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Windies counting down to cricket~~s big event

Published: Thursday, March 16, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
 
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Kingston:In a little under one year, all eyes will be on the West Indies, when they roll out the red carpet, and welcome the World to cricket's 2007 ICC World Cup.

March 13, marked one year before the first ball is delivered in the tournament between hosts West Indies and Pakistan at Sabina Park in the Jamaican capital.

The World Cup will be contested between 16 teams from March 13 to April 28 next year, with a total of 51 matches taking place in eight countries - Antigua, Barbados, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts, St. Lucia and Trinidad.

It will be almost a decade since the decision of the ICC to place such an enormous responsibility upon the tiny islands that stretch from the southern tip of North America to the border of South America.

The World Cup is beyond a shadow of a doubt the biggest event to be staged in the West Indies, and it will place the region in the spotlight on the world stage like never before.

It's a once in a lifetime opportunity for the West Indies to play host to the World, and show its diversity, beauty, culture, and people, and will have an impact well beyond the matches themselves.

The World Cup has grown in such stature that Chris Dehring, managing director of ICC World Cup 2007 Inc., the subsidiary of the West Indies Cricket Board responsible for organising the event, had to admit it has become much bigger than planned.

"I would say there is no doubt that the event that we bid for back in 1998 is not the event that we eventually have," he said.

"The World Cup has grown exponentially. When the Global Cricket Corporation bought the commercial rights, the event grew from a tournament which was held in England in 1999 to one of the World's major sports events."

The ICC and, indeed, the organisers have left nothing to chance with the local orgainsing committees having been set strict guidelines to ensure that the event is run smoothly and to world-class standards in delivering "the best World Cup ever".

"The World Cup is an opportunity to show the World the resources of the West Indies, not only from a tourism perspective, but from a managerial perspective and the wider human resource perspective," Dehring said.

"Our ability to deliver an event of this magnitude would speak volumes of competing in a global environment, so we need to examine the World Cup for what it is and ensure that we deliver.

"Have we bitten off more than we can chew? I do not believe so and I have a lot more confidence in the people of the West Indies than many people internationally have in us."

Plenty of money has been spent on developing grounds, refining accommodation, improving security, enhancing existing infrastructure like roads and hospitals, procuring sufficient transportation to move people around the eight islands, drafting supporting legislation, and educating the public.

Some people like the Prime Minister of the St. Vincent&the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, have expressed concern at the increasing price tag, and the constant shifting of the "stumps" as the principals call for more of this and more of that.

Dehring outlined that there are some expenses connected to the legacy side of the event that have been lumped with what's needed for World Cup matches, and this may lead some into believing that costs have spiralled out of control.

"For instance, SVG, as a country hosting warm-up matches, would never have had to embark on the kind of construction programme that they have to upgrade the Arnos Vale Field," he said.

"This would not have been a World Cup consideration, request, or requirement, but SVG, in their own wisdom, have decided for the legacy portion to upgrade their facility, so there are issues like this that have to be separated.

"There are major construction projects being embarked upon across the region which have been accelerated because countries wanted them to be ready in time for the World Cup."

The economies of several, if not all the countries playing host to the World Cup are under pressure from the weight of a number of new global trade arrangements.

Lots of West Indian people have complained that governments have neglected local concerns to spend large sums for a "feel-good thing".

It also led Compton Bourne, the chairman of the Caribbean Development Bank, and Sir Ronald Sanders, a former Antigua&Barbuda Ambassador to Britain, to openly question if the World Cup will be the economic "cash-cow" that it was promised to be.

"All major events have an international element to them which is what brings significant benefits, and they have a very heavy local component to them which is what creates a special flavour and local benefits," Dehring observed.

"The 2007 World Cup will be no different. The benefits will be shared across the region and across the World. We are hosting the event on behalf of the international cricket community, and we have to ensure that the international cricket community participates in it.

"People in the Caribbean must remember that this is an international event, and in the same way a West Indies fan would not want to be shut out of a World Cup hosted elsewhere, we cannot prevent others from participating in it."

In view of all this, it is clear that the World Cup presents a huge challenge to the people of the West Indies, but Dehring and others of like-mind see the event as a critical stepping stone and not the end-all and be-all for regional development.

The remaining time before that first ball is bowled will be an intense period of operations for the organisers, as they busily put the plans that they have spent years developing into action.

"Clearly, it's a very busy time for all of us around the region," Dehring said.

"Overall, we are quite happy with where we are. There are many challenges

that remain, but everyday counts, and everyday we are coming up with solutions for those challenges."

Australia are the two-time defending World Cup champions, but West Indies won the first two World Cups in 1975 and 1979, and were beaten finalist in 1983.

The schedule

MARCH

Group Stage (First Round)

Group A - All games in St Kitts

Group B - All games in Trinidad

Group C - All games in St Lucia

Group D - All games in Jamaica

13 Group D, West Indies v Pakistan

14 Group A, Australia v Scotland

14 Group C, Kenya v Canada

15 Group B, Sri Lanka v Bermuda

15 Group D, Zimbabwe v Ireland

16 Group A, South Africa v Netherlands

16 Group C, England v New Zealand

17 Group B, India v Bangladesh

17 Group D, Pakistan v Ireland

18 Group A, Australia v Netherlands

18 Group C, England v Canada

19 Group B, India v Bermuda

19 Group D, West Indies v Zimbabwe

20 Group A, South Africa v Scotland

20 Group C, New Zealand v Kenya

21 Group B, Sri Lanka v Bangladesh

21 Group D, Zimbabwe v Pakistan

22 Group A, Scotland v Netherlands

22 Group C, New Zealand v Canada

23 Group B, India v Sri Lanka

23 Group D, West Indies v Ireland

24 Group A, Australia v South Africa

24 Group C, England v Kenya

25 Group B, Bermuda v Bangladesh

Super Eight (Quarter-Finals)

27 D2 v A1, Antigua&Barbuda

28 A2 v B1, Guyana

29 D2 v C1, Antigua&Barbuda

30 D1 v C2, Guyana

31 A1 v B2, Antigua&Barbuda

APRIL

1 D2 v B1, Guyana

2 B2 v C1, Antigua&Barbuda

3 D1 v A2, Guyana

4 C2 v B1, Antigua&Barbuda

7 B2 v A2, Guyana

8 A1 v C2, Antigua&Barbuda

9 D1 v C1, Guyana

10 D2 v A2, Grenada

11 C2 v B2, Barbados

12 B1 v C1, Grenada

13 A1 v D1, Barbados

14 A2 v C1, Grenada

15 B2 v D1, Barbados

16 A1 v B1, Grenada

17 A2 v C2, Barbados

18 D1 v B1, Grenada

19 D2 v B2, Barbados

20 A1 v C1, Grenada

21 D2 v C2, Barbados

Semifinals

24 Super Eight 2nd v 3rd, Jamaica

25 Super Eight 1st v 4th, St Lucia

FINAL

28 Winner SF1 v Winner SF2, Barbados

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