World Cup 2007 can silence sceptics

THE cricket world awaits July 19, 2005. On that day, in Port of Spain, Trinidad, the dates and full match schedules of the 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup will be unveiled.

THE cricket world awaits July 19, 2005. On that day, in Port of Spain, Trinidad, the dates and full match schedules of the 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup will be unveiled. This will be a magical moment for the people of the eight Caribbean countries that will host the World Cup — Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad, Guyana, Antigua, Grenada, St. Lucia and St. Kitts. It signals the end of many uncertainties about the sport's premier tournament that is going for the first time to a region whose regional, cultural and political identities are closely connected to the game. From July 19, the World Cup in the West Indies will finally become a tangible, determinate project. People in the Caribbean can keep their calendars free, think about tickets, and look out for the many employment opportunities that the tournament will generate. Overseas fans can plan their cricket holidays through tour operators.

For the governments of the Caribbean Nation States, and for the West Indian Cricket Board, the process of getting ready for the historic event started much earlier. They have had a point to prove, for, the rest of the world has raised a question mark over the region's capacity to stage the event.

Economy and geo-politics are the main factors driving the 2007 CWC sceptics. Unlike India, the Caribbean Nation States can be classified as developing countries in a cricketing context as well, and the logistical challenges of teams and supporters travelling between the countries at short notice can be arduous considering aspects such as visas, availability of hotels, bed and breakfast places and the bugbear of the post 9/11 world order, security. On top of all this, Hurricane Ivan lashed Grenada in September 2004 causing serious damage to the stands and the electronic scorecard at the National Stadium apart from diverting the economic prerogative of the government from the tournament to rehabilitation.

But, the West Indies has responded in a manner that has typified the historical synergy between the State and the Board in the islands till the early 1990s, when the national governments were forced to disinvest in cricket following IMF guidelines. The Caribbean Community (Caricom) — the political union of the States of the region — and the West Indies Cricket Board have stated unequivocally that together they will surprise the world in 2007. These institutions will carry out redevelopment of five stadia, and the construction of one new stadium.

The stadia getting renovated are the Kensington Oval in Barbados (where the final will be held), Queen's Park Stadium in Grenada, the Sabina Park in Jamaica (where one semifinal and the group matches of the West Indies will be held), the Warner Park in Basseterre in St. Kitts and the Beausejour Stadium in St. Lucia, which will stage one semifinal and play host to the Barmy Army in the first round. The Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua will be newly built. The Providence Stadium in Guyana, another new stadium, will be built using the funds given by the Indian government. The oldest ground in the West Indies, the Queens Park Oval in Port of Spain, Trinidad, which will host the vast number of Indian supporters in the first round, will not add to its existing 25,000 seating capacity.

The Caricom governments have also decided to increase public spending in the next two years, with roads, rails, waste disposal, sustainable environmental planning, urban regeneration, temporary and permanent employment creation, tourism and investment and development banking being top of the agenda — the money for the stadia are being made available by the Caricom through the Caribbean Development Bank.

Topmost on the agenda of the World Cup Organising committee is to position the World Cup as an event organised by one-time leaders of the sport. "One has only got to reflect on how well the West Indies played in the 1960s, 1970s, and the 1980s to realize that we can conquer the world through planning, discipline and pride," said Rawle Brancker, Secretary of the Cricket World Cup (CWC) 2007.

However, the West Indies are not the `owners' of the event. The ICC is, and the global body has sold the TV rights to Murdoch's Global Cricket Corporation. "We are talking about the ICC World Cup," said Chris Dehring, the Managing Director and CEO of CWC 2007, in an address to the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry last year. "It is important for the people of the Caribbean to understand that this is not the West Indies' World Cup to do what we want. There are standards to be met, while maintaining a distinct Caribbean flavour."

The marrying of the `global' with the `regional' is the biggest challenge for the organisers. Dehring and co. have passed the first test — the venues for the tournament were decided by a competitive process of tendering involving a consortium of global corporate experts and there is no place for Florida or Bermuda in the scheme of things.