The USA have missed out in their bid to host matches during the 2007 World Cup, after the eight selected venues were announced in a press conference by the International Cricket Council. Bermuda and St Vincent were the other unlucky bidders, while a second Jamaican venue was also turned down.
The USA is a major untapped market for cricket's development, and Lauderhill in Florida had been widely tipped to host matches. But despite their expansionist aims, the ICC eventually decided to keep the World Cup an all-Caribbean affair, as it anticipated entry problems for players, and since no reassuarances were given to the ICC that travellers would not face problems entering the country. The decision is good news for St Kitts & Nevis, which had expected to be squeezed out in the final decision, but now have the chance to play host at the biggest sporting event ever held in the region.
"Based on the strict criteria used for this event, [the USA] was eliminated," said Ehsan Mani, the president of the ICC, although he added that the Lauderhill ground could still be used to host warm-up matches, along with Bermuda and St Vincent. Mani has been a driving force behind the globalisation of world cricket, although the need to resuscitate the game in the Caribbean was the tournament organisers' first priority.
"For many years, West Indies were the powerhouses of the sport, giving much joy and inspiration to the game around the world," said Mani. "They deserve this opportunity and honour. There will be some disappointment among those venues not selected, but hosting the tournament is not simply about individual venues, but how the countries unite together to stage the event.
"The cricket community is fully supportive of the West Indies and it is confident that the enthusiasm, commitment and energy of the West Indian people will unite with a collective effort to host a most successful tournament in 2007."
The eight venues were selected following a vigorous vetting process by the ICC's Venue Assessment Team, which took into account various aspects including the stadium, operations, security, medical facilities, spectator facilities, finance, accommodation, political environment, local organising resources, media facilities, communications and marketing support.
Teddy Griffith, the president of the West Indies Cricket Board, described the quality of the applications as "outstanding", and believed they would leave a strong legacy for cricket in the West Indies. "We were highly impressed with the work done and the efforts made by the respective countries," said Griffith. "The future of cricket in the West Indies can be sustained beyond 2007."
Of the eight venues for the tournament, six will be upgraded to seat an average of 20,000 spectators, while new venues will be built from scratch in Guyana and Antigua. The 2007 tournament will be the biggest World Cup yet, with 51 matches to be contested between 16 teams, two more than played in 2003. There will be four first-round groups, with the top two from each progressing to a new "Super Eight" second-round format.
The schedule for the tournament, which begins in April 2007, will be announced at a press conference in the Caribbean on July 13.
Antigua & Barbuda
St Kitts & Nevis
Trinidad & Tobago
St Vincent & Grenadines