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Reclaiming Caribbean Cricket

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13.APR.07

Get your tickets at reasonable prices! Bring your food, your water, your music! Your Conch-Shell, your whistle!
It’s cricket Caribbean style!

Yes, these are the advertisements being heard in Barbados and Grenada as these two countries prepare to host the last stages of the 2007 Cricket World Cup Super 8s which would determine the tournament’s semi-finalists. What a huge turnabout this has been! What major concessions to the demands of the Caribbean people – the fans hoteliers, media, even governments! {{more}}For one month ago the message was quite different. It has taken a whole month of lost opportunities to bring the organizers of the tournament, the International Cricket Conference (ICC) and its Caribbean organizing committee, the CWC to at least heed the cries of the people.

Before that, as the region prepared to host the tournament what we got was a list of DON’Ts and CAN’Ts, rules and regulations laying down all sorts of restrictions. These were codified in the unprecedented “Sunset Legislation” rammed through the Parliaments of all the participating territories. It was as though all that we had contributed to the world of international cricket, particularly the unique Caribbean atmosphere of one-day cricket, was suddenly pushed aside and replaced by the drab rules of the ICC. The enjoyment of the Caribbean public, and not just Caribbean, mind you, seemed to be furthest from the mind. World Cup 2007 began to seem more like a conman’s game with our taxpayers picking up the tabs and a group of international capitalists picking the berries.

Even the public relations was big disaster. So whatever the true nature of the DON’Ts and CAN’Ts, the message conveyed to us all was that it was not OUR CUP. It was all about how many tourists we could attract. If they would come who needed the Caribbean fans? Unfortunately the proverbial “glorious uncertainties” of cricket intervened, India and Pakistan crashed out of the Cup, and so did the calculations of the cynical money-spinners. The interests of the desperate coincided with those of the irate Caribbean people. In Barbados in particular, long considered the “Mecca” of cricket in the region, where investment in the World Cup was heaviest given the staging of the final plus the Super 8s, the situation was reaching panic stage. The sight of near empty stadia in Antigua, St. Kitts and St. Lucia, the complaints of the fans, the criticisms of the media and even the half-hearted noises of government officials, created a groundswell. Something had to give. And it did!

So the ICC and CWC were forced to relent. Not without all sorts of excuses and explanations, but retreat they did. To our amazement, CWC boss Chris Dehring had the gall to claim that food and music were never prohibited. Tell that to the Vincentian schoolchildren who had theirs confiscated at Arnos Vale! So why was this not made clear to ALL then, before the World Cup proper began? Governments too and regional cricket officials have also been trying to pass the buck.

There will be time for recrimination but that time is not now. There is too much already invested by the region not to try and maximize the remaining opportunities. For the moment we must welcome the concessions forced out of the organizers, reclaim the cricketing environment and press our team onwards to see if they can one day realize the impossible dream.

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