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St Lucia gets in World Cup mood

Martin Gough | 18:52 UK time, Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Martin GoughSt Lucia – This is reckoned to be one of the finest resorts in the Caribbean and a scattering of England fans are already taking advantage, planning their holidays around the three Group C games their side will play on the island.

While most take in the white beaches and azure-blue sea (I have a feeling that’s not the last time I’ll be using those two phrases over the next seven weeks) a hardy handful have gathered at the tiny Gros Islet ground, to the north of Rodney Bay, to watch team practice.

Trainer Nigel Stockill runs the warm-up drills, and adjudicates between the bickering factions in a game of touch rugby.

Fellow big boys New Zealand trained here this morning, while minnows Canada and Kenya took over the Beausejour Stadium, where they play the island’s first game on Wednesday.

Opened in 2002 the stadium has the benefit of more experience than the majority of the grounds for this tournament, which have been built or renovated with the clock ticking loudly.

It sits in a natural basin, surrounded by hills dotted with small houses painted in powder blues and pinks.

A typically panoramic St Lucia vistaThe stadium’s capacity has been increased to over 21,000 with the addition of temporary seating, in open banks that could see any unprepared fans burned to cinders if the weather stays as it is now, the blazing sun only tempered by a decent breeze. The square is straw-coloured, with the pitch itself barely distinguishable. Monty Panesar should be licking his lips at the prospect of turn, which should be confirmed by Canada’s platoon of slow bowlers.

England and Canada are staying at the same hotel in Rodney Bay, where you can watch jet-skiers from the bar or walk straight out to the white beach and azure-blue … well you can picture it.

My arrival at the local airport in Castries coincided with that of the England motorcade, a coach accompanied by police outriders and even ambulances, which stopped traffic on its way from the international airport 45km to the south.

On the surface at least, the heavy security seems unnecessary in a town where people barely turn their heads to the arrival of some of the biggest cricketing stars in the world.

Canada’s assortment of semi-professionals must have greeted with bemusement, though, the same security attachment as it gathered to escort them to afternoon training.

Meanwhile, I shall have to perfect my bathroom etiquette while in the skirting the company of the famous. You can’t really introduce yourself and shake hands on the way from the urinal for all sorts of social and hygiene reasons.

In an exclusive interview over the washbasin at Antigua airport on Monday, former South Africa great Daryl Cullinan admitted that he had got a ticket on the wrong flight to St Kitts.

After his blagging attempts failed, he could only wave from departures, then repair to the bar, as fellow commentators Mark Nicholas and Barry Richards forged ahead.

I moved on to St Lucia, only to discover, from a banner at the airport, that I will miss the biggest party on the island this year.

No, it’s not the World Cup semi-final in six weeks’ time, apparently. It’s the St Lucia Jazz Festival in May.

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 08:15 PM on 13 Mar 2007,
  • Martin Gough wrote:

A late practice update: While most of the squad trained together in the two nets in the middle at Gros Islet, four players were in a net on the far side.

The fact that Andrew Strauss and Ravi Bopara - the two batsmen ignored for the warm-up games - were there hinted that Jon Lewis and Saj Mahmood may join them on the sidelines while their mates take on New Zealand.

  • 2.
  • At 09:45 PM on 13 Mar 2007,
  • Lucia Massive wrote:

"On the surface at least, the heavy security seems unnecessary in a town where people barely turn their heads to the arrival of some of the biggest cricketing stars in the world."

The problem is they promoted it as a darn bourgeois event. They saw no need to include the locals. What they did not realise is that if the local don't buy into it neither will the foreigners...the biggest event in the Caribbean and we have not felt the fever...what a waste.

West Indies..............whoaaaaaaaaaa!!! who ever come is lix for so!!!

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  • 4.
  • At 08:39 AM on 14 Mar 2007,
  • John wrote:

Sounds like all is swimmingly tomorrow -- can't wait to watch the lads thrash Kenya a new one!


  • 5.
  • At 09:27 AM on 14 Mar 2007,
  • Amani wrote:

At least the Canadians will be able to lick their wounds on the soft sandy beaches after their first match against the impressive Kenyans.

It looks like the World Cup has got off to a successful start. A great win for the hosts in a vibrant atmosphere and on a pitch that offered something for both bat and ball. Plenty of action and, from the point of view of 90% of neutrals, the right result.

Today's matches are going to be pretty low key, although the vultures will circle unless Australia coimplete an utter humilliation of Scotland. Canada v Kenya will be interesting for the bragging rights and for the tremors that a big Kenyan win would inspire with games against two slightly vulnerable big sides to follow.

Let's hope that England come out swinging and get off to the right start. Whichever of the two loses this match will have a nervous night before the game against Kenya.

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  • 8.
  • At 01:17 PM on 14 Mar 2007,
  • letang clem wrote:

why is the writing so small,one or i can hardly see to read.

  • 9.
  • At 01:27 PM on 14 Mar 2007,
  • wadey101 wrote:

Interesting to see Jon Lewis looks to be sidelined for the first game when he is probably behind Freddie, the most consistent one day bowler. A lot has been said about how well Liam Plunkett bowled in the VB final series but he is still young and can be incosistent.
Also i feel Strauss should be playing instead of joyce, with a lot more experience and with his ability we really need strauss to be in there!

  • 10.
  • At 04:18 PM on 14 Mar 2007,
  • sue wrote:

If the road works are as bad as they were last week you need the security contngent to have any chance of travelling the few miles from Castries to Rodney Bay in less than 45 minutes!
All the locals i spoke to were really looking forward to this event and seeing some scintillating cricket.
Good luck England!!!!

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