IT is going to get very interesting very quickly in the
Caribbean. The attention on the 2007 Cricket World Cup which will be hosted
in the Caribbean just got a little more intense. It was enhanced with
the formal announcement of the match schedule for the event, which gives
the indication of the key matches in the tournament and when these matches
will be played.
However, as has become the norm with people in the
Caribbean, self-doubt always seems to creep into the limelight as the
event approaches. That was the case with several members of the cricketing
community, even before the Bidding process began. The spectrum of comments
ranged from concern over how would the region collectively pay for the
event to whether the grounds would be ready for the event.
That skepticism has not diminished even after the eight host venues were
selected. All of the detailed information which has been provided by local
and ICC officials has done little to change the negative view. It is truly
amazing that some among us do not have the necessary faith in the collective
will of the people of the region to challenge the preconceived norms of
the world that the Caribbean is only good as a place of rest and relaxation.
The Caribbean is much more than a place to have a good time. The people
of this region are on par with the rest of the world and maybe it is time
for the people of the region to accept that.
The doubt is strange given the fact that the world is confident in the
ability of the Caribbean to put on an excellent World Cup. That was the
case which was advanced by Executive Director of the 2003 ICC Cricket
Dr. Ali Bacher, who delivered the feature address at the eleventh Frank
Worrell Memorial Lecture, on the topic World Cup Cricket: Challenges,
Pitfalls and Opportunities in 2004. In my view there is no cricket playing
area anywhere that per capita can come close to equaling the number of
outstanding and great cricketers produced by this region, he added. Dr.
Bacher also spoke of the contribution of Antigua and Barbados, which has
produced a galaxy of legends. He also stated that the growth and development
of great cricketers in the Caribbean was even more amazing given the very
average and at times below average practice and playing facilities available
to your players over many decades.
Dr. Bacher also stressed that hosting a World Cup, requires more than
the efforts of officials but of the entire region. It requires passion
and commitment, for the event by all and sundry ... It is about displaying
to the world, your beautiful islands and different cultures and it is
a wonderful opportunity to display your great players to the world, he
added. The International Cricket Council (ICC) has also repeatedly expressed
confidence in the region and stated that the expectations that the Caribbean
as usual will put on an excellent show.
The grand announcement of the match schedule marks the start of potentially
the most intense preparation period prior to the event. In the eight venues,
it is full steam ahead with the physical construction of the stadia, which
will be the focal point of the tournament. The plans have been approved
and the stadiums are starting to take shape. Many would appreciate that
the pace of construction will be phased at venues which host Test matches,
to allow matches to be hosted there during the international season in
2006. That will give an indication of the pace of construction. That is
true for Kensington Oval, which will host at least a Test match in 2006.
The same can be said for Sabina Park, Jamaica and Queen s Park Oval in
Trinidad. It is now up to the planners to ensure that the promised development
takes place. The transformation of society, or cleaning up the country
in terms of the physical infrastructure and the implementation of policies
gearing to putting Barbados best foot forward must be put in place. The
idea of Host country as venue must also come into the equation. The time
to repair the road network in key areas of the island must take effect.
The beautification of Bridgetown must also be completed and the understanding
by all Barbadians that improvement in attitudes towards themselves and
others will benefit the country not only in the World Cup, but put the
country in good stead for future events.
Other issues will be in focus in the next year and months, prior to the
start of the event. One will be the weather factor, particularly the threat
from intense weather, in the form of tropical systems. Grenada bore the
brunt of the fury of Hurricane Ivan, but also remains on schedule to complete
its stadium by December 2006.
The issue of the major matches in the Competition, and the resulting movement
of people to and fro means that the traditional airlift capabilities will
have to be advanced. Also the traditionally laid back system of customs
(in terms of time spent in line) and immigration in the region, will have
to be sped up to move people through checkpoints fairly quickly.
Security will also be a crucial aspect of the event. The events since
the last World Cup and the attacks in the United States, Britain and other
countries makes the issue of security paramount. Security Ministers from
around the region have been meeting with ICC officials to ensure that
the visitors to the region and Caribbean nationals are protected. Housing
of people in the region will be a concern.
For the West Indies, the strength of the teams competing in the event
will be of interest. The West Indies will be bidding to become the first
host nation to win the event, but will require a team that can win consistently.
The WICB has announced that a Development Plan to achieve that objective
will be put in place and will be announced shortly. That plan will be
interesting to say the least given the current form of the West Indies
team. Then again, it is not such a long time till 2007, so time is running