By Sean Devers
Friday the 13th is associated with ill-omened happenings but yesterday’s abandonment of the opening day of the second Test in Antigua was not orchestrated by anything supernatural, but by a blatant lack of preparedness and foresight by those in charge.
Just over a decade since a Test match was for the first time ever abandon due to a dangerous pitch at Sabina Park in Jamaica, yesterday’s disgraceful episode in Antigua was indeed a black Friday for the image of West Indies cricket.
Due to excessive sand on the outfield which severely affected the bowler’s run-up, play was called off after just two overs in the England innings although the very issue was being talked about long before the first ball was bowled.
The One-Day series starts here with Guyana hosting two games on March 20 & 22 and with the international media expected to be here in full force, the microscope will be on us as we aspire to be a successful host for the West Indies Cricket Board.
While rain has been a major obstacle in the past in Guyana because of the drainage at Bourda, this is no longer the case since the Guyana National Stadium at Providence is one of the fastest drying venues used for international cricket anywhere in the world.
However, with the start of the ODI series just over a month away, it is imperative that the Guyana Government, which controls the Stadium, along with the Guyana Cricket Board (GCB), leave no stone unturned as they prepare for the first ODIs here since the World Cup two years ago.
Even as the Guyana/Jamaica regional four-day cricket match was in progress yesterday, several cleaners could be seen working feverishly in the empty stands and Stadium Manager and former Minister of Government Anthony Xavier, assured that everything will be in place for the two matches.
“Most of the hospitality suites and the entire Media Centre has already been cleaned and set up. If we had a Test match here on Tuesday we would be ready. We are in the process of getting all of our IT equipment set up, while the advertising boards should be completed by month end,” Xavier stated.
He added that the painting will commence next week and informed that the hosting of the regional matches at the venue is not a major problem for the workers even though he said the lack of large crowds for these game would make it easier for his work staff.
“What happened in Antigua is a wake-up call for the Stadium Managers of the regional Stadiums whom I think should be in a state of readiness once they agree to host matches,” Xavier opined.
The Car Park area between the Stadium and Buddy’s Hotel attracted lots of criticism when Guyana played Suriname at the Stadium in their World Cup football qualifier last June and Xavier promised that those using the area next month should expect a vastly improved area.
While Xavier informed that putting asphalt on the area is not among the plans for the Car Park, he said that the Eccles/Ramsburg NDC has already been hired to prepare the area.
“While building a hard surface for the Park and Walk area is not in our immediate plans we have learnt a lot from the last time and we will be grading and cleaning the area and digging the drains so that the ground will not be soft and slushy even if it rains,” Xavier disclosed.
The former Government official explained that the GCB will have control of the area for the two matches adding that unlike when it was used for the football, entrance and exit signs and lane markings will be set up to allow easy parking.
The Parking area inside the Stadium compound will also be used for Parking along with the outer Parking area in addition to the VIP Parking area.
“Our first priority is to put Asphalt on the Car Park inside the Stadium so that the area can be used for Basketball, Volleyball, Netball and Lawn Tennis. I think it is important that Sporting facilities be made available for our youths to help keep them away from negative activities,” Xavier, a former National Volleyball player, informed.
He said the Stadium is a very big facility and very costly to maintain but added that the installation of lights is ‘a big plus’ for the venue.
“The more activities we have here is better for us, also since they bring in valuable revenue,” Xavier pointed out.
Xavier disclosed that the ICC Venue Assessment team, which was very impressed with what they saw when they came here on December 16, is due to return for a two-day visit on February 19 & 20 to discuss preparations for Guyana hosting of matches in the ICC 20/20 World cup in April next year.
“Ernest Hilaire from the WICB and Chris Burton from ICC will be here to undertake an audit of the Corporate Hospitality Booths. They will also discuss Guyana’s budget for the tournament, the venue staff and office, the readiness of the ground, government guarantees and match schedules and the setting up of the Organizing Committee,” Xavier added.
Xavier, who has been the General Manager of the Stadium sine January 2007, says he is generally satisfied with the preparatory work and says that the more big events hosted at Providence will make it easier to ‘get it right’ as more and more activities are held at Guyana’s premier Sports venue.
Xavier’s assurances are heartening and the entire nation and region will be hoping that everything promised will be delivered to avoid another Antigua embarrassment.
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