is Planning More Dramatic Developments for the Game of Cricket Which He Hopes Will Continue to Attract People Back to the Sport; EXCLUSIVE

Article excerpt

Byline: Mihir Bose

KEITH BRADSHAW is an unlikely revolutionary to be running the home of cricket. When a headhunter from Sydney rang him about the job, Bradshaw thought the MCC being talked about was the Melbourne Cricket Club.

Bradshaw was then working in Hobart as a partner in the accountancy firm Deloitte and his first thought was that it was not far for him to move. It was only when the headhunter replied, "Well, it's actually quite a long way away", that Bradshaw realised this MCC stood for the grandest initials in cricket!

Now four years later, as I sit in his office overlooking the sacred square, the evidence of the revolution he is leading is everywhere. One wall is entirely taken up by a life-size artist's impression of the "Vision for Lord's", a radical redevelopment which could see the capacity of cricket's HQ rise from 28,000 to 38,000.

This week the MCC took the unprecedented step of seeking partners for this redevelopment by placing advertisements in the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, the South China Morning Post and the Straits Times.

However, much this might horrify the traditional members, it is only the tip of the almost volcanic lava of change that will flow through Lord's this summer.

The most eye-catching innovation will come during Middlesex's Twenty20 matches.

During the interval, spectators will be challenged to hit a ball delivered by a bowling machine at a bullseye placed somewhere at mid-wicket. If they succeed they could win a million pounds and the MCC are taking out insurance to cover the potential pay-outs.

All this is part of Bradshaw's determination to make a Lord's Twenty20 night special. "We want to create a Thursday night experience," he says. "What do you do on a Thursday night? You come to Lord's and watch Twenty20 and Adam Gilchrist.

"It's pure entertainment and a vehicle to bring people to the game. People came to last year's World Twenty20 who hadn't been to cricket before. The Twenty20 vehicle will take cricket to North America and to China."

Bradshaw's innovations do not stop with Twenty20. This year's Bangladesh Test will see spectators who buy their tickets before 4 May get their money back if any bowler gets 10 wickets in the match.

The former Tasmanian cricketer is just as keen to start matches at Lord's at two or three in the afternoon with play going on till eight or nine. It will, he feels, not only attract people after work but help with the MCC's research into the pink ball for Test cricket.

With that he produces a pink ball from a box on his table, similar to the ones used in the season opener between the MCC and the champion county. This match has historically ushered in the English season and represented all the old English values but this year it was not staged at Lord's but in Abu Dhabi. With barely 100 fans turning up each day Bradshaw admits the match was part of an experiment more about trialling the pink balls.

For the 47-year-old chief executive this is a perfect illustration of the MCC, the club that once stood for tradition, becoming the agent of change that, he argues, will help preserve Test matches. The pink ball developed by Imperial College is crucial to day-night cricket that Bradshaw wants to see expanded to the Test arena.

While the Abu Dhabi experiment was not completely successful -- the seam would have to be made much darker for batsmen to see the rotations of the ball under lights -- but Bradshaw has no doubt that the journey to the desert served a purpose.

Although his mother and all his grandparents are English, with roots in Croydon and Lancashire, being an Aussie in charge of the MCC was an experiment he was worried about especially when one national newspaper called him "The enemy within". "The MCC was a super tanker which knew in which direction it was heading and didn't need to change quickly," he explains. …

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