The Cricket World Cup: a farce in the dark

Darcus details the fiasco that was this year's world cup

Caribbean peoples have spent 47 days and nights in the wilderness, peeping out from time to time to glimpse a slice of cricketing reality. And I am here to bear witness.

This year the Cricket World Cup, organised by the International Cricket Council, was held in the Caribbean. This imperial body, the ICC, had as its subordinate the local West Indies Cricket Board, which begat the organisation of the Caribbean World Cup. The negotiations to hold the World Cup on these islands were carried out behind the backs of Caribbean peoples and their governments. We were offered a fait accompli, with the possibilities of huge revenues from tourism. The figures were not tested, lacked authenticity and were heavily embroidered.

Our political representatives spent more than $300m on infrastructural developments. With out the help of China and India, which offered grants towards five new stadiums, the peoples of the Caribbean would have been left in even greater debt. So said the International Monetary Fund on 13 April.

Security was elevated to incorporate an American package that had all the hallmarks of an anti- al-Qaeda programme. Governments behaved as though we, in the Caribbean, were at war with Iraq, Iran and the Taliban.

Someone had to pay for all this, and ticket prices were pitched way beyond the means of the Caribbean masses. These ranged all the way from $300 to $25 for the inconsequential games. In addition, tourists from Australia, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan and the UK had to hunt for Caribbean visas under the close monitoring eye of the security forces and at great cost. Hoteliers raked it in. And once India and Pakistan were out of the competition, prices soared. Those who had paid deposits got no refunds.

The Caribbean peoples stood firm. They voted with their feet, and stayed away in huge numbers. Governments bought tickets and gave them away to schoolchildren in order to fill empty stadiums, embarrassed by television footage that went round the world. It was a mess.

Every hindrance was placed in the way of the Caribbean peoples. The traditional picnic basket, which was an integral part of cricket attendance, was reduced to a 12x12-inch bag. Alcohol had to be bought at the ground; brand names had to be scraped off commodities; punters had to remove tops from plastic bottles. The advertising brand names on billboards brooked no competition.

No musical instruments were permitted, no sounds of freedom, no rhythms - all these are fundamental parts of Caribbean cricket watching. It was as though a Nazi regime had engulfed Caribbean cricket.

By the time we got to the end of the Super Eights and the match between the West Indies and England, plenty of tickets were available. Empty stands threatened. Enter Brian Charles Lara to the rescue. He announced that this game would be the last of his career. The rush for tickets that followed almost caused a riot in Barbados. Trinidadians were falling over each other as they headed for their sister island.

Thousands journeyed to bid The General farewell. Even I shed a tear. The World Cup was partially rescued from wending its miserable way to disaster. Thereafter, a ferocious debate ensued about the future of West Indian cricket and the low ebb to which it has sunk. Also discussed was the ill-treatment of the Caribbean peoples. By then, we had drawn to our side all the foreign fans who respected us for keeping the game alive in the shadow of American football, basketball and so on. A Sri Lankan tourist confessed that he never met a people so knowledgeable about the intricacies of such a complicated game. I perked up a bit.

And then that long slide to the final. The World Cup was decided as Australia demonstrated its domination in darkness, as the ignorance of the umpires forced the best in cricket to play out a farce in the dark. Hardly anyone in the audience heard or saw the closing ceremony.

There can be no legacy from this mess; only a post-mortem to be conducted on the remains of a catastrophe. The cricket fans at Kensington Oval in Bridgetown gave their unprompted conclusion: they booed lustily when the ICC's chief executive Malcolm Speed, the president of the West Indies Cricket Board, Ken Gordon, and the CEO of the Windies World Cup, Chris Dehring, were introduced. And that was all.

Darcus Howe is an outspoken writer, broadcaster and social commentator. His TV work includes ‘White Tribe’ in which he put Anglo-Saxon Britain under the spotlight. He also fronted a series called Devil’s Advocate.

This article first appeared in the 07 May 2007 issue of the New Statesman, Blair: The reckoning