Not just cricket

In 2007, the West Indies will host the ICC Cricket World Cup and the islands’ economies will be boosted

Illustration by Jason Jarvis

It’s going to be Carnival time in the Caribbean when cricket’s biggest party, the ICC World Cup, comes to town in March. Organisers are preparing to welcome visitors and returning nationals alike with the mix of warmth and flamboyance that typifies the region.

As well as a feast of top-class cricket, there will be events, parties, and tours galore to make sure fans and their families enjoy the best of the West Indies. With slogans like “Grenada Rocks in 2007”, St Kitts and Nevis’ “Ready to Welcome the World”, and “Festival Barbados 2007” trumpeting their efforts, it’s clear where most of the local organising committees (LOCs) are heading.

“We’re starting on February 7 with our Independence celebrations,” says Troy Garvey at the Grenada LOC. “That will kick-start the whole atmosphere and lead into Cricket World Cup and Easter.

“Many Grenadians, from all over the world, will be using this as an excuse to come home and have a reunion. It will be a time of tremendous happiness for them as well as the first-time visitor.”

Terry Mayers at the Barbados LOC, where the final will be staged on April 28, says, “We are trying to create that festival atmosphere. There’s going to be a lot of partying going on.”

As well as the more conventional parties visitors might expect, there will some more unusual ones, like block parties in St Kitts and Nevis, where the streets are literally blocked off before the revelry begins. And the multicultural melting pot which is the West Indies will ensure music of all forms, but those for which the region is most noted, calypso, soca, reggae, and steel pan, will be to the fore.

For a party, of course, you need food and drink as well as music, and there promises to be plenty of all three. If you’re a Caribbean fish or shellfish, you might want to book a holiday before the World Cup circus rolls in. The islands are famed for their seafood, and with each venue keen to display their local specialities, there’s going to be a lot on offer.

A Barbadian favourite is flying fish. “One local recipe is coo-coo and flying fish,” says Terry Mayers. “It’s an old African dish. The coo-coo is a cornmeal flour mixed with ochro and boiled with coconut milk. Served with flying fish and all the trimmings, it’s fantastic stuff.”

Trinidad’s shark-and-bake is another not to be missed, and in St David’s, Grenada, piscine delicacies in all shapes and styles are served up at the weekly Friday fish fry-up. Add lobster, crab, conch, and oysters to the regional smorgasbord, and it’s enough to get any fish lover drooling.

But if the fruits of the sea are not to your taste, the list of agrarian dishes is just as long. They include goat water soup in St Kitts, and delectable callaloo and oil down, favourites in Trinidad and Grenada; and why not try Guyana’s pepperpot or Jamaica’s jerk pork and chicken, or rice and peas?

To wash it all down, you can hardly come to the Caribbean and not sample a little rum. The ubiquitous rum punch will be a favourite tipple.
“It will be flowing like crazy,” says Troy Garvey.

For the discerning, though, there is still the choice of which rum to mix. “In Grenada we have Rivers, Jack Iron, and Clark’s Court Rum,” adds Troy. “Clark’s Court is noted for its quality, taste, and strength. That’s a strong rum,” he chuckles knowingly.

The Cricket World Cup won’t just be about partying, though, and the hosts are keen to show off all that their respective cultures have to offer. Antigua and Barbuda, for example, will have three designated entertainment zones. Each will offer the visitor something different, explains Lucia Mings, programme coordinator at the nation’s LOC.

“St John’s is the commercial centre, and is a lively hub for shopping and dining, while the English Harbour area, covering the Nelson dockyards and Falmouth, is famous for its historic sites, but is also a mecca for yacht lovers, holding an internationally renowned annual sailing week. It’s a more metropolitan crowd here, and there’s a popular street food fair every year.

“The third area is around the Urlings and Old Road fishing villages in the south-west. They play host to an annual fish festival as well. It is more family-oriented, and there is also a huge mangrove forest, where people can take tours or go kayaking.”

The Caribbean is rightly lauded for its beaches, and a lot of events will be focussed on or just off the warm, fine sands. As well as watersports such as kayaking, fishing, and scuba diving, there will be the chance to indulge in a favourite local pastime.

“Beach cricket is a big West Indian tradition, obviously,” says Val Henry at the St Kitts and Nevis LOC. “You play with a tennis ball and a bat made from a coconut branch. The wicket is made from whatever you can find — beer crates, a piece of galvanise, a butter pan, in fact almost anything except normal stumps. It’s important to note that modern stumps would deliberately not be used — it’s part of the tradition.”
And don’t be shy — if you want to join in a game, just walk up and ask.

With all this going on, you’d be forgiven for losing focus on the fact that you initially came here to watch some cricket matches. With time running out to acquire tickets, and many of the games likely to be sell-outs, there will be many without a ticket in hand when they land. So are there any other ways of catching the action live?

Historically, as television pictures beamed around the world for decades will attest, West Indians have proved adept at the art of scaling large trees on perimeters of cricket grounds. Could this be a way for the ticketless fan to see a match?

Unfortunately not. It appears that shinning up a convenient samaan is no longer an option. The trees surrounding Guyana’s beloved Bourda Ground once creaked and groaned under the weight of upwards of fifty agile fans each. But, alas, Bourda will not be a part of World Cup 2007, its place being taken by the newly built Providence Stadium. “The new Providence Stadium hasn’t got any trees around it, as it is a new build,” says Troy Peters, at the Guyana LOC. “It’s also got miles and miles of sugar cane behind it, so there’s nowhere really to get a vantage point from.”

Lucia Mings, at the Antigua and Barbuda LOC is more emphatic. “The days of scaling trees to see cricket in the Caribbean are over, I’m afraid. It’s sad, but with security implications and everything else you have to move on.”

One group that might still be able to get a surreptitious look in is the police force in St Kitts, as Val Henry explains. “Warner Park is centrally located in downtown Basseterre next to the police headquarters, which is a very tall building. It has been the tradition over the years that off-duty police officers will occupy the higher parts of the building to watch the cricket.” Recent construction work at the stadium has limited the view but, Val says, there are still vantage points to be had.

Save the off-chance of befriending a cricket-crazy copper in St Kitts, though, it seems the only way to be certain of seeing the games live is to go down the official route. Ticket sales are being carefully controlled by the ICC and an explanation of the procedure and timeframe is in the attached sidebar.

But if you haven’t been fortunate enough to land yourself a ticket, don’t worry — you’re unlikely to miss anything. Major networks in nearly all the host venues have acquired rights to broadcast the action from the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC). Coverage on free-to-air broadcasts will be widespread, so big screens at popular entertainment spots and arenas are likely to be a common sight.

Even if you don’t manage to get yourself to a TV, the CMC, through its brand CRICKETPLUS, will be giving full ball-by-ball radio commentaries on forty of the 51 matches.

Wherever or however you end up experiencing the World Cup, one thing seems certain: it’s going to be memorable.

Individual tickets

Phase one of ticket sales has already been completed, and successful applicants notified. Remaining tickets are on sale, during phase two, from 1 September to 30 November. Available online at www.cricketworldcup.com or from Official ICC CWC 2007 ticket centres across the nine host venue countries. First-come first-served basis.

Sales close again from 1 December, 2006, to January 2007, for ticket allocation. The final phase of ticket sales, phase three, runs from January 2007 to the end of the tournament on 28 April. Availability as in phase two.

Tours and travel

For tour and travel packages — which include transportation, accommodation and match tickets — contact official travel agents only. A list of these can be found at www.cricketlogistics.com.

Corporate hospitality

For those seeking a corporate hospitality element along with their match tickets, packages are available via an official corporate hospitality agent. A list of these can be found at www.crickethospitality2007.com.