Mar 05, 2007
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados”“It’s been a long time coming to the Caribbean.
With construction ongoing at stadiums and infrastructure across the nine scattered venues, the West Indies begin the dress rehearsal phase of the World Cup in one of four warm-up matches today.
The West Indies, winners of the first two cricket World Cups in 1975 and ’79 in England and runner-up in ’83, faces Kenya at Trelawny Stadium near Montego Bay.
No.1-ranked South Africa plays Cup debutante Ireland at Trinidad, England is against Bermuda at St. Vincent and 1996 champion Sri Lanka takes on Scotland at the 3Ws stadium in Barbados in today’s other matches.
Australia, seeking an unprecedented third consecutive World Cup title, had a boost yesterday with all-rounder Andrew Symonds hitting a dozen cricket balls in a net practice.Although Symonds will miss tomorrow’s warm-up match against Zimbabwe at St. Vincent and is still unlikely to return to action at least until Australia’s March 24 Group match against South Africa.
India also features in warm-ups tomorrow against Netherlands, when New Zealand plays Bangladesh at Barbados and Pakistan takes on Canada at Trinidad.
The 16-match warm-up stage finally finishes Friday and the tournament proper starts next Tuesday with West Indies against Pakistan at Sabina Park in Jamaica.
Despite the West Indies position as the leading limited-overs team of the 1970s and early 1980s, the Caribbean has had to wait until last among the major cricket markets to host cricket’s biggest event.
And the pressure is on the local team, which won the 2004 Champions Trophy tournament but has otherwise been in decline since its domination in the 80s.
No host has ever won the World Cup final, with South Africa eliminated after the first round at the last edition four years ago.
The South Africans are back at No.1 now, helped by Australia’s five-match losing stretch.
South Africa and Australia have both complained about practice facilities so far and are investigating alternatives.
Australia has few options for its lineup in the warm-ups, with Symonds and opener Matt Hayden (broken toe) unavailable with injuries and vice-captain Adam Gilchrist arriving late following the birth of his third child.
Australia has lost six of its seven matches since Symonds ruptured his right biceps and needed surgery early last month.