Dismisses all speculation on the readiness of stadia

At 9.15 a.m. on Wednesday, the curious staff of the Bombay Stock Exchange — from security guards to brokers — saw Sharad Pawar, President, International Cricket Council (ICC), and Haroon Lorgat, CEO, ICC, strike the gong with the mallet to mark the 30-day countdown to the start of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 to be jointly hosted by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh from February 19 to April 2.

The World Cup was on display; the showpiece item being flown in from Melbourne for the special occasion by Emirates. It was a symbolic gesture that took place at the International Convention Hall of Phiroze Jeejeebhoy Towers, a melting pot for the stock market community.

Mr. Pawar and Prof. Ratnakar Shetty, Tournament Director, ICC CWC 2011,- dismissed all speculation on the readiness of Eden Gardens in Kolkata, Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, Pallkele Stadium and Hambantota Stadium, Sri Lanka for the quadrennial event.

Mr. Lorgat said that the final inspection of the two venues in India would be carried out on Jan. 24 (Wankhede) and Jan. 25 (Eden Gardens) and hence he's not inclined to press the panic button.

Meanwhile, Mr. Pawar said: “I am wearing two hats; I'm the President of the ICC and President of the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA). I am confident the ICC inspection team will be happy after the visit to Wankhede on Jan. 24. They would have seen a miracle. The MCA Managing Committee has put in hard work and so also the people involved in renovating the stadium. It's an emergency I had to deal with when bomb blasts happened in Bombay in 1993 and 45,000 lines were burnt. I made sure that the telephone lines were restored and the Bombay Stock Exchange remained open to Indians and the international community.

“Compared to that the (completion of the Wankhede Stadium) is only a small matter. It would be a proud moment for Mumbaikars and Indians and a pleasure to see matches at the renovated Wankhede Stadium. Heroes will be made, dreams will be realised and hopes dashed. The World Cup will involve 49 matches and 14 teams playing in 13 great cities in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.”

Prof. Shetty said that in a way the 30-day launch of the World Cup at the BSE embodies the sentiments of the Mumbai people. “All the venues are geared up for the event that comes once in four years. The World Cup is important for all the nations; the rest are all secondary. The ICC President has advised all the associations to hold promotional events and distribute free tickets for non-India matches in India, non-Sri Lanka matches in Sri Lanka and non-Bangladesh matches in Bangladesh.”

A Cup that counts

Mr. Lorgat said that “World Cup is a Cup that counts. People have admired looking at the Cup in Cape Town, Melbourne and here. There's emotional bond with the Cup and in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, cricket is a very special sport. There's no truth in the speculation that matches at Hambantota would be shifted (to Mumbai). The Cup that counts has arrived in India and it's the responsibility of Mr. Pawar to look after it until he presents it to the winner on April 2.”

The three officials of the ICC CWC 2011 exuded a feel-good atmosphere, but Mr. Lorgat expressed displeasure in a subtle manner mentioning that the venues were not completed by the deadline time of Nov. 30, 2010, extended time of Dec. 31 and then to mid-January. The reports of the ICC inspection team is awaited after their visit to the Wankhede and Eden Gardens by January 25.

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