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I love cricket, it’s always been my favourite game, I have been able, on numerous occasions, to sit mesmerised for 5 days in a game that ends in a draw. I can listen to the Test Match Special commentary team on the radio for hour upon hour. Cricket signifies the Summer and as a child my memories, apart from the inevitable 1981 Ashes series, are of England – West Indies matches. The 1980s West Indies team reads like a set of cricketing folklore, flamboyant and destructive batsman, Sir Vivian Richards languidly thumping the hapless English bowling out of the ground not forgetting Greenidge, Haynes, Gomes and captain Sir Clive Lloyd whilst bowlers like Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner, Michael Holding looked as if they not only could take your head off but were actively trying at every available opportunity.

Allied to the actual play were the West Indies supporters, the colours, the effervescence and the noise of the conch shells. Whether the series were taking place in the Kennington Oval in London or the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados the atmosphere and occasionally even the weather were the same. Augusts in those days were good times, I never did a days school in August in my life, and living near Portobello Road the sounds of reggae and Carnival were commonplace, it all added to the general feel of an atmosphere perfectly suited to cricket.

So the Cricket World Cup being staged in the West Indies should have been a proper showpiece for the game, to be appreciated by existing converts as well as attracting many more and building on the 2005 Ashes series and putting the 2006 Ashes fiasco to bed.

Much has been said of the decision to allow the ICC Associate nations to play in the World Cup, this has allowed Ireland, Scotland, Netherlands and Bermuda to take part along with recently added ICC full members Kenya and Bangladesh.

Agnew’s answer seems to be the 20/20 competitions, which once again are made up only of the cricketing elite, and presumably that Scotland and Ireland should stick to playing the English county sides, because of course that has proven such a rich vein of inspiration for the game across these islands over the last decade.

I was present at Wembley Stadium in 1988 supporting Wimbledon against Liverpool in the FA Cup Final, did anyone really feel the competition was devalued that the Liverpool were not playing Arsenal or Man Utd that year? Do the football authorities and viewing public think that the non-league or lower division giant killers should be banned from participation because with every senior side they knock out the quality of the Quarter Finals is devalued? Or do we all watch and hope for the minnows as long as our team doesn’t get them?

In years to come ask people whether they remember the group matches of any of the Cricketing G8 in CWC 2007 and I will wager the only 2 that may come to mind will be Ireland’s historic victory over Pakistan or Bangladesh’s win over a complacent India. No matter that both teams may be beaten in the Super-8 stage, the profile of the game and the pride of the nations in their players has been raised and this can only be a good thing for the game and the future generations who will take it up as a result. England’s woeful form of late and Ed Joyce’s ‘defection’ are hardly likely to inspire as many youngsters to the game as Jeremy Bray’s stunning century or Kevin O’Brien’s penultimate over against Zimbabwe or Trent Johnson’s six to win the game against Pakistan will have done for youths across Ireland and other countries, it becomes the stuff of folklore, just as I’m sure Bangladesh’s qualification will have done in that part of the sub-continent. Ask people who the most memorable figure was in the World Cup and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone more recognisable and flamboyant than Bermudan Dwayne Leverock who inspired us fuller figured 30-somethings everywhere to the thought that we too could still be contenders.

In addition I think I would like to cite the penultimate ball of the Ireland against South Africa game, South Africa requiring 3 runs to win, Ashwell Prince hits the ball to the extra cover boundary, Andrew White gives his all to keep the ball from crossing the boundary by using his feet whilst Jeremy Bray quick to assist shies the ball back to restrict South Africa to 2 runs. The scores are level, the South Africans have lost fewer wickets, they have plenty or balls left, it isn’t about who is going to win, it’s about commitment, Ireland will not give up and you’ll work for your victory, and that’s the way it should be. It’s like the Irish rugby sides of the 1990s, not, I’m sad to say, the most talented team in the championship, but on spirit they were unrivalled and the games they won were won on passion and heart and the desire to eek out every last drop of talent they had. In cricket it’s the same, there are teams with a great deal more talent who have already gone home from the World Cup, and much of that is down to them simply not having the spirit, there’s no questioning the talent but India losing to Bangladesh and Pakistan losing to Ireland has been about who wants it more.

Bangladesh went on to beat the No. 1 ranked one-day side South Africa by a fair margin, and suddenly Aggers is saying well we can’t really talk of Bangladesh as minnows and how the tournament needed the upset. The same upset that last week was being talked about as unthinkable and how drab the tournament was going to be without one.

Sadly for the locals I expect what will, in the end, be remembered most will be the fact that the ticket prices constituted over a weeks wages between $60-$100. I have heard far more debate over whether the minnows should be playing than I have about the offensive nature of this pricing. This is a disgrace to cricket, it is a disgrace to sport, and it serves only to underline the latent commercialism that has often ruined the professional game. What should and could have been a colourful and flamboyant spectacle has been typified by 1/4 full stadia and hollow empty sounds, that isn’t cricket in the West Indies at all

The great former West Indies bowler Curtley Ambrose summed it up “We as Caribbean people are used to certain things in cricket: music, on the spot cooking, and we haven’t been able to express ourselves, it’s very disappointing for us.” Not just for Curtly and his compatriots.

Song Of The Day ~Booker T & The MGs – Soul Limbo

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