Speed has grounds for World Cup optimism

International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executive Malcolm Speed said an enduring legacy of the World Cup would be a series of new and rebuilt grounds across the Caribbean.

The 2007 World Cup, the first to be staged in the West Indies, has been widely criticised for its length (51 days), a lack of close matches and excessive restrictions on fans.

It ended in extraordinary fashion here Saturday when a team comprising some of the sport’s most experienced officials delayed champions Australia’s victory celebrations by incorrectly forcing losing finalists Sri Lanka to bat out three overs in darkness on a Kensington Oval ground without floodlights.

But Speed, looking ahead, said the fact the Barbados venue had been redeveloped while new grounds such as Grenada’s National Stadium had been built, left an impressive legacy.

“What we will see here in the West Indies now is that West Indies cricket now has a terrific problem,” he told reporters at Kensington Oval on Sunday.

“It now has this collection of five-star cricket grounds so when Australia comes here next year they’re going to have an almighty argument about where Australia play their Test matches and one-day internationals.”

Officials at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua, built specially for the World Cup, are contemplating staging baseball matches at the ground.

And Speed said he had no problem with venues which, because of economic circumstances may not attract enough local support to be financially viable just as cricket grounds, looking to other sports and concerts for additional revenue, adding this was standard practice at many famous cricket locations.

“In Melbourne, the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) has far more days of Australian rules football than it does cricket.

“Cricket grounds in other parts of the world are multi-purpose with other sports and functions staged on them,” the Australian added.

“It’s amazing that many of our cricket grounds can survive with so few international cricket matches.

“They will struggle to get full occupancy in their cricket grounds here (the Caribbean) and they will do other things, whether it’s baseball or soccer that’s fine as long as it is available to cricket when cricket needs it.”

Speed added the tournament was likely to have wiped out the 15 million dollar deficit of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB)

He said the board had been paid a hosting fee of some 100 million dollars from which it had to deduct staging expenses for the first World Cup held in the Caribbean in the tournament’s nine-edition history.

“I don’t know how great that surplus is, but read recently that Ken Gordon (WICB president) believes the surplus will wipe out the debt. That’s one of the legacies I’m very happy about.”

This World Cup was staged across nine countries and the next one, in 2011, will also be a multi-national affair with India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh the hosts.

“Other sports find one country and play their World Cup there,” Speed said. “If what we’re seeking to undertake here is seen to have failed because we’ve bitten off too much then perhaps we need to change that. But then Asian countries would have a World Cup every 40 years rather than every 12.”

Speed, reflecting on a tournament that saw the body of murdered Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer discovered in his hotel room a day after his side’s shock defeat by Ireland, said: “We’ve had cricket on the back pages and unfortunately on the front pages for seven weeks.

“I think it is early to predict how history will look at an event. But certainly Bob Woolmer’s tragic death and the finish of the Final will be two issues that are uppermost in the minds of people who’ve been here and followed the event.”  (AFP)