World Cup Final: Rain dampens last hope of a long-awaited spark
At a World Cup that has failed to deliver the carnival it promised, it was almost inevitable that the factor that was yet to affect the tournament, rain, should appear and disrupt it when it needed it least. The 2007 World Cup has produced very few thrilling games and was in desperate need of a classic encounter to pin itself on, and yesterday's final between Australia and Sri Lanka, the two outstanding teams of the tournament, had the potential to provide such a spectacle. But the persistent early morning showers at the Kensington Oval severely hampered the chances of such an event taking place.
It was hoped the 2007 World Cup would help rejuvenate cricket in a region where it used to be king. The West Indies will be left with a legacy - all the major islands now have facilities that compare favourably with any in the world, and the West Indies Cricket Board should have plenty of money to invest in further projects to safeguard the future of the game here - but it is hard to believe that the events of the past seven weeks will have inspired thousands of young men in the Caribbean to kick out their footballs and basketballs and pick up a cricket bat.
The tournament will always be remembered for the death of Bob Woolmer but the most disappointing aspect of all is the people of the West Indies have not been allowed to follow cricket the way they want to follow it. One of the attractions of West Indian cricket is its unpredictability. For years cricketers from the region have provided supporters with rich entertainment by playing instinctively. At times the product is exhilarating, at others infuriating, but there is always emotion at a West Indian cricket ground and it makes for compulsive viewing.
And the same traits exist among those who follow the sport. A day at the Kensington Oval is not something that is planned months in advance, it is a decision that is made days before the match takes place. As those of us who have witnessed the frantic preparations taking place at each of the grounds prior to its first match will testify, the West Indies exists predominantly in a last-minute culture.
Events of this size require years of careful planning and a worldwide model of how they should be run has been formulated. But the organisers of this tournament have failed to consider the idiosyncrasies of the local population and it has had a hugely damaging effect on what has taken place.
This is an enormous shame because a tour of the Caribbean should be the most enjoyable and memorable a player or supporter goes on, and this World Cup could have been the best ever. The region has shown that it can accommodate an event of this size - logistically there have been far fewer horror stories than many predicted - but the atmosphere in too many of the grounds has been anything but West Indian.
Colour, noise and fun are the characteristics that make the region a special place to visit but these were lacking at too many of the early venues. Barbados, with its stunning new stadium, has been the exception and the thousands of people who have travelled here have had a wonderful time. This was achieved by allowing the local population to enter free of charge after a specified time. The move may have upset some of those who were asked to pay inflated prices for their tickets but it was the best decision the organisers made at the tournament. All of a sudden there was noise and fun inside the ground and a major event seemed to be taking place. Whoever created the ticket pricing policy should be looking for a new job by now. In Guyana the cost of a ticket was equivalent to two weeks' wages.
The International Cricket Council, the Local Organising Committee and the Global Cricket Corporation are currently blaming each other for all the tournament's problems. They are all culpable but ultimately it is the ICC who are accountable. This is, after all, the ICC Cricket World Cup.
There have been many issues out of the control of the ICC and the format for the tournament, even though it needs shortening by at least a week, is sound. It was not the organisers' fault that India and Pakistan underperformed and the ICC should not create an event where the qualification of certain sides is guaranteed.
Many issues would have been overlooked had the cricket been of a scintillating nature but the presence of Bangladesh and Ireland in the Super Eights meant that almost half of the games involved a side that had little chance of winning. Only five of the 50 matches played before the final could be described as close. It is why the final needed to be a classic.
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