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An Antiguan day we won't forget

Adam Mountford | 13:40 UK time, Saturday, 14 February 2009

Well, that was certainly a Friday the 13th the cricketing world will never forget.

It was only the second time in Test history that a match was abandoned on the opening day. Back in 1998, the Jamaica Test lasted 10.1 overs, but here in Antigua we only managed 10 balls at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium.

It just so happened that Sir Viv himself was on the air on Test Match Special at the moment the game reached its premature climax - and unsurprisingly he was not a happy man.

He told TMS listeners: "I am feeling really sad because this ground has its name attached to me and the people in authority here have let everybody down, big time. The Antigua Cricket Association have dropped the ball and should be ashamed of themselves.

Sir Viv and Christopher Martin-Jenkins

"This is not a little curry goat match as we call it, this is not a little festival match, this is a Test match and you can hear it in my voice that these guys have done us not that proud in my opinion. Those who've been given the responsibility to put on a good show here have failed again. It's a really tough pill to swallow. This is an arrow right through my heart."

The long-term future of the ground as a Test venue is now in serious doubt - Donald Peters, the chief executive of the West Indies Cricket Board, told us he thought the days were numbered for the Sir Vivian Richards stadium.

"I would recommend they play soccer there from now on. The amount of funding it would take to make that into a Test venue again will be significant. I would advise the government and local cricket association to put their resources into restoring the Recreation Ground. The West Indies Cricket Board will not go back to the Viv Richards Stadium. We are not prepared to take the risk."

It is ironic that a lot of the local cricket fans and journalists had spent the previous few days bemoaning the fact that the Test match in Antigua was not being played at the Recreation Ground. It was there where Brian Lara broke the world Test record not once, but twice, and where England did the bulk of their practice for the match.

Although only 10 balls were bowled, it was a chaotic day for Test Match Special as myself, Jonathan Agnew and reporter Arlo White ran around the ground and then around the island to find out exactly what was going on. As the players left the field, I went onto the outfield to try and secure an interview with match referee Alan Hurst. Cruelly CMJ commented from the TMS box: "There goes our producer Adam Mountford - he's not exactly Usain Bolt." Harsh perhaps, but undoubtedly accurate!

The view from the TMS commentary box

When news reached us a delegation was on its way to the Recreation Ground, Arlo quickly followed and was able to reveal first to BBC listeners the news the game had been rearranged. Then, after reporting the dramatic developments, we all hot-footed it over there to try and find a location where we can commentate from on Sunday.

It was like the preparations for a local carnival with hundreds of people working non-stop to try and sort things out for what will now be the third Test. Hopefully our broadcast lines can be installed in time for the start of the game!

Although the change of location is obviously a huge embarrassment for West Indies cricket and a logistical nightmare for TV and radio organisations trying to cover the game, the people I feel sorry for are the spectators. We spoke to Ian from Sussex on Five Live who, after taking 45 minutes to get into the ground because, ludicrously, only two gates were open, then saw just one delivery bowled before the game was called off.

"I saw Alastair Cook get off the mark. It was a nice shot but I was hoping to see a bit more," he told us. "I'm so disappointed. I've been excited for months about seeing the cricket here. And we didn't get any information about what was going on. We still don't really know what happened."

There are 8,000 England fans on the island who share Ian's disappointment. Many of them could only be here for the first couple of days and will therefore not be able to see any meaningful cricket.

Let's hope that for all those who can stick around until Sunday that the match goes ahead without any other dramas, although I doubt Sir Viv will have calmed down by then! Listen to TMS from 1345 Sunday to find out.


  • Comment number 1.

    Lets hope that theres a fantastic match at the ARG

  • Comment number 2.

    As a fellow West Indian, I totally understand what Sir Viv must be feeling. After the euphoria of the 1st test victory, cricket fans around the world saw what we Windies fans knew for years: the absolute incompetence of the WICB.
    I felt so ashamed and embarrassed even more so because I'm studying in England...went to the bar after Uni to watch the match...only to be utterly shocked.....I didn't know what to say to my English friends except welcome to WICB Horrorshow and try not to turn a deeper shade of red...utter Madeness but sadly has the stamp of the shennanigans of the WICB...hope the ARG will be ready in time.
    And the sad thing can only get worse from here...seems like Windies cricket can never change for the better b/c we end up shooting ourselves in the foot someway or the other.

  • Comment number 3.

    I was listening to TMS at the time and yould hear the emotion and bitter disappointment in SIVAR's voice.

    The world NEEDS a good West Indian cricket team and there's been some really good signs over the last few series. Australia really struggled to a victory over here when everyone thought it would be a walkover - a performance the Islands could be proud of.

    Then the Stanford, which, however you feel about it, was the sort of thing they probably needed to get a few fresh faces at the grounds.

    Then a superb performace to show us up in the first test - some wonderful bowling and unusually obdurate batting from the top order.

    Then this - it's just really sad. Hope it all sorts itself out.... i know people have spent money to get out there and watch cricket, but i'd rather be on holiday in Antigua than here in rainy, cold West Wales about to watch my rugby team lose...!

  • Comment number 4.

    However it's flown, there MUST have been senior people out there who knew the TM was never going to happen on that ground - so did they all become ostriches who believe in fairies, or were they waiting for the mythical 'somebody else' to make a decision??

    Anyway, Adam, I assume that your line 'Hopefully our broadcast lines can be installed in time for the start of the game!' was typed in jest!! it's been a c*ck-up so far, no TMS at the ARG would just about finish me!

  • Comment number 5.

    My rich brother has just told me he's flying to Barbados at the beginning of March to catch a couple of the one-dayers, Iwant to strangle him.

  • Comment number 6.

    I've played for two clubs at a quite low level.
    At both clubs, the pitch preparation started on Monday evening, with work being done continually up to the Saturday afternoon.
    Some of the pitches,even when lovingly prepared, were real terrors, and others didn't really last the sunday afternoon match held on it as well. How on earth are they going to prepare a five day pitch with 2 days preparation, then ? What if the pitch is as bad as the 1998 Jamaica one ? Another go at the Stanford Stadium ? . I'd never heard of Antigua before Richards and Roberts appeared on the cricket scene. I don't think that the words 'Antigua' and 'test match' will appear in the same sentence ever again.

  • Comment number 7.

    I think all Antiguans (and Caribbean people) and those of the cricketing world have a right to be angry at this show of incompetence.

    The fact that an abandon test match has happened twice in the Caribbean is a down right shame. Have there not been any lessons learnt from the past that we had to come in the present to have a repeat of what I see as a lackadaisical approach to field preparation? Do we know that such blunders makes the international community wonder if we are ready or ever be ready to rise to the occasion of first world status. A match of such international acclaim should not be abandoned for something like poor field preparation. If it was an act of terror I could understand. If it was a hurricane or bad weather I could understand. IF it was a bunch of naked women psychologically impacting player performance I could understand. But this...I DO NOT EVEN WANT TO UNDERSTAND.!!! SHAME ON YOU ANTIGUA MANAGEMENT

  • Comment number 8.

    the W.I. Cricket board is to blame for this. The buck stops with them. What an incompetent set of Morons. THey get nothing right!

  • Comment number 9.

    Hats off to Sir Viv - Despite all the reports about how angry he was - I heard him speak and despite the painful humiliation and anger he must have been feeling I think he maintained self control admirably! I bet someone copped his full blast well away from the mikes and cameras though! Certainly hope so ......

  • Comment number 10.

    #4 - those ostriches have plenty of sand to bury their heads in i suppose.

    this shambles might well be an indication of why the windies have been in decline for so long as a test nation. its very very annoying and sad for cricket lovers...and we cant even beat them!

  • Comment number 11.

    I was in Antigua last month visiting friends who live near the new stadium. We were all looking forward to the Test Match so much. If we'd known about the outfield, we'd all I'm sure have volunteered our labour to do some re-turfing.

    It would be a pity if test cricket was never played again at the stadium, it really is quite a structure in a small landscape, rather like a movie digital effect. Much work went into it, clearly, and Antiguans feel much pride in being able to host international cricket there, and its connection with the great Sir Viv.

    However, many of us do have a lingering affection for the ARG and its wonderful atmosphere, so good luck to all who are no doubt beavering away right now to get it ready for tomorrow, and of course to the TMS crew as they find plugs for all their bits and pieces!

    I'm SOOOO looking forward to five days of good cricket from Antigua, and hopefully some comments on the general election campaign!

  • Comment number 12.

    If you think that Barbados will be any better don't hold your breath. Incompetence, nepotism and political back scratching is rife throughout the Carribean. The ownership of Kensington oval is now a political football between the goverment and the Barbados cricket Association. The West Indies as a unified entity is a pipe dream. Denigration of fellow West Indians is not uncommon in the media of indiviual countries with many feeling they owe more alligiance to Africa than to each other.

  • Comment number 13.

    I feel so sorry for Sir Viv and all the good people of Antigua who surely deserves better - they know their country better than the administrators and the outside consultants used in constructing the stadium. Better to have spent the money on improving the ARG which has more atmosphere in one hour's play as opposed to a full 5 days at the new ground.
    Hopefully we'll get some cricket at the ARG.

  • Comment number 14.

    The WICB are wholly responsible for this farce. Whoever authorised building an out of town venue on the course of a river needs theri head examined. As for the efforts to get the Sir Viv outfield ready, they were simply a joke.

    Thank goodness cricket has returned to the ARG, its spiritual home in Antigua. And may it please now stay there for good. Consign the Sir Viv for football or concerts and leave the ARG, with a few stands redeveloped, as the proper home of Antiguan cricket.

  • Comment number 15.

    I'm afraid this farce has to have been avoidable, as mentioned

    "It was only the second time in Test history that a match was abandoned on the opening day. Back in 1998, the Jamaica Test lasted 10.1 overs"

    Once you might let the board off with, second time should have resulted in forfeiture. I'd rather see some cricket, so would everyone including the specators, but how else do you deal with such unacceptable occurences? Like the Pakistan team refusing to return to the field of play, there should be and can only be one penalty - to forfeit the match.

    TWICE this has happened in the same Test playing nation, not even a Test nation with non-cricketing influences come distractions that could be used as an excuse as there may be in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe. Not a new nation finding it's feet and inexperienced, although one does have to question the board decisions regards the stadium itself and the financial situation.

    At the very least the West Indies board should face a huge fine, but it begs serious questions and not too many months down the line from the West Indies hosting the World Cup which in itself was a little bit of a farce the way it was 'managed'. I'll stop short of blaming them for the Stanford farce, but it seems to be one too many incidents/issues in recent times

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    I always love Viv Richards' comments on TMS. He has a distinct and inimitable way of expressing himself. His unique syntax and unusual use of the conditional tense does not detract from the passion he feels for the game, and it was rather poignant when all this came together as events unfolded at the ground which bears this particular individual's name.

    I hope that, if the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium closes for cricket, his name will be transfered to the next venue.

  • Comment number 18.

    I meant 'transferred'.

  • Comment number 19.

    Sir Vivian, and several other senior West Indian Cricketers are the 'detractors' of the current West Indies cricket 'management'. I wonder if the lack of preparation of the ground bearing his name was a stupid childish 'spat' from those that the senior players are constantly criticising? If so it is time for a change of management, most cricket management all over the world, obtains its heirarchy from disingenous who believe it is a 'right of passage.


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