Special Correspondent

St. John's: The Sir Vivian Richards Ground in Northsound, four miles from here, is a barometer of World Cup preparations in the Caribbean. Host of six Super-Eight matches next year, the stadium, unlike the man it's named after, is far from being complete.

Four cranes dot the periphery: two at each end, involved in the construction of the two major structures, the North and South stands. The stands, at the moment, are impressive amounts of concrete, steel, and cement still taking shape. If on completion they look anything like the artist's rendition that greets visitors outside the ground, they would have been worth the wait.

The incongruous sight of Chinese alphabets and Chinese workers (numbering 350) at a cricket ground is striking. It is easily explained: the Chinese government has undertaken construction which began in November last year to the tune of $ 20 million. The move is described by the Local Organising Committee (LOC) as a "gift" because of the friendly relations between the countries.

Pitch ready

The total construction cost is approximately $54 million.

"We are probably two weeks behind schedule," said Sheon Samuel, venue development co-ordinator. "But we should be able to catch up. The Chinese are involved in constructing the North and Sound stands, which are scheduled to be ready by October end. They are also in charge of parking infrastructure and road networks. Local workers have worked on the ground and pitch which are ready."

Once ready, the stadium will have four light towers, but none of the World Cup matches will be played under lights. It is expected to take over from the Antigua Recreation Ground as the major Test venue of the island over time.

"It's great man, it's great to have a stadium named after me" said Sir Vivian Richards, before adding tongue in cheek. "I'm still looking for the benefits."

More In: SPORT | Today's Paper