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Barbados Nation
August 1, 1999

For all its recent ups and downs, cricket remains a focal point of West Indian society.

To that extent, the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) welcomes the keen interest shown by regional leaders, at last month’s CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting in Trinidad, in solidifying the game - at various levels in the Caribbean.

Speaking after a meeting between CARICOM’s Cricket Sub-Committee and regional cricket officials at the 20th annual summit, WICB president Pat Rousseau praised CARICOM’s firm support, financial and otherwise, to WICB as it steps up preparations to stage the 2007 World Cup.

He explained that three years before the prestigious event, the host organisation must start making payments to the International Cricket Council (ICC) and its member countries. Such monies range from US$ 9 million to US$ 12 million which the WICB cannot afford but must find.

Thus, CARICOM’s agreement to underwrite loans to cover these costs is a major boost.

However, though CARICOM has given its blessing to the establishment of a regional lotto to help finance and develop cricket, no decision has been taken on the execution of this proposal by the WICB.

It will also be necessary to have “special legislation” for the duration of the World Cup and the president mooted this concern in Trinidad, stressing it was integral to ensuring the smooth running of such a mammoth event.

As he noted we are going to move people and teams back and forth through the Caribbean and we will have to deal with security, visas, customs clearance and immigration.

Some special measures will have to be put in place to ensure easy movements between countries.

Of course, a major part of the discussions surrounded the state of the Caribbean’s cricketing plant. The WICB’s representatives made it clear that additional cricket grounds must be built while the existing infrastructure of current grounds must be upgraded.

They underlined the fact that, of the region’s main cricket centres, only the new Queen’s Park in Grenada satisfies international standards.

The world-class undertaking of hosting the World Cup will require all the combined strengths of the West Indies Cricket Board and Caribbean governments to ensure its success. There is much good to be gained all around especially with the massive, commercial spin-off expected.

At every juncture, the WICB has tried to underscore that tried-and-true adage: “If we fail to be prepared we must be prepared to fail.”

It is up to the West Indies, as a collective entity, to determine the outcome and how the region maximises this rare opportunity.

Certainly, from a “Caribbean nationalistic” perspective, there is little point having a tremendous World Cup if West Indies cricket is not of a high standard.

At the summit, both CARICOM and WICB leaders recognised the need to place greater emphasis on youth cricketers - the future Test batsmen and bowlers.

The suggestion of Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Basdeo Panday that Caribbean sporting stars travel the region “conducting clinics and talking with student populations” is something for consideration.

Also noteworthy is the lead role which the University of the West Indies (UWI) has proposed in organising a regional cricket conference and in assessing literacy levels in cricket and the sport’s sociological impact.

Hopefully, the recent dialogue is a sign of new and refreshing commitment to West Indies cricket as we embrace the next millennium and move towards the 2007 World Cup. The WICB looks forward to more positive input.

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