Cricket: World Cup adopts youth policy

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The 1999 ICC Cricket World Cup, as it wishes to be known, was launched at Lord's yesterday under the catchphrase: "It's not just cricket." But as the ceremony unfurled with slick aplomb, it was clear that the England and Wales Cricket Board appeared keen not to fall foul of the complacency that has sometimes dogged other large events.

World Cups are a guaranteed financial bonanza, yet the ECB seems determined that this one will be populist and reach as many people as possible. As Terry Blake, the tournament director put it: "In 1999, the world will come to England to celebrate cricket."

As ever, television is the medium that will carry the message. But although the screening rights have yet to be finalised, probably the reason only two of the eight - Vodafone and NatWest - global sponsorships are signed and sealed, an estimated global audience in excess of two billion people is expected to watch some of the 42-match event. Terrestrial stations will be well represented and assured either live or highlights coverage of each game.

Closer to home it is the young who will be targeted, wooed by a combination of street parties, gaudy merchandise and a couple of cartoon characters - a ball and a batsman - whose names will be chosen through a children's competition and announced later. According to Blake, the message the ECB wants to give to the youth of Britain is: "Cricket is a vibrant game full of action and heroes."

As has been the norm for the last two World Cups, there will be white balls, coloured clothing and matches played over 50 overs. Unlike the previous two competitions, no matches will be held under lights, but there will be a wide range of venues, taking in all the first-class counties, but also including Ireland, Edinburgh and Amsterdam.

There are two round-robin groups of six teams, with two points awarded for each win. The top three from each go forward to the Super Six stage of the competition, carrying forward the points made during the qualifying round. This means every game is worth winningt.

At that stage, a total of nine matches that will determine the top four teams, who will qualify for the semi-finals. Those matches will take place at Old Trafford and Edgbaston, where the top team of the Super Six phase will play the team placed fourth, and those placed second and third will fight it out for a place in the Lord's final on 20 June.

The duration of the competition, from its start on 14 May, when England play Sri Lanka at Lord's, to the showpiece final there, is 37 days. At that stage of an English summer the slow seaming pitches will offer a distinct home advantage to England, who will have returned from a winter tour of Australia.

England have never won the World Cup. Perhaps it is time to change that in front of a nation primed and ready for action.

1999 CRICKET WORLD CUP FIXTURES

Group A

England, India, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya.

Group B

Australia, West Indies, Pakistan, Scotland, Zealand, Bangladesh.

Match schedule

GROUP STAGE: 14 May: England v Sri Lanka (Lord's). 15 May: India v South Africa (Hove). Zimbabwe v Kenya (Taunton). 16 May: Australia v Scotland (Worcester). West Indies v Pakistan (Bristol). 17 May: New Zealand v Bangladesh (Chelmsford). 18 May: England v Kenya (Canterbury). 19 May: Sri Lanka v South Africa (Northampton); India v Zimbabwe (Leicester). 20 May: Australia v New Zealand (Cardiff). Pakistan v Scotland (Chester-le-Street). 21 May: West Indies v Bangladesh (Irish venue tba). 22 May: England v South Africa (The Oval). Zimbabwe v Sri Lanka (Worcester). 23 May: Kenya v India (Bristol). Australia v Pakistan (Headingley). 24 May: West Indies v New Zealand (Southampton). Scotland v Bangladesh (Edinburgh). 25 May: England v Zimbabwe (Trent Bridge). 26 May: Sri Lanka v India (Taunton); South Africa v Kenya (Amstelveen, Neth). 27 May: West Indies v Scotland (Leicester). Australia v Bangladesh (Chester-le-Street). 28 May: New Zealand v Pakistan (Derby). 29 May: England v India (Edgbaston); Zimbabwe v South Africa (Chelmsford). 30 May: Sri Lanka v Kenya (Southampton). West Indies v Australia (Old Trafford). 31 May: Scotland v New Zealand (Edinburgh); Pakistan v Bangladesh (Northampton).

SUPER SIX STAGE: 4 June: Group A 2nd v Group B 2nd (The Oval). 5 June: Group A 1st v Group B 1st (Trent Bridge). 6 June: Group A: 3rd v Group B 3rd (Headingley). 8 June: Group A 2nd v Group B 1st (Old Trafford). 9 June: Group A 3rd v Group B 2nd (Lord's). 10 June: Group A 1st v Group B 3rd (Edgbaston). 11 June: Group A 3rd v Group B 1st (The Oval). 12 June: Group A 2nd v Group B 3rd (Trent Bridge). 13 June: Group A 1st v Group B 2nd (Headingley).

SEMI-FINALS: 16 June: Super Six 1 v Super Six 4 (Old Trafford). 17 June: Super Six 2 v Super Six 3 (Edgbaston).

FINAL: 20 June: (Lord's).

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