Sports fans around the globe look forward to international events. There is nothing quite like seeing world-class athletes compete against one another. This is why we look forward to the Olympics, the Masters, NBA, the various Open tennis competitions and World Cups. Presently, the FIFA Women’s World Cup is taking place in France and the 2019 ICC World Cup (CWC) in England and Wales; then next month, our women compete in the Netball World Cup in Liverpool.
With all this action, the hype of the CWC and the way the West Indies ended the recent series against England, I made a last minute decision to head to the CWC to get a first-hand view of the organisation, the grounds, the fans and most of all, to look at the West Indies team play live. On viewing the team’s schedule (and my pocket), I opted to go to three games which were about one week apart and against the top teams. From June 6th-14th, the schedule paired us against Australia, South Africa and England. I thought that these are three games we could easily lose, but also three games that we could give a good account of ourselves and come away victorious.
I set out on my journey from T&T and headed for Trent Bridge in Nottingham, arriving the day before the game against Australia. Immediately on arrival, people were asking if I was there for the cricket; the buzz was around which meant that the CWC was alive and kicking. There were signs all around Nottingham advertising the CWC. I was at the inaugural ICC World Cup in 1975 (which the West Indies won) as a student in England, so 40 years on, and being in England once again to witness yet another World Cup is fascinating.
On the morning of the game against Australia, I took a taxi to the ground and while on the way there were literally thousands of fans walking to the venue; unsurprising as Trent Bridge is a 20-minute walk from the city centre. The Aussies came out in their numbers and so did the West Indies fans, but what was extremely noticeable was the number of neutrals who were there in support of the West Indies. One English fan told me, “There is an unwritten rule in cricket as a neutral-you always want Australia to lose and you always want the West Indies to win.” Something about the West Indies infects neutrals to support them; very much like the Soca Warriors when the team and its supporters were adored in Germany back in 2006.
The organisation of the match itself was excellent. Once I got to the ground there were ushers everywhere to assist. Inside, the atmosphere was electric; the sound system was audible and the information disseminated to patrons was both relevant and exciting, as the announcers were on hand to hype the crowd as necessary. Full marks to the CWC staff at Trent Bridge for a superb job.
Once play started, the West Indies were immediately on the front foot and before you could say, “Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi,” they were 38 for four. I thought we should have gone for the kill at that stage but skipper Jason Holder made some bowling changes which gave Steve Smith and the Australian middle order some breathing space. Holder must have felt he needed to keep his strike bowlers for later in the innings, but what it did was give the confidence to Alex Carey and Nathan Coulter-Nile. They both took advantage of some ordinary bowling and by the time Andre Russell, Sheldon Cottrell and Oshane Thomas came back into the attack, the horse had already bolted.
A total of 289 was achievable for the West Indies but dear me, I saw some of the worst umpiring at the international level. Be that as it may, Nicolas Pooran - who is batting beautifully, Shimron Hetmyer and Holder all gave their wickets away, whereas Mitchell Starc, Australia’s most dangerous bowler, should have been seen off rather than attacking him. However, I remain confident that we will beat the Aussies should we meet again.
For game two, the Hampshire bowl is a 25-minute drive from the city centre in Southampton. On arrival, unlike Trent Bridge, the personnel there were not as organised and some seemed unsure where to direct certain ticket holders. However, like Trent Bridge, the ground was in immaculate condition. In getting to my area, the likes of Sir Vivian Richards, Clive Lloyd, Andy Roberts, Colin Croft and Joel Garner were there and it was great to see how they were revered by the fans, who didn’t want autographs but just wanted to say hello. Unfortunately, the rain won in the end as only 7.3 overs were bowled with the West Indies having the opposition 29 for two.
Tomorrow, we are back at the Hampshire bowl for what should be a great game against England. Rain is in the forecast but not for the entire day, so hopefully, we will get some good cricket in.
The CWC 2019 is shaping up nicely with any one of six teams that can win it; and yes, the West Indies can win it if they play sensible cricket!
Editor’s note: The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer and do not reflect the views of any organization of which he is a stakeholder.