Sun, Sea and Cricket
What the Cricket World Cup means for the West Indies
As a young boy in Guyana, not unlike the islands of the Caribbean, the game of cricket was merely one of life’s simple pleasures. It allowed us to indulge our natural athletic instincts, complemented with boundless youthful energy, constantly under the unforgiving sunshine in a sort of endless summer-often forgoing meals while flirting with the wrath of unco-operative parents.
When I was afforded the honour of serving as captain of the West Indies, Sir Frank Worrell-one of the vaunted three Ws, the others being Sir Everton Weekes and Sir Clyde Walcott-was not only a gifted cricketer but also one of the great leaders of our time. Sadly, Sir Frank left us prematurely, but in his brief sojourn he blazed a trail that changed the face of West Indies cricket. His informed leadership and dignity, as well as his relentless pursuit of equality and fair play on and off the field, fuelled my goals as a professional and provided a blueprint for my stewardship.
Having played in three Cricket World Cups, I have followed with close attention the evolution of this version of the game. The inaugural World Cup in 1975, sponsored by the Prudential Assurance Company, was a competition between only eight countries and was a 60-over affair. The first three tournaments were held in England. The competition then became more global in nature as it moved to the playing fields of Pakistan, India, Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Significantly, it has become a 50-over game and is organised by the International Cricket Council (ICC). The one-day international (as opposed to five-day Test matches) has truly grown in stature and extent. The ICC Cricket World Cup, justly to be held in the West Indies, will now feature 16 teams and 51 matches, starting in Jamaica on March 13th and concluding with the final in Barbados on April 28th.
It was quite a proud moment for me when the ICC awarded the 2007 World Cup to the West Indies. It is undoubtedly the biggest single event ever hosted in the Caribbean and in my view it is the best thing to have happened to the Caribbean community in general and to West Indies cricket in particular. World Cup cricket has become a global spectacle rivalled only by the Olympic Games and World Cup football.
We will never get a second chance to make a first impression. The Caribbean people must ensure that:
1. We have state-of-the-art stadiums.
2. There are enough fully equipped hotel rooms with well-trained staff and amenities to accommodate comfortably huge numbers of visitors.
3. There are vehicles in mint condition at standardised rates to transport the visitors safely and efficiently.
4. There is tight security at all times at cricket venues, hotels, restaurants, night clubs, shops and public places, allowing for a safe, relaxing and enjoyable environment for everyone.
5. Process through customs and immigration for all visitors, officials and media personnel is carried out efficiently and expeditiously.
6. There are fully equipped medical facilities at all venues at all times.
The journey to 2007 is well under way. It is extremely challenging, but it must be pursued purposefully and with all creative energy. Failure is not an option for the West Indies as they undertake this exciting venture.
The stakes are high. The short-term gain for a successful 2007 Cricket World Cup will be a massive financial windfall for the Caribbean. The long-term benefits for the region and for West Indies cricket are even greater. Physically, new avenues of trade and tourism will develop to boost our economies, and the West Indies Cricket Board and the territories will be the inheritors of much-needed world-class cricket infrastructure. We cannot overstate the importance of sport in any society, let alone the West Indies. It is a vital conduit for the positive energies of our youth. Sport begets discipline, provides challenges, creates opportunities, transcends narrow social borders and invariably provides the foundation for wholesome human development.
World Cup 2007 is a pivotal moment for the West Indies. This could be the vehicle that brings the region to the dawn of a new day.