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Thursday, 27 June, 2002, 08:48 GMT 09:48 UK
Grenada prepares for its big day
St George's skyline
Capital St George's is home to the National Stadium

Cricket in Grenada has enjoyed a massive boom over the past three years and this week the Island of Spice will receive the ultimate accolade.

The National Stadium, built within minutes of the shimmering Caribbean Sea, will become the 84th Test match venue in world cricket when the West Indies take on New Zealand.

It is a remarkable rise for a tiny island that has merited nothing more than a footnote in the history of West Indies cricket, but is now at the very centre of its regeneration.

Darren Lehmann
Lehmann scored a hundred in the first ever ODI in Grenada
With a World Cup to host in 2007, the West Indies board needed to plough money into its ramshackle venues that now lag behind the stadiums of the rest of the world.

The construction of the $5 million National Stadium, which lies adjacent to an all-seater football and athletics ground, changed the face of Grenadian cricket.

And as soon as it hosted its first one-day international in 1999, a Test match was simply a matter of time.

The ground was packed out for the visit of Steve Waugh's Australian side and a century from Darren Lehmann condemned the West Indies fans to a disappointing day.

  West Indies Test venues
1997 - Arnos Vale St Vincent
1981 - Antigua Recreation Ground
1930 - Sabina Park, Jamaica
1930 - Bourda, Guyana
1930 - Kensington Oval, Barbados
However, the venue was deemed a success and subsequent visits from Northamptonshire, Sussex and Yorkshire, have enabled the Grenadian authorities to get used to handling visiting teams.

Sussex's visit this year was marred by the drowning of Umer Rahid and his brother Burhan at a local beauty spot.

But the cricketing benefits are likely to encourage the return of other counties.

What has lured Northamptonshire in particular to the island are the facilities at St George's University, which is now the home of the West Indies' Cricket Academy.

Built with American funding and boasting a large intern of US students, the university has become the focal point of the need to modernise West Indies cricket.

The gilded age of Richards, Greenidge, Garner and Holding has been replaced by the turgid era of defeat prompting the need to cultivate new talent.

Junior Murray
Murray is Grenada's leading cricketing son

Net facilities on a par with those in the more affluent nations, and state of the art recording devices have enabled coaches to monitor the progress of young West Indian cricketers.

The West Indies A team - currently touring England - have all come through the Academy's ranks and cricket in the Caribbean is catching up with the rest of the world.

A large crowd is espected to see Grenada become only the second new Test venue for 20 years in the Caribbean, but local hero Junior Murray will not be present to add an extra dimension.

Murray, Grenada's leading cricketer with 33 Test appearances, lost his place in the West Indies team after defeat by India in April and Ridley Jacobs is now keeping wicket.

The parochial nature of West Indies cricket means the lack of a local representative will put a few fans off.

But those that do wend their way to the National Stadium will see history being made.

New Zealand in the West Indies

2nd Test, Grenada

1st Test, Barbados

One-day series

Mark Richardson

Features

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See also:

07 Mar 02 | Country profiles
24 Jan 01 | Cricket
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