There was sure to be keen interest both on and off the field as the three-match One-Day International (ODI) series between West Indies and England started Friday in Antigua.
Under a new head coach in Australian Stuart Law, West Indies are mindful of making an impact in their quest to improve on their No. 9 ranking.
With the first two matches at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium – the other is on Sunday – before climaxing at Kensington Oval in Barbados next Thursday, apart from what took place in the middle, curious fans had every reason to analyse the presence of spectators in the stands. England dominated.
Co-incidentally, Barbados and Antigua are venues, which have attracted a large number of English supporters over the past two decades.
Hence, when the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) announced last Sunday that there was a special ticket offer for local fans, it led to questions being asked about the “sudden” move.
The release stated that the WICB set aside an additional 3,000 ground tickets for the local patrons in Antigua at a cost of EC$50 (approximately US$18.50) – half the original price.
At Kensington Oval, the first 1,000 tickets sold in the Greenidge & Haynes lower stand will cost BDS$75 (approximately US$37.50) – also half the original price.
Adults can also purchase children’s tickets (12 years and under) for all three games at an additional 50 percent off the new price.
Fans looking to take advantage of this special offer will need to provide a national ID and there is a limit of two tickets per person. These MUST be purchased at the ticket offices – to the east of the Antigua Recreational Ground and at Kensington Oval, the release added.
“With a large number of travelling England fans attending the series, we expect all three matches to be sold out,” said Johnny Grave, Chief Executive Officer of WICB.
“We are keen to have as many West Indian fans as possible in attendance, so we have set aside these tickets for local fans at special discounted prices. We want to urge them to come out, throw their full support behind our players and ensure that each match has a real Caribbean atmosphere,” Grave added.
Truth is, with the large presence of English fans, the ratio of tickets for locals was always going to be very limited.
Furthermore, the original asking price was tough on the pockets of the ordinary fan.
Throughout the Caribbean and certainly in Barbados, over the years fans have become accustomed to various prices for international matches according to the stands of their choice as opposed to a flat fee for all of the stands.
For the current tour, the average fan argued from the outset that the asking price was far too high. But even with a reduction, the limitation of tickets still leaves quite a number of people stranded.
And for those who know the Greenidge & Haynes stand well, the seating area identified exposes spectators to a fair amount of sun.
Kensington Oval has a seating capacity of roughly 12 000 and it is understood that English supporters have gobbled up about 10 000 tickets. Wow!
Despite all the loud noises, it is a situation, which will not change. The bottom line for the WICB is earning as much revenue as possible.
Ensuring that each match has a “real Caribbean atmosphere” is debatable.
It is also understood that packages for the series were being sold in England since last September.
When the Barbados Cricket Association recognised the high cost of the tickets, they contacted the CEO of the WICB and managed to get the reduction on the available seats.
In a nutshell, however, the tickets the WICB secretariat is shouting about are those which were not sold.
While one respects the fact that the WICB is responsible for setting prices, it also begs the question of having negotiations with regional boards, especially when a tour features England.
As far as the West Indies squad for the series is concerned, the original 15 named for training led to great debate.
Chairman of the West Indies selection panel Courtney Browne had a very busy time with the media in explaining some of the choices.
On the heels of the Regional Super50 Championship, a few players would have been disappointed at not being included, namely the likes of veteran Barbados Pride left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn and Windward Islands Volcanoes batsman Sunil Ambris.
After all, Benn took 18 wickets at 10.22 runs apiece with an economy rate of 2.83, which was the best among bowlers with at least six wickets, while Ambris scored 423 runs including six half-centuries, at an average of 70.50.
In Benn’s case, the selectors no doubt also took into account that he struggled during the Tri-nation series in Zimbabwe last November. Furthermore, they would have looked at his overall ODI record of 39 wickets at an average of 49.05 and an economy rate of 4.80 in 47 ODIs and perhaps reckoned that it was time to move on.
With an overall List A record of 724 runs (ave: 51.71) from
20 matches, Ambris, a 23-year-old Vincentian, cannot be too far away from an international call-up.
One, however, realises that the selectors are seeking to be consistent in building the team. To this end, they want to give players an opportunity to prove their worth.
That’s why Browne was at pains to state the objectives of his panel.
Of the 13 named for the series against England – Jason Holder (captain), Kraigg Brathwaite, Evin Lewis, Kieran Powell, Shai Hope, Jason Mohammmed, Jonathan Carter, Carlos Brathwaite, Ashley Nurse, Devendra Bishoo, Shannon Gabriel, Rovman Powell and Alzarri Joseph – only Holder (50), Kieran Powell (29) and Carlos Brathwaite (21), have played more than 20 ODIs.
It should be a very testing series for West Indies.
Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and international cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Division 1 (now Elite) championship for three-and-a-half decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org). Holder is also the host of the cricket Talk Show, Mid Wicket, on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation 100.7 FM on Tuesday nights. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org