South Africa v Sri Lanka, Super Eights, Guyana March 27, 2007

Stadium operational though pitch is anybody's guess

Work in progress at the National Stadium in Guyana © AFP

There is reason for concern but not alarm, not till we experience the pitch anyway. There is uncertainty in the air on a number of fronts, and rightly so, but National Stadium in Guyana is far from the construction site that some reports have made it out to be. Weather permitting, and in Guyana all you ever need for rain is a bit of cricket, the Super Eights will commence on Wednesday.

Indeed the outfield has responded superbly to the rain of the past three days, a point noted by the Sri Lankan coach Tom Moody. The much lovelier Bourda, the former Test ground, would have become a lake by now. Built higher than the surrounding land, engineers claim that drainage at the new stadium here can empty two inches of water in half an hour.

That is one of the bright spots at the moment. Virtually nothing is known about the virgin pitch, on which only a club 20/20 match has been played in the last few months. Presumably it will behave better that the practice pitches, which recently earned the censure of Andy Roberts, the pitch consultant for the tournament, some months ago, and frustrated the South Africans with their unreliability when they netted this morning. It's been a familiar case of too little too late.

The Local Organising Committee has been terribly tardy with all its commitments, and finally handed over the facility to the ICC last week almost a month after deadline. Three days ago, Rushmans, the British agency handling the media facilities for the tournament, had advised journalists "the LOC has been unable to provide fully operational facilities for us and despite out best efforts, there may be continuing challenges during matches at the stadium." It added that a number of additional personnel, including power experts, IT technicians, had to be flown in to get things ready.

On match eve the media centre appeared to be in reasonable order, and Rushmans staff anticipated no further trouble. Project managers from the Indian building firm, Shapoorji Pallonji, too, are confident that all aspects of the stadium proper are in perfect order. The same cannot be said for the approach and the parking lot, work on which was not just late but never completed.

Rahul Bhattacharya is contributing editor of Cricinfo Magazine and author of Pundits from Pakistan: On Tour with India, 2003-04