The ICC Cricket World Cup Trophy Tour, driven by Nissan, made a pit stop in New York City, at the 40/40 Club, on September 5, where the glittering trophy was unveiled for a select audience. The hosts of the evening, Willow TV, presented two of the biggest cricketing super stars of the yesteryears, Brian Lara and Clive Lloyd, as special guests.
The founder and CEO of Willow TV, Vijay Srinivasan, during the course of an interactive panel discussion, outlined the channel’s ambitious plans for coverage of the next year’s World Cup in England, which is expected to penetrate as high as three million households in the US, bygoi g linear on all available TV platforms, apart from digital and hand-held devices.
“We expect to reach at least two million homes, and as much as three million,” said Srinivasan, adding that all games of the next year’s World Cup, including the warmup games, would be telecast live on Willow TV.
The road trip to showcase the trophy started its journey from the International Cricket Council headquarters in Dubai on August 27. Travelling across five continents, 21 countries and over 60 cities, the “most connected Trophy Tour ever” will allow fans around the world to get up close to the coveted prize that will be lifted at Lord’s Cricket Ground on July 14, 2019, stated the ICC.
During the 9-month journey, the Trophy Tour will travel not only to countries taking part in the tournament, but for the first time ever will go beyond traditional cricket heartlands and connect with fans in a further 11 countries where cricket is growing, including Nepal and Germany.
The trophy came to the US after a sojourn in the Gulf nations. It’s next headed to the West Indies, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany before arriving in England and Wales on February 19, 2019, for a 100-day domestic Trophy Tour.
During its journey, the ICC Cricket World Cup Trophy will visit iconic and unusual locations, communities, schools, universities and even people’s homes in a bid to connect people globally, said the ICC.
At the meet in New York, fans had the exhilaration of holding the trophy aloft, have their photo taken with the trophy, take part in a virtual reality cricket zone, apart from mingling with the West Indians, Lara and Lloyd, during a cocktail reception and dinner.
The venue, owned by the music artist Jay-Z, is in close proximity to where the US participated in their first international cricket match, which saw St George’s Cricket Club play Canada on September 24, 1844, at the former Bloomingdale Park in Manhattan. Though the US has never qualified for the World Cup, it has the distinction of having two Test cricketers born in the country – Ken Weekes, who went on to play for the West Indies, and Jehan Mubarak, who played for Sri Lanka.
Earlier in the day, the trophy was taken to Edison, New Jersey, where it was presented to students of the Woodrow Wilson Middle School. The presenters of the trophy included Avinash Gaje, Director of USA Cricket, who attended the evening reception too, and participated in the panel discussion.
“In the future, people will come to America to watch cricket,” said Lloyd, talking of expansion of cricket in the US. “In the not too distant future,” he predicted.
In an exclusive interview to News India Times, Lara, one of the greatest batsmen of all time, and who holds the record for the highest individual score in first-class cricket, with 501 not out for Warwickshire against Durham at Edgbaston in 1994, and the record for the highest individual score in a Test innings after scoring 400 not out against England at Antigua in 2004, said that he considered Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh the toughest Indian bowlers he had faced, saying that the duo didn’t allow him to use his feet and get to the pitch of the ball.
“They bowled flat. They were pretty hard to face,” said Lara.
Lara refused to rate in order the three greatest Indian batsmen, Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, and Virat Kohli.
“I don’t rate batsmen. I appreciate what they do for the sport. I appreciate Gavaskar playing at a time when India struggled as a team, batting and bowling, and he stood out. Tendulkar was a mirror image of Gavaskar, when at a time Indian batsmen were vulnerable to pitches that were helpful to fast bowlers. Virat Kohli is the same when it comes to playing on difficult pitches around the world. I’m not going to put one before the other,” Lara said.
Asked if he envied any aspect of Tendulkar’s game, Lara said, “Tendulkar is the most technically correct batsman I have ever seen. Viv Richards may be the most exciting and most extravagant batsman I have ever seen playing. I have said this before – if I had a son, whom did I want him to bat like? I want him to have the solidity of a Tendulkar, yet you still want him to bat like a Viv Richards, and entertain. Because sports is all about entertainment.” Asked what he has to tell the Indian team struggling on English pitches, Lara said that it’s hard to condemn a team who are trying to adapt to pitches.
“It’s about winning a test match. When India pulled the series back to 2-1, I’m sure everybody was looking forward to see if they can level the series. It did not happen. I would never be negative about Indian batsmen who can bat under certain conditions. Because they were conditions that I struggled in as well,” he said.
Asked if he has any coaching aspirations in the IPL, after he was not able to play in the tournament, in the past, he said: “It all depends. It’s a franchise. It’s not something that I’m going to beat myself over. I have survived so many years. The IPL is something I appreciate. There are a lot of able coaches in all the franchises. I personally feel I have to shop my skills before I even consider it. Because if I do consider it, I do want to make sure that if I come in, I’ll make a difference.”
Lara predicted India and England to be top contenders for next year’s World Cup.
“I like what India brings to the table,” he said.
Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1