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Cricket World Cup 2011 - the Cup that counts ?

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Adam Mountford Adam Mountford | 12:39 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 happen (a 3-1 thrashing) and wanted to hide the event.

But there is no hiding here in Dhaka when it comes to the start of the forthcoming ICC Cricket World Cup. When I got off the plane at the Hazrat Shahjalal Airport you were left in little doubt that the World Cup was going to be big news here in Bangladesh when 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.

Then 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 teams 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 certainly on first impression it is are not being let down by the enthusiasm here in Bangladesh at least.

I mention the poor crowds which have dogged recent tournaments - well this doesn't look like being a problem here in Dhaka.

One local resident Sadat told me that he had camped for two nights in a queue hoping to buy tickets for Thursday's opening ceremony and the opening match. Sadly, despite his efforts 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 newspaper 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 and provide what they call a "bite-free experience" for the spectators coming to watch the cricket.

Dhaka health department chief Nasir Uddin described to reporters that hundreds of workers were spraying stadiums and draining stagnant waters as part of the drive.

Last week 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 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 your 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 try and pick up my accreditation.

The area just outside the ground is about the size of a football field and it was completely 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 come and 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'd 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 and 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".

At a news conference, 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.

    Can someone get this on to Ebony Rainford-Brent's blog, please? Ta!

    Lelia figures out best way to bat
    Left-hander Lelia Namaganda showed why she is the best woman batting prospect in Uganda when she scored 32 runs in the Girls' Schools Cricket Week final last week, to add to her 43 not out in the semi-finals and 21 not out in the innings before that.
    Such an accumulation of runs brought the 16-year-old Gayaza High School student the batting award at the conclusion of cricket week last Wednesday when Gayaza HS beat Soroti Light Senior Secondary School by 36 runs in the final.
    Namaganda's 32 came from exactly 100 for 6 posted by Gayaza. Not for the first time she and captain Rebecca Mirembe (11) put on a half-century or more together for the second wicket before Soroti rallied to take five wickets from Gayaza's last 35 runs.
    But the 100 proved ample for Gayaza, for once prolific Janet Mbabazi - the 15-year-old player of the tournament - had been dismissed leg before on 29 for 4, it was all up for the north-easterners and they added a mere 35 more runs, despite a rearguard effort by captain Rebecca Mukashema (21). For Gayaza, it was captain Rebecca Mirembe who went up to get the winner's trophy from National Council of Sports' general secretary Jasper Aligawesa, while team mate Fiona Akello got the bowling award, Mercy Lakisa the gong for wicketkeeping and Namaganda basked in her batting triumph. The fielding award went to Esther Mbambu of Nyakasura School.

    Trudy's troops coast to technical triumph

    The symmetry was beautiful, the cricket sensational. In the semi-finals it was A1 v B6 and A6 v B1. What could be more perfect? And the cricket in the recently concluded Girls' Schools Cricket Week matched the equation 1=10/10.
    The fact that the finalists were Gayaza High School and Soroti Light Senior Secondary School took nothing away from the dynamic that went into the build-up semi-final matches between Jinja SS and Soroti at Lugogo and Kyebambe GS and Gayaza at Kyambogo.
    The cricket week was a top-table competition - even if the original 19 applicants had to be whittled down to a dozen contestants and, from those, to the four semi-finalists.
    In the end it was Trudy Namulondo's Gayaza girls who had the measure of the other teams, and in last Wednesday's final defeated Soroti by 36 runs, after a seven-wicket victory when the teams met at King's College Budo earlier in the week.
    "I'm not just over the moon, I've flown beyond it," beamed 22-year-old superfit games teacher Namulondo in response to the victory at Lugogo Cricket Oval. "What can I say? I'm overjoyed," added team manager Lucy Nakiboneka, while national Under-19s girls' team coach Raymond Otim added: "That was really something - just great" as the heroines of the moment seized their trophy with joy.
    Best wicketkeeper of the tournament was Mercy Lakisa (Gayaza), best fielder Esther Mbambu (Nyakasura), best bowler Fiona Akello (Gayaza), best batter Lelia Namaganda (Gayaza) and player of the tournament 15-year-old Janet Mbabazi (Soroti).
    Semi-final results: Soroti LSS 56 (Mbabazi 29), Jinja SS 36 (Joyce Apio 4 for 2); Gayaza 111 for 4 (Namaganda 43 not out, Rebecca Mirembe 15), Kyebambe GS 41 (Regius Tumusiime 6 for 6, Mirembe 2 for 8, Faimah Conso 2 for 17).
    Final: Gayaza 100 for 6 (Namaganda 32, Mirembe 11; Jesca Achira 2 for 15, Evelyn Anyipo 2 for 19), Soroti LSS 64 all out (Akello 2 for 7, Maria Nabukwansi 2 for 8, Mirembe 2 for 16). Gayaza won by 36 runs.


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