Aussie is knocked for six by warmth of Lord's welcome

NOT only is Keith Bradshaw the first foreigner to be chief executive of the quintessentially English Marylebone Cricket Club, he is also an Australian – the bitter arch enemies of England s national cricket team. So you would be forgiven for thinking he h

NOT only is Keith Bradshaw the first foreigner to be chief executive of the quintessentially English Marylebone Cricket Club, he is also an Australian - the bitter arch enemies of England's national cricket team.

So you would be forgiven for thinking he had mountains to climb to get on side with the MCC's members when he started the job in October 2006.

On the contrary, he said he was welcomed with open arms - shattering his former perceptions that the MCC was stuffy and elitist.

He said: "It was always going to be very interesting for me to see how I was received as an Australian in this job.

"But the welcome and the acceptance I have had has been overwhelming. Everyone here, including the greats of the game, has been so supportive.

"To be able to work with them on a daily basis is a real privilege. What I have found since I started is that the members here really are incredibly passionate about cricket.

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"It is a real privilege to be the first Australian in the role - I am the 14th chief executive in 221 years and the job lets me combine my passion for cricket with business, which is fantastic."

He even admits he will be supporting England in next year's Ashes tournament: "I am a board member of the English Cricket Board as well and currently my efforts are going into winning back the Ashes for England - professionally that is what I do. I am pushing for an England win."

A former professional cricketer in his native Tasmania, he also played a couple of English seasons for Sussex.

He recalls: "I grew up in Tasmania and played cricket there in the mid 1980s but back then it was subsistence if you did not make it to the Test team so I worked in bars and laid bricks.

"Then I was getting married so I thought I needed to get a proper job. I went back to university and ended up working for Deloitte as a chartered accountant.

"There is a funny story about when I first heard about this job - when the head hunter, an Australian, rang me he said this job possibility had become available at the MCC for chief executive.

"He asked, would I mind going so far away and I replied well it's only an hour's flight away. He seemed confused so I said ''Melbourne Cricket Club'' because he hadn't mentioned Lord's - but he said ''No it is Marylebone Cricket Club'' - and it is definitely better that this is how it turned out!"

Since taking up the post as secretary and chief executive, Mr Bradshaw has seen Lord's enter an exciting new phase of development with its £200million Masterplan, as well as witnessing the advent of Twenty20 cricket.

He said: "It is a challenging and interesting role because there is so much happening in cricket at the moment.

"I was very lucky I inherited a club in very good order but the world of cricket is changing so quickly that we have to embrace change, while at the same time preserving our roots.

"I want to preserve the MCC and Lord's for the future generations. There has been talk recently about relaxing the dress code but I don't want to do that - dressing smartly is part of the great tradition here.

"Two things I have focused on since I came here were firstly to be inclusive and open with the ground, to make people aware of what we do and make sure people experience what it is to be here.

"Secondly, I have tried to improve communication, to be open and transparent and use the technology we have to communicate with our members and the local community about the plans for the future."

In the past year a whole host of new events and schemes have been implemented, including the staging of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, as well as the testing of pink balls.

The ground is also gearing up to host the 2012 Olympic archery tournament as well as the Twenty20 world cup final next year, which is expected to attract a new generation of cricket fans.

Mr Bradshaw said: "The club has recognised for a period of time that the ground needs an increased capacity and upgrade - for the benefit of the members, spectators and cricketers.

"We have a drainage system now which is great and we are looking into lights similar to the ones at Arsenal's Emirates stadium, which help to grow the turf.

"The Masterplan has had a real push since I have been here but it is still early days. We have now shortlisted five architects and when one is appointed we will get more detailed plans.

"It is then we will be able to say to members and residents 'This is how it will look' and we want their input.

"Ideas for a cricket academy, a residential block, a hotel, floodlights and increased capacity by about 10,000 have been put forward as part of the Masterplan.

"We are also still bidding to keep major matches at Lord's because we want to keep major cricket here - it is the home of cricket."

Mr Bradshaw lives in St John's Wood with his wife and two children and they have a baby boy on the way. And he still plays cricket, batting for the MCC a few times a year.

"I really enjoy playing and I will keep doing it for as long as I can," he adds.

"The MCC plays 450 matches a year. We have a very active club which we send all over the world to promote the game - places like China, Namibia, Argentina and Chile.

"I think being an ex-cricketer helps me enormously in this role. I absolutely love it here - it has been incredibly busy and challenging and I have met some wonderful people.

"I still get the feeling that walking into the pavilion every day to go to work is really special."