What Can Cricket Organisers Learn from the FIFA World Cup?

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South Africa 2010 offers the ICC a lesson: let crowds be themselves

The vuvuzelas of the 2010 Football World Cup might have drove us all mad at times, but as Jeremy Loadman explains they gave the tournament an identity, something that the 2007 Cricket World Cup sadly lacked.

Now that the Football World Cup is behind us, there is time and energy to watch other sports once more, cricket of course being a high priority for a lot of us.

With some people arguing that the football played in South Africa as a whole was not exceptional and for large chunks even quite bland, many of you might have even returned to your normal sports watching habits some time ago.

But putting the quality of the football to one side, the accounts that the tournament was run superbly made me turn my mind back to the 2007 Cricket World Cup in the Caribbean, not because it was similarly well-run but because it was pretty much the exact opposite from an operational perspective.

In 2007, cricket administrators endured much criticism for presiding over a tournament that never really took-off, went on too long and in the end barely crawled over the finish line as it ended in pitch black and in farce at Kensington Oval in Bridgetown.

We can only hope that the next Cricket World Cup to be played in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in 2011 doesn’t repeat the mistakes of 2007.

Trying to compare a Football World Cup to a Cricket World Cup is in many ways a fruitless exercise largely because of the massive difference in magnitude between the two tournaments.  However, there can be one useful comparison made between the 2007 Cricket World Cup and the 2010 Football World Cup and strangely it centres around one thing. Yep, the vuvuzela.

The interminable blowing of vuvzelas inside the stadiums drove many a person mad – some commentators even suggesting its monotonous drone matched much of the football played by some nations. By whatever you’re opinion on it, it was undeniably South African. It acted as a constant reminder that it was South Africa’s World Cup.

Compare this to the many noiseless stadiums of the 2007 Cricket World Cup. Where were the drums and the trumpets which previously created so much atmosphere inside Caribbean cricket stadiums? Atmosphere’s that could make your heart pound non-stop for an entire session.

The kind of atmosphere that many Australians were introduced to in 1991 when an Australian tour of the Caribbean was broadcast live into Australia for the first time.

There was great excitement surrounding this tour. For the first time in a long time there was a feeling in Australia that the team sent over was up to the fight and would not be chewed up and spat out like previous touring sides.

Australia fought valiantly throughout the series but lost it 3-1. But people didn’t really care about the result (the West Indies were unbeatable anyway – or so we thought), everyone was just so excited about the vibrant nature of cricket played in the Caribbean. It was wild, fun and full of sound. Even rain proved no obstacle for the brilliant atmosphere that we so strongly sensed through our television screens – to dry the crease out the groundsmen simply lit a fire on it.
With stadiums jam-packed with locals singing and dancing, this tour for many was the perfect portrait of cricket in the West Indies.

So roll around 2007 what happened? Where had all the music and excitement gone? Well the instruments were banned by members of the ICC that thought they would upset the overseas tourists attending the tournament. Little did they know that these tourists weren’t coming anyway.

And the excitement? Coupled with ticket prices that made it too expensive for many locals to attend, as well as food prices inside stadiums not dissimilar to domestic air fares, a tournament that should have delivered a party atmosphere liked no other turned into a one that many wanted to forget as quickly as possible.

So the lesson is for the ICC, let the people of the countries which host the 50-over and T20 World Cups put their own stamp on it – even if this is to be something that drives most people up the wall.

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