Tuesday, March 13, 2007

WORLD CUP DIARY: Watching the first match

Coming to the West Indies on work is a really bad idea. It’s a place where you should come with all your old cotton t-shirts (not ironed full-sleeve shirts), shorts (not jeans or trousers), floaters (not shoes or sneakers), and lots of time to just walk around, soak in the sun, hang around the beaches, drink beer and rum, eat good seafood…that sort of thing. A TV journalist should certainly not someone who should have to come to the Caribbean islands…time is of the essence.

But on the flipside, how many tourists in shorts and floaters actually manage to get into Sabina Park, get prime tickets, watch the 1975 and 1979 West Indian teams being felicitated and then get to see the first delivery of the 2007 World Cup? I guess it’s a fair trade-off in the end.

Umar Gul was the bowler on this occasion, Chris Gayle the batsman. It was a good length delivery on middle stump, and Gayle patted it to mid-wicket for a single. Now Gul to Gayle is a far cry from Andy Roberts to Sunil Gavaskar (Edgbaston, 1979) or Kapil Dev to David Boon (Chennai, 1987) as far as first deliveries of the World Cup go, but it’s good enough. Quite historic and all that, and I managed to get a good shot of it from the camera I bought here – it’s got zoom and stuff, so got quite close to the pitch.

Anyway, I’m writing this from Sabina Park now, and now that I have gushed and salivated about the experience, might as well get down to the less-satisfying part of the show:

Firstly, there’s no George Headley Stand anymore. I mean, sure, the stand’s still standing. But nowhere does it mention ‘George Headley Stand’ – it’s all covered by ICC banners. And, like Kunal Pradhan mentioned, the effect of the Stand standing out as the only proper structure in an otherwise single-tier stadium is totally finished. Now, Kunal’s been here before, I haven’t. But I do remember the George Headley Stand as a most imposing structure, and very non-West Indian when compared to the overall appearance of these grounds.

Secondly, and far more importantly, the Blue Mountains have been dynamited away. Huge stands have been built all around the Park now, and that’s blocked the view of the beautiful Blue Mountains. Those childhood images of the Blue Mountains in the background as a Test match is on at the Sabina Park have therefore not been matched by the view from the ground here. And that, more than the decimation of George Headley’s place in the sun, is really, really upsetting.

The match is still on…it’s 11.20 in Kingston right now, and Lara’s coming out to bat. Bye! Got to watch!