'Lara' facing teething problems September 8, 2006

Falling at first hurdle

Fazeer Mohammed



Brian Lara Stadium in Trinidad: several months behind schedule © Getty Images

"Ent Brian does be late half the time? So what you expect from a stadium with he name on it?"

The words of an avowed Lara fan yesterday rang true, and I should hasten to add that said worshipper of the "Prince" pointed out forcefully that it didn't really matter how, when and in what condition his hero turned up, the records reveal that, more often than not, he has delivered at a level that most of the timely, disciplined and very organised around him have failed to even approach.

If only the latest issue of World Cup preparation was about the player and not the construction site in Tarouba. Before going any further, let's put this in its proper perspective. No matches of the actual 2007 World Cup were ever scheduled for Tarouba. All six fixtures of the preliminary group based in Trinidad are to be played at the refurbished Queen's Park Oval, involving India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Bermuda.

The new stadium was supposed to come into the picture for warm-up matches in January and February involving Pakistan, South Africa, Canada and Scotland. So it may not seem to be that big of a deal, especially as the local organisers maintain that the ICC inspectors - who were expected to administer the kiss of death to "Lara" yesterday-have expressed "satisfaction" with alternative venues at the National Cricket Centre in Balmain and the UWI ground in St Augustine.

It seems a huge step down from a spanking new stadium to considerably more modest facilities for official one-day internationals, particularly involving such high-profile teams as Pakistan and South Africa, but the LOC people say the big boys are reasonably happy, so let's go with that.

What doesn't change, however, is that one of the fundamental reasons given for the haste to construct the cricketing aspect of a staggeringly-expensive multi-sport facility is that it was going to be part of the "Brown" World Cup package hosted by Trinidad and Tobago.

At first sight, the impression was that actual World Cup matches would be played there, then it was downgraded to essential warm-up matches. Now it seems the only matches to be played at the Tarouba venue early next year will be impromptu "pass-out" games between Chinese, Malaysian and Caribbean construction workers (now that's an idea, a first-ever "pass-out" World Cup).

I know that every issue in the public domain around here is saturated with politics, so let me clarify my political affiliation. I have none. I didn't vote at the last three general elections, and if I am still around for the next one, I won't be voting either.

People can go on and on about how millions all over the world would die for the right that I so irresponsibly fritter away. Let me tell you something. Democracy, as it is practised (forget about the intention, I'm talking reality) in these parts, is a joke and I'm not going to waste my time pretending that doing my so-called civic duty is in any way going to make any difference to the inequities, injustices and flat-out squandermania that passes for governance here.

With that out of the way, let's move on. This entirely ill-conceived and unnecessary (you telling me that none of the relatively-new, under-utilised stadiums around the country could not be expanded for the same purpose?) venture has therefore failed at the first hurdle of justifying its very existence.



Brian Lara: 'when you big, you big' © Getty Images

But even if it won't be ready until the 2011 World Cup on the Indian sub-continent, too much money and too much effort have already been invested in this project for it to stop now, unless, of course, we want another monument to shameless waste like the Caroni Racing Complex. We already have an airport with a final bill that could never be justified by the quality and scale of the workmanship, so why not a high-performance centre too?

Forget about the regional and international embarrassment of falling flat on a World Cup promise. So long as the oil and gas money is flowing, people everywhere will see this as the land of opportunity. Even as some have a good laugh and roll their eyes knowingly about Third World banana republics, they will still want a piece of the action, at least until the whole overheated economy boils over and recession hits us very, very hard somewhere down the road.

But with everyone's snout buried in the trough, who bothers to watch the pot anyway? No, this is not about what others have to say about us but what it says about ourselves. Issues such as planning, preparation, viability and relevance are all in focus here with the Tarouba site a contemporary metaphor for the many ills that plague a land blessed with so much.

But, as we say, the game must go on. Those who stand to benefit-financially, politically or otherwise-will continue to champion "Lara", just as those who have much to gain by condemning it will intensify their efforts in the wake of the visit by Don Lockerbie and company. Just as well that the West Indies captain himself is 35,000 feet up, probably asleep, on the way to Kuala Lumpur.

The man half-a-world away, not doing anything good, bad or indifferent-on or off the field-and his name is still in the headlines here. When you big, you big.

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