'I fully assure you that we are fully prepared'
The delay in work at two World Cup venues in the country notwithstanding, tournament director Prof. Ratnakar Shetty on Wednesday expressed confidence that it will be completed on time for the cricketing mega event, scheduled to begin next month.
"There are a lot of speculations about the venues. I fully assure you that we are fully prepared. We are ready to stage this great event that comes once in four years," Shetty said during a promotional event for the 2011 World Cup.
"I want to assure you that all the venues, including Wankhede stadium are fully prepared and are geared up for the event. All the media friends will have a look into the venues. We will formally have a media presentation after the end of the final round of visits (by an ICC team) on the 25th (January) at the Eden Gardens," he added.
"We have a final visit only for two venues in India, Kolkata on 25th and 24th at the Wankhede stadium. This is a small ICC committee, which overlooks the entire preparedness. I can assure you that even before this committee visits that both these venues will be ready.
"There is just some finishing going on. And the same thing for the three venues in Sri Lanka to be prepared. They are putting in all their best efforts. No venue would like to lose out staging an international match, that too for a World Cup. Therefore, no compromise would be done," Shetty said.
Image: ICC President Sharad Pawar, ICC CEO Haroon Lorgat and ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 Tournament Director Proff. Ratnakar Shetty pose with 2011 Cricket World Cup trophy in Mumbai
Pawar promises an improved Wankhede
ICC President Sharad Pawar, who also heads the Mumbai Cricket Association, too echoed in Shetty's sentiments and allayed any fears over delay in the completion of work at the Wankhede stadium.
"There was lot of talk in the media on whether the stadium will be ready in such a short time. But I must give credit to my colleagues in the Mumbai Cricket Association. You will enjoy the much improved Wankhede stadium and its facilities," Pawar said.
"As Prof. Shetty has rightly said, the ICC Committee is visiting on 24th. I am wearing two hats. I am wearing the MCA president (hat) here so I am absolutely confident that the team that visits the venue will be happy.
"They will see what MCA has done is a miracle. And for all spectators, for matches purpose, stadiums and grounds will be absolutely ready," he said.
Image: Sharad Pawar
'There are no plans to shift any matches'
ICC CEO Haroon Lorgat said that he had not pressed the panic button yet, but would have been satisfied had the work been completed on schedule.
"I would have been much more satisfied had the stadiums been completed on the due date. But I am not panicking just yet. Prof. Shetty and his team are working quite hard and the final inspections will be held in the next few days," he said.
Lorgat also dismissed speculation that there were plans to shift matches from two venues in Sri Lanka -- Sooriyawewa in Hambanthota district and the refurbished stadium in Pallekele -- where work is behind schedule.
"There are no plans to shift any matches. The final inspections are going to be held soon," he added.
Image: Proff. Ratnakar Shetty, Sharad Pawar and Haroon Lorgat
Free entry for school and college children
Hosts India and Bangladesh will kick-off the 2011 ICC World Cup on February 19 in Dhaka, while the final would be played on April 2 at the Wankhede stadium. To a query, Shetty said visa issues have been resolved for the teams, match officials and the ICC officials coming to India for the World Cup.
"I think the visa issues are resolved as far as the teams, match officials and the ICC officials coming into India for multiple entries. For the period of two months, rules have been changed in India but for the World Cup there has been a relaxation. All other spectators holding tickets would have to apply for visa well in time," he added.
Shetty said the ICC has undertaken steps to ensure spectators for the games not featuring the hosts, in the three countries -- India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
"The ICC has undertaken a lot of promotional events. Each of the sponsors are running promotional events. And the president (Pawar) has advised all the venues, not only in India but also Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, that for these non-India, non-Sri Lanka, non-Bangladesh games that will be played, crowds need to be coming to the ground, spectators need to be there, crowds should be there.
"Most of the places you will find that there will be free entry on their identity cards to school and college children and there are promotional events through which tickets will be distributed to the spectators," he added.
Image: Sri Lankan children during a Test match in Galle
'All the three formats of the game can co-exist'
Referring to the series played between India-South Africa and England-Australia, Lorgat said the matches showed that all the three formats of the game can co-exist at the same time.
"There has been some good Test cricket played, including between India and South Africa. Even in one-day cricket there was a good match in Australia last Sunday. I was there to watch Shane Watson score a magnificent 161 not out. Then there was a one-run win, and a two wicket victory last night," he said.
"There was noise that was being made about the demise of Test cricket and one-day cricket. I think clearly know everybody believes that there can be three viable formats of the game. All the formats can survive," he added.
Image: Shane Watson
'I've got absolute faith in the 50-over format'
Commenting on the split-innings format in ODIs being tried out by Cricket Australia, Lorgat said, "We are encouraged by the fact that members are trying different things. Cricket Australia (CA) was very enthusiastic about it."
Lorgat said the ICC will discuss the latest variation of the game once CA submits their feedback and added, "I got absolute faith in the 50-over format. I believe we can make minor adjustments to the format."
On the occasion, Pawar and Lorgat rang the iconic bell at the Bombay Stock Exchange to mark the 30-day countdown for the World Cup.
Image: Haroon Lorgat