Jamaica in danger of missing World Cup

Jamaica could struggle to be ready for the 2007 World Cup next March, as the redevelopment of Sabina Park in Kingston continues to drag on beyond its scheduled completion date.

Already it seems probable that two one-day internationals against India in May and the fourth Test from June 30 to July 4 will have to be relocated, after a national cement shortage caused the US$29 million renovation project to fall behind schedule.

A press release from Jamaica Cricket confirmed the dire situation. "Based on their current level of mobilisation, staffing, hours of working etc," read the statement, "the schedule is showing a completion date of February 2007."

Jamaica's first World Cup fixture is scheduled for March 13, 2007, when West Indies take on Pakistan. But should the cement crisis deepen, manpower issues further affect the construction, or a change of design be required, then that deadline may also prove hard to meet.

Speaking to Cricinfo, a spokeswoman for Jamaica Cricket was adamant that the situation was under control, insisting that the India matches would go ahead as planned. Given the conditions, however, they would not be using these events to test the World Cup procedures as had previously been contemplated

JC2007's optimism ran contrary to the advice from ASHTROM, the construction company in charge of the project, who had advised it would "no longer be possible" to deliver on the North Stand, where the players, officials and TV gantries were to be situated. Furthermore, ASHTROM had advised that any delay for an international fixture would jeopardise the deadline of February 2007.

Responding to the latest forecasts from ASHTROM, the board of directors of JC2007 were understandably alarmed by the developments, and expressed their "very low level of confidence ... in the commitment of ASHTROM to completing the project." The company has been given six days to submit their long-overdue construction schedule, and will also be required to deliver a fortnightly progress report.

The on-going situation is a further embarrassment for the reputation of Jamaican cricket, which suffered a massive blow back in March 1998 when the first Test against England had to be abandoned because of a dangerously substandard pitch. That incident, however, will pale into insignificance if this saga drags on all the way to the start of the World Cup.