On to Antigua
Sportsworld's Brendan Connor heads to Antigua for World Cup Super Eight action.
Last Modified: 27 Mar 2007 09:08 GMT

Antiguan cricketing legend Sir Vivian Richards, pictured in action in 1983 [GALLO/GETTY]

Spirits are high and the excitement is palpable as some of the best cricketers in the world are now gathered on the island of Antigua, one of four Cricket World Cup Super Eight host countries along with Barbados, Grenada, and Guyana.
Antigua is a cricketing nation to be sure, with a terrific tradition of great players and big matches, many of which have been held over the years at the old Antigua Recreation Ground in downtown St. John's.

Antiguans flocked regularly to watch their homegrown stars such as Viv Richards, Richie Richardson, and Andy Roberts play in the glory days of West Indies cricket, but the old stadium has had its day, and is looking a little shabby. 

It will only be used for practices during the Super Eight Series, which begins on March 27.

The matches themselves will be held at the beautiful, new Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, with its permanent seating capacity of 10,000, its state-of-the-art big screen for replays, and its lighting towers and corporate suites that are world-class.

The facility, just outside St. John's, was recently completed in mid-March and is of course a tribute to, and in honour of, Antigua's - and some would argue, the world's - greatest batsman, Sir Vivian Richards.

The 'Master Blaster' is now retired, but is still very much an icon in Antigua. 

"In February we held a ceremony at the new stadium and when Sir Viv was at the podium, addressing the huge crowd, he was choked with emotion," said George Goodwin Jr., Antigua Local Organizing Committee CEO.

Feel the emotion

Richards was choked with emotion at the
opening of the new stadium in Antigua 
[Al Jazeera]
"I think the reality of this beautiful place being dedicated to, and named after him, finally hit home with him and with the crowd. 

"And we saw the great man feel the emotion of it all. It was unforgettable," Goodwin added.

Like many supporters of the sport, Sir Viv is hoping the new facility, and the staging of these matches, will help the game of cricket get back to the status it once enjoyed in Antigua.
Whether the World Cup and the new stadium will help the modern day growth of cricket here remains to be seen, but one thing that does seem certain is that Antigua's business infrastructure, service, and tourism sectors have already benefited.

"In addition to the obvious opportunities in construction from the stadium and its road network, and the hospitality sector enjoying a surge of visitors, I'm also seeing improvement in the way business is done," said businessman Clarvis Joseph, who runs the Antigua-based shipping firm Caribseas Ltd.

"The efficiency at the airport for example, the attitude in areas like transportation, the banking, hotels and telecommunications… there's already a noticeable difference in the way Antiguans go about these things."

Back in the spotlight

Still got it: The Master Blaster played some
beach cricket in the Australian summer

On the subject of long-term legacies for the island, Joseph says there can be many.

"We are a tourism-based economy, and with the world's eyes on Antigua, it can't help but benefit us.

"And with the free movement allowed during this tournament for people traveling among the nine hosting nations, it can pave the way for the Caribbean to become a single economic zone someday," added the entrepreneur.

Antigua has seen its share of great moments in the sport of cricket, from Viv Richards hitting the fastest century ever from 56 balls back in 1986, to Brian Lara's memorable 400 not-out in 2004. 

The cricket fans here and the business community hope they can enjoy a bit of the spotlight once again as they host some of the Super Eight matches in the Cricket World Cup 2007.

Brendan Connor's Antigua adventure can be seen on Sportsworld on Al Jazeera English on March 26 at 1030, 1430 and 2130 GMT, and on March 27 at 0430 GMT.

Al Jazeera
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