Ian S Mohan, a teacher based in Trinidad, was one of many volunteers who are helping out at World Cup venues. He outlines his experiences during the first-round matches.
Now that the travelling circus has left the shores of Trinidad and the natives have returned to their normal way of life, the true impact of the World Cup has finally sunk in.
On the first day of volunteering we were a happy bunch of naive Trinis who could not wait to see the tourists and usher them to their seats and, if called on, we would have been happy to stand next to and fan the tourists until the prizegiving. We were really eager to work for our country and the beloved game - a true bunch of patriots.
It was a culture shock for us all when we went to the Queens Park Oval. We got an idea of what was in store at the University of the West Indies (UWI) warm-up games as well.
The biggest impression in my mind was the curtailing of freedom in your own country. It was martial law in the confines of a cricket ground. At the ground, water was TT$12 (US$2) a bottle - outside the fence and in the UWI caf it was TT$4.50. A beer was TT$18 a cup - over at the caf it was only TT$6.
The spectators passed the bars and concessions and simply walked away. One spectator, who on the first warm-up game arrived with his own water, was told he could not enter the arena with his plastic bottle, especially with the cap on, as this was clearly a weapon of mass destruction. He was taken from the UWI by paramedics at 3pm suffering from dehydration, because he could not afford to purchase water at the inflated price .
This was the highlight of the World Cup for me. I continued to volunteer (but the fire was out) as I was moved by that cricket fan who waited a lifetime to be a part of the first World Cup and almost paid the ultimate price.
Thousands of real cricket fans stayed away - they said they had self respect and pride and would not pay money to be treated this way.
It dawned to me that the ICC does not care about our little countries and our economies. They are alien to the socio-economic status and the way of life of the spectators of cricket, and the culture of the peoples of the Caribbean, and even Asia ... for that matter, the world. They care only about image, ambush marketing, television and money.
They don't care about the people who keep cricket alive: us. Thousands of real cricket fans stayed away - they said they had self respect and pride and would not pay money to be treated this way. I now understand their view and feel that I compromised my self respect to be part of the tournament. We were told how to talk, how to smile, how to welcome the tourists, how to speak. We had a handbook to learn from.
The ICC twisted the arms of small island states to institute draconian laws to facilitate the World Cup. Why? We have been holding ODIs for 30 years, and win, lose, or draw, the end was peaceful. The biggest terrorist in the Caribbean is rain, as it threatens any game. We were stripped of our water, food, and our true West Indian flavor that visitors come to the Caribbean to take part in. We were told to sit quiet, not to be too loud, not to disturb the spectators ... but to have fun and enjoy the game. Bull.
How can you enjoy a cricket match and not show your enthusiasm or disgust? The biggest joke was that the nuts man, who in Trinidad tosses his packs from the front row to anywhere in the stands, was told by ICC that he has to deliver in hand the packets. No one has never been hit and if so only his pride is dented for not being able to make a clean catch.
The nuts man also had to change his sales pitch - his unique call - to that of "Nuts! Nuts!". Our nuts men also are walking comedians, giving and taking jokes, but not at the World Cup. They were censured. They took the abuse for the high prices and said meet them at the next ODI series and they would give you the answer. You could have seen the agony, instead of pride, in the nuts men at this gala event. Oh, and the nuts were TT$6 - at a normal ODI they would be half the price. We bought, only to save the nuts men from bankruptcy, for they are as essential as the umpires to cricket in the Caribbean.
The volunteering did have its benefit . I was able to see more cricket than normal - don't let on that you saw cricket as a volunteer, though. I met many foreigners, and was really happy to welcome them to my beloved Trinidad. I enjoyed the modified Queens Park Oval, I would enjoy cricket in 2008, whoever is coming to beat the West Indies.
Volunteering is a calling, and you have to love doing it. I wanted to be a part of the World Cup because I love the game, will always love the game and would do it again. The ICC must be empathetic to us; the audiences. People of all walks of life make up the paying patrons, and it's the poor who sacrifice the most to see their heroes perform. If we are to bring the championships back to the Caribbean they must think about the people. The games are not well attended as the spectators will not pay to be abused. Caribbean people have their pride.
It was sad to watch our Muslim brothers and sisters agonise during the lunch breaks as they were unable to get a venue for prayer. The Local Organising Committee did not take into consideration the religious aspect of the spectators. It was the visiting Pakistani and Bangladeshis who wanted to go to the mosque, but they were denied exit passes to visit the St James Mosque, which was one mile away. These spectators were genuine in their need and were bluntly told that there was a no re-entry policy. It was even difficult to get water to do their ritual washing before prayers.
This World Cup will be remembered for the wrong reasons. The good work of the volunteers has been overshadowed by the off-field drama and the insults meted out by the ICC to the proud Caribbean people.