Excitement galore as Cricket World Cup nears
My column - by Adam Harris
February 18, 2007
There is no better feeling than when we do something right against all expectation and while there were glitches, we did perform creditably and beyond expectation when we simulated the Cricket World Cup on Friday.
There were many things that we should have done as we attempted to complete the stadium at Providence to accommodate matches, the kind of which we never saw in this country.
It was with some trepidation that I visited the site for the first time. The contractors had just cleared a cane field and were making plans for the physical construction.
When I visited again, the playing area had been leveled; the architects had used some laser equipment to ensure that there were no limps and ridges. I was excited because for the first time I was learning about this form of leveling the ground.
Then there was the question of arranging for a gradual slope falling away toward the boundary.
Actual construction began and I was skeptical because things appeared to be moving ever so slowly. At the same time I kept hearing that we were ahead of schedule and that there were sections that were ahead of other stadiums in the region. But I had my reservations, because cricket is much more than pavilions. There must be a pitch.
For some reason we were slow to prepare the pitch. In the end they managed to but, with a few months to the World Cup matches, I knew that we might have left it too late. The experts in Guyana felt otherwise.
When the International Cricket Council experts came in November and failed both the pitch and outfield, I was not surprised. There was still a lot of sand on the outfield and playing was tantamount to playing bat and ball on the beach. The pitch was anything but an international facility. Bowlers would have cried and batsmen would have had to do the impossible to get out.
The pitch inspectors did say that all was not lost with the pitch and with some work things would be in keeping with international standards.
We pounded and rolled; we stepped up the programme to make the outfield ready and, earlier this month, the visitors gave us a passing grade.
Had we been playing with our Caribbean colleagues and others with a like culture everything would have been 100 per cent up to standard.
In this part of the world we do not worry about terrorist threats, we don't worry about too sophisticated accommodation and we eat a common fare.
But here we were gearing to accommodate people from just about every corner of the world and given the global threat of terrorism everybody expects some bomb or other dangerous device being placed at some corner of the playing venue to disrupt the matches.
I remember the days when we in this country went to cricket with our large baskets loaded with just about everything that we could prepare in the kitchen. Some of us topped up the fare with intoxicating liquids and at the end of the day some of our friends would have to tote us home.
During the match we would make all the conversation we could. We became friends with total strangers and we shared what we had. A few would run onto the playing area from time to time but at no time did we hurt any of the players.
The need for security was furthest from the minds of the organisers. And the many cricketing playing countries that came to this shore always left with lasting memories of a people who not only knew the game but who could make a cricket match a thing of beauty.
Somewhere along the line a new breed of players came. They were so much better paid that after a few matches they were millionaires. Perhaps their newfound wealth made them special and somewhat very precious that they would need bodyguards.
Fortunately, none of the Guyanese or West Indian cricketers have reached this stage. But for the others, security became an issue. We had to construct protective fences, something that one does not see in the English or Australian venues.
In fact, there is scarcely a security barrier except in countries like ours, India and Pakistan. It is as if we people of colour are somewhat different from the others.
And so it was that the National Stadium at Providence had to be provided with an outer fence where prospective fans had to be screened for the first time. Then there had to be a second checkpoint where everyone is scanned.
Then there are more security officers at the entrance to the stands to ensure that we have the correct ticket. All this was tested on Friday. The people who entered the stadium suddenly found out that the days of turning up and buying tickets outside the ground are over. If you do not have a ticket in advance then do not waste the time going anywhere near the stadium.
But there was a problem and it had nothing to do with cricket although it had everything to do with what was happening at the stadium. There was a traffic situation and I am afraid that when the real McCoy comes in late March/early April, things could be worse.
For some reason we have failed to complete the four-lane highway outside the stadium and this is going to come back to haunt us.
That stadium has been built along the only thoroughfare that links us to the international airport. It is also the only route to the locations south of the capital and a lot of traffic flows along that corridor.
There will be traffic jams unless the authorities restrict movement. Perhaps there may be need for a rule limiting the movement of trucks and animal drawn carts. We may even have to introduce car pools to restrict the number of cars that may have to use the roadway.
But for those minor hiccups I was excited. The trial run went well except that the people providing the food are still to be conscious of the need to do everything before the sun rises.
I am not going to comment on accommodation. I know that no visitor has ever had to sleep on the streets and this time around none will.
We will lose money as a nation because we are not ready for plastic money and most of the people coming will be coming with their credit cards. Whether some of the hotels would be ready for that is another matter. But this is an issue I will examine in the not too distant future.