Windies ready to host World Cup

Please, my friends ‘ and I do really want your understanding here ‘ please, please, note that I am not saying this simply because I am here. And again, my friends ‘ and again I do really want your understanding on this one-please, please, do not, even for one moment, think I am saying I am here because I want you to know that I am in the Caribbean. Far from it. Indeed, how can you even think that of me, I mean that I go about name-dropping. That I deliberately choose such subjects to discuss in your Sunday column as will enable me to brag about being far and wide. Far from it! I am sure, in fact, I know that you know me better than that now. Good’very good! Now that we have put that slight misunderstanding behind us, I was going to tell you that I am in the Saint Mary’s Parish of the island of Antigua and Barbuda. You see, the island is divided into six parishes, which are like provinces back home. And I am in one of them. But now that sounds like bragging. In any case, I think the point I had made and was going to develop is that the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 tournament in the Caribbean could turn out to be the best ever. If that turns out to be so then please do not find it difficult to acknowledge where you heard it first. I am saying that, that is that the 2007 world cricket showcase global could be the best ever, because I am here. Now, now, Mr Banda, did you not say sometime earlier that you are not saying that because you are there? What, if anything, are we to understand? Well, well, my friends: what you are to understand is what I am understanding. What I am understanding is that the people here have it in them to give the world the best ever cricket extravaganza come next year. That is what I am understanding and that is the understanding I am trying to convey to you ‘ if only you can give me the chance and not keep interrupting me and, in the process, causing me to lose my thread. It is a Sunday today. Well, it is that is if you read your newspaper when you should ‘ that is on the day it comes out, and that is today. It is a Sunday today. If you are that way inclined, you either have been to already, are on your way or will soon or later be going to church. If you are that way inclined you would know then that God himself made it clear that where two or three are gathered in His name, He would be in their midst. I put it unto you, my brethren, colleagues and friends: what I have found here is that where two or three are gathered, cricket is in their midst. I kid you not. Former West Indies Cricket Board President and a living legend of the global game, the Reverend Wes Hall, has called cricket a “metaphor that mirrors social, political and cultural change” for the people of the islands. “When we win, you know how it is ‘ adulation all over the world. When we lose, we are in trouble,” he told a gathering of past cricket greats such as Sir Vivian Richards, Sir Garfield Sobers, Richie Richardson and Courtney Walsh, at the launch of the “Cricket Legends of Barbados” project in Bridgetown on the Friday we arrived there, which is not this past Friday but the one before. To show you just how serious the whole business was, a person no less than Barbados’ Prime Minister Owen Arthur himself attended the launch. So seriously are they taking the project he said his government “will move heaven and earth” to finance it: “Not the Caribbean Single Market and Economy, not the Caribbean Court of Justice. There is nothing that means as much to the Caribbean people as cricket.” It is not difficult to appreciate why cricket means so much to the local people. The game has done for the region what nothing else has. It has brought the Caribbean international glory and worldwide acclaim. It has made these islands remain on the international socio-political agenda. They could so easily have been consigned to the dustbin of history once slavery was abolished. Any remaining topical issue could easily have sunk soon after with the drowning of the hype over the Bermuda Triangle. Any other residues would then have been scrapped later as reggae music was overtaken as the international sound by other sounds. But, over the ages, the world has had to sit and watch as men from the islands dominated world cricket either with the ball or the willow, or both. The Reverend Hall again: “Cricket is of the people, for the people and by the people in West Indies and it belongs to the people.” Nuff respect, mon. On the ground, it is full steam ahead with work apace to ensure that the nine hosting venues are ready by the October deadline. Jamaica recently encountered some delays because of the shortage of cement on the island, but the contractors have gone back to the drawing board and submitted another critical path of completion. An advertisement in the Antigua Sun newspaper on Monday invited “individuals, groups, organisations and churches interested in volunteering” for the World Cup to attend a meeting on Thursday. I would not be surprised if they changed the venue to the stadium to accommodate the numbers. The Chairman of the Antigua Hotels and Tourist Association, Mr Ted Isaac, who is also the general manager of the five-star (there, there, Mr Banda, is that really necessary?) Jolly Beach Resort where we are staying, is a former Antigua and Barbuda cricket great. The other day he had with him the great Eldrine Baptiste, who is now coaching in South Africa. His groundsman at the hotel field played for the island and in England. Several of the hotel staff members were bowling to the Zimbabwe squad during nets the other day. An elderly waitress was complaining that she is working this weekend and so will not be able to watch the first two of the seven-match Digicel One Day International series between the West Indies and Zimbabwe. On the beach yesterday afternoon a white-bearded old man kept demonstrating with a boat oar why Sir Viv, who has the world cup venue here named after him, is in a class that does not include Brian Lara. One of those arguing against him kept repeating, like a mantra: “Why you insult de king? Lara king, mon, Lara he king.” Yeah, man, 2007 could just be the tournament!

April 2006
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