World Cup jeopardy

Stabroek News
May 1, 1999

The warning by West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) President, Pat Rousseau that the staging of the World Cup in the West Indies in 2007 could be jeopardised by the recent eruptions of ragamuffin behaviour at Bourda and Kensington Oval should galvanise leaders in the region to take the issue in hand.

From its inception in 1975, fans in the West Indies have yearned for the day when the region could host the World Cup and claim one of the few remaining accolades to be plucked in the cricketing world.

As the only team to have won two titles and in consecutive tournaments, the West Indies has earned this right. But the wait has been long and the West Indies have now been pipped for the 2003 World Cup by South Africa which had only been readmitted to the game a few years ago.

The first three tournaments were staged in England, the fourth in India/Pakistan, the fifth in Australia/New Zealand and the most recent one in India/Pakistan/Sri Lanka. Now it's back in England this year before going to South Africa and - knock on wood - the West Indies in 2007.

Poor facilities in the Caribbean, feeble lobbying by West Indian administrators and the power structure of the International Cricket Council (ICC) most likely militated against the region securing hosting rights for the World Cup earlier.

These same impediments have to be overcome by West Indian administrators if the promise of the 2007 World Cup is to be realised. The bad news is that the behaviour of the crowds at Bourda and the Kensington Oval - while not extreme in comparison with what prevails elsewhere - has served as a lightning rod in the cricketing world for condemnation of spectator behaviour from Georgetown to Canberra and everywhere else in between.

That both of these incidents occurred at one-day internationals makes the threat to the World Cup tournament much more palpable.

The task for the WICB is therefore quite onerous and what the public wants to hear from Mr Rousseau is a strategy to limit the damage done to the region's chances of hosting the World Cup.

This is where the region needs to come together and where its other institution, CARICOM could play a part that is tailor-made for it. CARICOM Heads have previously shown a keen interest in the problems besetting West Indies cricket particularly during the recent slump in form and the disunity that was evident among team members. This here is another challenge for them to take up.

The ICC and its constituents are likely to be leery of supporting a World Cup in the West Indies unless firm assurances are given on player security and the quality of facilities. In the last World Cup, Australia boycotted a Sri Lankan venue because of fears over the insurgency in the Jaffna Peninsula and a bomb blast in Colombo. The nature of the problem here pales in comparison but it does open up the possibility that certain teams may choose not to play in certain West Indian locations and this must be avoided at all costs.

The iron-clad guarantees that the WICB must now be expected to give require a brace which only CARICOM and its member governments can give to the ICC. In the coming months there should be a caucus between the WICB and CARICOM to plot a course to ensure that the World Cup comes here in 2007. It entails a lot of hard work and tough questions about funding, ground capacities, hotel rooms, inter-country travel arrangements, logistics, upgrading facilities at venues and of course, crowd control. Perhaps private sector organisations can also be enlisted to provide the necessary management acumen and other critical support.

The setback occasioned by the shameful behaviour of fans calls for a lengthy and fruitful partnership between the WICB and CARICOM to steer the Windies' chances to safety.