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ICC World Cup 2019 | Challenge is to Make Each WC Bigger Than Previous One: Managing Director Elworthy

CricketNext spoke exclusively to Elworthy, the managing director of the 2019 edition, about the challenges in organizing a World Cup, the innovations that fans can expect this summer in the UK and his memories from that 1999 semifinal.

Devadyuti Das |May 21, 2019, 7:52 PM IST
ICC World Cup 2019 | Challenge is to Make Each WC Bigger Than Previous One: Managing Director Elworthy

Paceman Steve Elworthy had a short international career with the South African national team but he was part of cricketing history — the famous tied semifinal in the 1999 World Cup, which is still talked about even after two decades.

After ending his international career, Elworthy has helped in successfully organizing three major International Cricket Council (ICC) events: the ICC Champions Trophy in 2013 and 2017, and the Women’s World Cup in 2017. He even received the MBE from Prince Charles last year for his service to cricket after all the previous three events in the United Kingdom were commercial as well as popular success.

Now he is bracing up for his biggest challenge with the 2019 World Cup set to get underway on May 30. CricketNext spoke exclusively to Elworthy, the managing director of the 2019 edition, about the challenges in organizing a World Cup, the innovations that fans can expect this summer in the UK and his memories from that 1999 semifinal. Excerpts from an exclusive interview…

Q. An event like the 2019 World Cup, can you tell us when and how the preparations for this tournament started?

SE: It started as far back as 2013 because we had a small team of three people and we went to Australia-New Zealand a couple of years before their tournament started. We had a small team out there looking at their planning and operations to help us when we got to 2018, a year before our World Cup. It would give us a benchmark to measure where were are with our planning.

We have trialed a few things with the Champions Trophy that we hosted here as well as the Women’s World Cup. It's been a long time but it has gone by really quickly.

Q. What are the biggest challenges that you face while organizing a tournament like the ICC Cricket World Cup?

SE: The top challenge was to make each World Cup bigger than the previous one. The first challenge for us was that the number of tickets at our disposal was significantly lower because of the size of the venues. World Cup in Australia-New Zealand, approximately 1.2 million people attended but I think in total here we have only about 800,000 tickets.

First question was how will we increase the number of people who would experience the cricket World Cup? We had to sell the 800,000 tickets first and then look at the other people who have applied and accommodate them with Fan zones, city activations and club programs because that is where people will be able to experience the World Cup if they can’t attend a match.

We have addressed this issue fantastically and fan zones are looking wonderful. That was the biggest and major challenges.

Steve Elworthy 1

Q. World Cup will get underway in a couple of weeks’ time. What are the new innovations like fan scoreboards we have heard about can we expect from the 2019 edition?

SE: During the 2017 Champions Trophy, we installed Fan Wifi at the ground because we understand the modern audience, who want to connected, upload images, comment about the match or share what they were actually experiencing at the ground. Since then we have seen success of that and ECB, as well as ICC, have installed wifi at all venues hosting the games.

That is one of the biggest innovations because that connectivity is very essential for the overall experience. It is important for our commercial partners as well, who are trying to engage the digital audience.

Q. One of the biggest challenges in cricket currently is dealing with anti-corruption. Can you elaborate how are CWC organisers working in conjunction with ICC and local authorities?

SE: With additional focus on World Cup and eyes of the world on UK, the anti-corruption program will be run out of UK. The ICC ACSU are going to make sure they are keeping a close eye on the tournament and report any threats to the players.

Without giving away all of operational plans, there is a robust plan around the tournament to ensure that World Cup is corruption-free.

Q. India recently raised concerns about security measures. Can you tell us the challenges involved in putting proper security in place for an event like World Cup?

SE: We have addressed this issue to the satisfaction of all the participating nations, not just India. The directives that were placed for 2017 Champions Trophy is in place for this tournament as well. The security plan is devised with all the local agencies — police forces, West Midlands Police who run it for us centrally and then all venue security plans are in place.

We have 11 venues this time around, we have fan zones and all sorts of different elements. Everyone is very comfortable and we’ve heard nothing but good comments about the plan itself.

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Q. You have recently said that ECB and ICC want to engage one million Under-16 through the Cricket World Cup. How do you propose to fulfil this?

SE: The first thing was to ensure that we got as many Under-16 cricketers involved with the tournament as possible. We have set ourselves the target to get 100,000 of these kids into the ground out of the 800,000 tickets that we sell to experience the atmosphere and vibrancy of World Cup cricket.

There are couple of other ways we are working closely with the ECB, the school program, the partnership with ‘Chance to Shine’ and ‘Lord’s Taverners’. The schools program was rolled out last September and was made part of the school’s curriculum. We have launched the Club program as well through ECB’s network across County cricket. Just around 3,000 clubs out of these have applied to be ‘Cricket World Cup Clubs’ — they’ll throw open their door for a weekend (June 6 to 9th) to provide anyone in the community around these clubs to come and enjoy cricket.

Also we have tied up with the ECB ‘All-Stars’ plan that they will roll out and make it Cricket World Cup ‘All Stars’ program. Across these four different elements, we’ll look to reach the target of 1 million Under-16 kids with this World Cup.

Q. What was the thinking behind going back to this league format which was previously used in the 1992 World Cup? Will there be rain-reserve days to tackle this issue or there are other measures in place?

SE: There are no reserve days in this World Cup in the league stages. The format is similar to the 1992 World Cup, each team plays nine games. There is a game of cricket every single day. It will be impossible to reschedule if you had a couple of rained-out games.

There are rain-days for semifinals and the final. Across nine games, there is enough time over the course of the tournament to make it to the top 4 spot.

20 overs a side will be the minimum requirement to complete a rain-affected tie, so 40 overs between two teams will constitute a game.

Q. Talking about your cricketing career, you were part of the 1999 South Africa World Cup team – the last one played in England. Can you tell us about your memories from the dramatic World Cup semi-final against Australia?

SE: There are some good and bad memories with that match. Obviously it was great to play in the 1999 World Cup semifinal which is incredible. There were some unbelievable players on the field from either side. I was incredibly privileged and it was a real high to play in that semifinal.

(Getty Images) (Getty Images)

It was a tied game, we didn’t lose the game and we got knocked out because of run-rate. That was hugely disappointing because a week before in the Super Six game we had scored just short of 280 runs and all we had to do was chase down 213 which is just over 4 an over. There was every opportunity and we got off to a fantastic start, then collapsed in the middle, pulled it back towards the end and finally that last over.

Just to relive again is an awful feeling. Sitting in the change room with my pads on because I had been run-out just a couple of over back. I watched it unfold on the TV in the dressing room, it was a proper emotional roller-coaster.

Q. Who would be your favourites for the 2019 World Cup?

SE: England are number one in the world and they will go in as No. 1 favourites. We have seen them play against Pakistan and they have just been incredible. They are playing some fantastic one-day cricket.

I think you will see India there and those are probably your top two teams. But there are couple of other teams who have got their noses ahead but you look at Australia, West Indies and New Zealand too who have got a wonderful team, there are so many unbelievable sides. I think it’s one of the most open World Cups in recent times.

Q. Will Jofra Archer be the X-factor for England?

SE: I am always going to be a fan of the really quick fast bowlers. Obviously in my past life, I have been a fast bowler. It’s going to be fantastic to see guys like Archer, bowling over 90mph and quicker. That is something that would probably separate the winners in this tournament.

Just heard (Kagiso) Rabada and (Dale) Steyn are probably fit again, some South Africa point of view there are some 90mph bowlers there. Pakistan also have a few and England also have a couple now.

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1 India 4027 115
2 New Zealand 2829 109
3 South Africa 2917 108
4 England 4366 104
5 Australia 3270 99
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1 England 6745 125
2 India 7071 122
3 New Zealand 4837 112
4 Australia 5543 111
5 South Africa 5193 110
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1 Pakistan 7748 277
2 England 4253 266
3 South Africa 4720 262
4 India 8620 261
5 Australia 5471 261
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