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Cricket World Cup - the Cup that counts

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Adam Mountford | 15:53 UK time, Tuesday, 15 February 2011


I remember back in November when I first arrived in Brisbane that I was surprised not to see any posters or signs advertising the start of the Ashes at the Gabba. Perhaps the Aussies knew what was going to happenand wanted to hide the event.

But there is no hiding here in Dhaka when it comes to the World Cup. When I got off the plane at the Hazrat Shahjalal Airport, I was left in little doubt that the World Cup was going to be big news in Bangladesh. The jet bridge linking the plane and the airport was decorated from top to bottom with official posters advertising the tournament.

A huge poster on display in Dhaka as World Cup fever builds

Then, on the journey from the airport into the city, almost every other billboard was plastered with huge banners urging the Bangla Tigers to give of their best, or smiling pictures of Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan.

It's also difficult to avoid "Stumpy the elephant" the official 2011 Cricket World Cup mascot. The character is depicted on almost every roundabout in the city with a large inflated version adorning the Sher-e-Bangla Cricket Stadium which will host the opening game on Saturday.

On the approach into the city, a gigantic cricket bat sits on the side of the road with locals encouraged to sign and offer their thoughts about the competition. This seems highly appropriate as it seems clear the people of Bangladesh want to make their mark on this World Cup.

The catchline for the tournament which features on most of the posters is "Welcome to the ICC Cricket World Cup - the Cup that counts".

I think this is a really interesting slogan chosen by the game's governing body.

Last year, the slogan for the ICC World Twenty20 in the West Indies, "Bring It", was seen as a reaction to the criticism received for the lacklustre Caribbean World Cup of 2007, when the confiscation of traditional musical instruments was used as a symbol of the competition not embracing the region where it was played.

Similarly, the slogan this time around appears to be tackling head-on the criticism the ICC quite rightly received for the last two 50-over World Cups, which have been bloated with too many matches played over too long a period and haunted by disappointing attendances and poor reviews.

It also challenges the opinion that the 50-over format has a short shelf life in the game.

Of course, in one of the host countries, India,Twenty20 Cricket is very much de rigueur after the national team's success in the inaugural World Twenty20 in South Africa and the growth of the Indian Premier League.

There is no doubt that the ICC really needs this World Cup to be a success - and it is not being let down by the enthusiasm, here in Bangladesh at least.

I mention the poor crowds that have dogged recent tournaments but this does not look like being a problem here in Dhaka.

One local resident told me he had camped for two nights in a queue hoping to buy tickets for Thursday's opening ceremony and the opening match. Sadly, he didn't manage to get any.

When I arrived at the stadium early on Tuesday, the streets outside the ground were already crowded with traders selling Bangladesh flags and posters featuring some of the Tigers' star players.

The front page of the Dhaka Daily Star was emblazoned with the headline "Fanfare hits fever pitch" with stories of the excitement growing ahead of the tournament.

The moment I got out of the car taking me to the ground a microphone was thrust in front and I was surprised to find myself suddenly live on Bangladesh National Television being asked my opinion on the competition and what I thought of the facilities in Dhaka.

The authorities here are going to some extraordinary lengths to make the right impression. There has been a campaign to rid the Bangladesh World Cup venues of mosquitoes as organisers try to provide what they call a "bite-free experience" for the spectators coming to watch the cricket.

Dhaka health department chief Nasir Uddin explained how hundreds of workers were spraying stadiums and draining stagnant waters as part of the drive.

You may have read reports of the Bangladesh government trying to clear beggars from the streets.
Unfortunately this is a city of enormous poverty with begging a way of life, but the authorities are trying to take beggars to rehabilitation centres rather than have them hassling visitors to the World Cup.

Local papers have also had reports of "a Rapid Action Battalion mobile court busting a printing press producing fake World Cup tickets".

And then there is the security. After the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008 and the awful incident with the Sri Lanka cricket team in Lahore a year later security is a massive issue across the Indian sub-continent and that is no exception here in Bangladesh.

All major hotels are operating airport-style security with all bags having to go through an x-ray machine and police checking all vehicles as they come in. But that is nothing compared to the security at the grounds. I can safely say I have seen nothing like the scene which greeted me when I went to collect my media accreditation.

The area just outside the ground is about the size of a football field and it was jam-packed full of army personnel and police officers all wearing a variety of uniforms.

I made a vague attempt to get close to the entrance where I had been told to collect my pass, but was firmly told to stay clear.

Then a huge armoured tank appeared with what looked like a fairly serious gun at the front. It was the kind of sight you would expect on the front line at Basra rather than at a sporting venue.

It is a real shame that this is what is required , but the authorities are clearly taking no chances.

I was also told that steps had been taken to improve the traffic here in Dhaka with what are described as "old cars" taken off the road for the duration of the tournament.

Dhaka is known as the rickshaw capital of the world and I was pleased to see that the colourful two-wheel carts have not been banned. However the measures seem to have had little effect with journeys around the city still taking an infuriating amount of time to travel even a small distance.

But even the appalling traffic is not dampening the spirits of the locals. There will be a five-day holiday in Dhaka organised to coincide with the opening ceremony and first match.

Thousands turned out on Tuesday to see the World Cup trophy paraded around the streets accompanied by a huge rally with bikes, truckloads of dancers and cheering, drum-beating fans. Numerous cultural events have been organised to show the city at its most colourful.

And it is clearly an event the authorities hope will bring people together.

A huge poster of Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan had the headline "Nothing unites a country like 11 common rivals".

Shakib echoed this when he said: "Cricket is the only sport we play a World Cup in. Moreover, this is the first time Bangladesh is hosting a World Cup. It's special to every citizen. It's special to all of us."

The ICC will be hoping that the 2011 World Cup will be remembered as being special.


  • Comment number 1.

    Well, it will definitely be a success as there will be always be large crowds in the subcontinent backed up by massive television revenue.
    However, I'm not convinced that will revive the 50 over game as whether crowds world over will have the same appetite for the game when the show piece event has gone away and it is back to a bilateral series.

    Unless the format is changed to bring some innovations and ICC reduces the number of games being played, T20 will remain as the popular format that attracts crowds.

  • Comment number 2.

    The schedule does look a bit too long (6 weeks), so hopefully it won't be as bad as the 2007 world cup which seemed to go on forever.

    Therefore i agree with post 1, the format needs to change as 50 over has become the 3rd choice format for a lot of fans - T20 is the game for 6s and close finishes, and test cricket the game for strategy and skill.

  • Comment number 3.

    World Cup fatique anyone ?

    6 weeks is plain ridiculous. What was wrong with two groups of four and then onto the quarter-finals ? No doubt the organisers will make bags of money, the television paymasters delighted with all that filled airtime.

    50 over cricket would benefit internationally by being played less. And while we are about it let's rid the format of all playing-regulation gimmicks.

  • Comment number 4.

    Keeping to the subject of the actual blog... I must say that I found the enthusiasm and efforts to make the event a success described by Adam to be a real pleasure to read. Maybe Bangladesh won't be a winner on the field, but they will be off it. This event matters a lot to the country and it is interesting to contrast the events in the bigger and richer neighbour, with stadia not ready and ticketing problems being reported, to the Bangladeshi experience: no problems with stadia or administration it seems there (maybe the odd cobra will appear among the crowd, adding to the action, but... !!! :-) )

  • Comment number 5.

    Excellent Blog :)

    Good Luck to all the players, officials, hosts and fans from all over the world.

    Pray this world cup is one to remember for all the right reasons.

    A word of advice to any fans attending matches in Dhaka - Only Flags and headbands are allowed through security so please dont be tempted to purchase a vuvuzela outside the grounds.

  • Comment number 6.

    I echo the sentiments of post 4, reading that has made me a bit more excited. I think it's a great thing for Bangladeshi cricket, they are a massively improved team from when I first saw them play, hopefully hosting the World Cup will be a further springboard for them.

    To me this World Cup matters more than the Twenty:20, Tests > ODIs > Twenty:20 is my personal order and I feel every format has it's place but at the same time agree that six weeks is a little too long. I know that they want to maximise revenue, but I would say that the top four qualifiers are quite predictable and the 2007 World Cup dragged on for far too long (though the sad death of Bob Woolmer hung like a cloud over the whole tournament).

  • Comment number 7.

    Nice blog.

    Maybe my English grammar isn't as good as I think, but to my mind the slogan, "Welcome to the ICC Cricket World Cup - the Cup that counts", is basically saying that no other cups matter, do the 20/20 World Cup or the ICC Champions Trophy have no importance then?

  • Comment number 8.

    I'm just back from 11 days in India. The TV there was saturated in World Cup fever. Every WC match ever played was being shown over and over again, with interviews with every man that ever took part in a WC. The UK pre-event coverage has been woeful. Even the BBC website had to link to espn's for any updates on today's Canada (aka. South Asia "A" team) match.

  • Comment number 9.

    It will be a great tournament. The subcontinent is so passionate about the game, and this will be reflected in the crowds, tv advertisments, lack of work productivity (lol)! I am not very fond of the format though - the 'real' games start only with the quarters. There will be a lot of pressure on India, given the home advantage. It will be a great contest - let's wait and see...

  • Comment number 10.

    Sajib here from Dhaka.

    It's an incredible reality that we are hosting the opening ceremony of the world cup event. You know, it's more like any other religious festivals we have ever seen. It's bigger than any other biggest events we have ever hosted. So, this is something changing the way we spend our day.

    I'm one of those who are now kind of crying not to be able to manage a ticket to the opening ceremony. I'm good at watching matches in front of my television. But I wanted to enjoy the opening with my own eyes. There might be other ceremonies in future, maybe even better, but never the world cup again. At least, not in my lifespan, I guess. :(

    I posted about this on my blog with two pictures of the demo of the opening ceremony in Dhaka. Check it out here:

  • Comment number 11.

    The format is dying. People in that part of the world are just cricket loopy, so no doubt it will be a commercial success. Personally i can't muster any enthusiasm for it. 50 over games often result to quite one-sided games and the team batting second often cruises to long drawn out wins due to the 'middle over milking' that goes on, where you'll get 4 or 5 singles in an over. Yawn.
    This length of cricket suits certain countries more than others, that's why England never do any good in this format, and this world cup won't be any different with, after 6 weeks of mostly pointless cricket, we'll most likely have an Australia V India final.

  • Comment number 12.

    Ditch the format altogther and replace the ODI world-cup with a Test World Cup, which you could do in 6 weeks. Top 6 in the test rankings from the 4 years to play in two round-robin groups with a semi-final and final.

  • Comment number 13.

    Gokulram Arunasalam
    Format isn't great - the good games will start only with the quarters.

  • Comment number 14.

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

  • Comment number 15.

    People live for cricket on the sub-continent (am sure it used to be like that in the Windies too - when they had a team that had some chance of winning!) I'm just looking forward to the match between India and Pakistan - that's sure to be a doozy!

    @Gokulram - not sure what you mean about the good matches starting only in the quarters... over 300 scored in quite a few matches with so many records being broken already - not just by the permanent members of ICC but also by the so-called minnows (e.g. Ireland!)


  • Comment number 16.

    Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Ireland, Kenya, Canada and The Netherlands are yet to show their true potential. They have a job to do in this prestigious World Cup 2011. Making a dent in the hierarchy would be wonderful for the tournament and for the game of cricket. These so called minnows need to topple a team or two in their respective pools. A top four position is still attainable to some of these talented but lesser experienced sides. Best wishes to the cricketers and the fans in their respective countries.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 17.

    Adam, I'm so envious of you for being there right now - the matches look really much more exciting than the ones in the Caribbean for the last world cup!

    And I can't believe England's performance - close call against the Netherlands and they win, close call against India and they tie, and close call against Ireland - and they lose - unbelievable! The cherry on the top had to be beating South Africa. Looks like they've had more than the standard dose of [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator] coaching to get themselves through the last match! I really have high hopes this year for them... hopefully they continue to deliver when it counts.

    @DrCajetanCoelho #16 - with the exception of Ireland's amazing freak victory solely due to Kevin 'O Brien, I don't really think the minnows have as much potential as they did in 2007 this time around... too bad as it would have made for much better viewing!


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