Sun, Apr 01, 2007 - Page 24 News List

Ponting worried West Indies exit could affect crowds

NUMBERS The Australian skipper said that he could not understand why the crowd for his side's clash with the hosts in Antigua had not been far bigger

AFP , ST JOHN'S, ANTIGUA

Australia captain Ricky Ponting fears the already small crowds at the World Cup will be further reduced if hosts West Indies go out in the second round of the Super Eights.

Only 9,000 people turned up at the 19,000 capacity Sir Vivian Richards Stadium for the first day of Australia's rain-interrupted 103-run win against the West Indies on Tuesday for what was one of the showpiece games of the tournament.

This was just the latest low turnout during a World Cup where vast numbers of empty seats have become a commonplace sight at grounds across the Caribbean.

And with West Indies struggling to make it to the semi-finals after losing to New Zealand by seven wickets on Thursday, Ponting fears the situation is about to get worse.

"I guess it would be great for the Caribbean if the West Indies could make it through to the final stages of the tournament," Ponting said. "They [the West Indies] have made it pretty hard for themselves now, losing two in a row."

"One thing I haven't understood either is the crowd support throughout the venues the last couple of games. I couldn't believe there wasn't a full house for the West Indies-Australia game here the other day," he said.

"I'm not sure what the reason was for that. But then, if the West Indies do go out, there probably won't be much support around the grounds at all which will be disappointing in a World Cup," the Australian skipper said.

He added: "I guess getting towards the latter stages there will be a lot of visitors coming in from around the world but it would be nice if a lot of the locals got out and supported the games as well."

Part of the problem in Antigua may be that the new Sir Vivian Richards ground is an out of town venue and those who do travel by car must park well away from the stadium because of tournament security plans and then pay extra for the park-and-ride shuttle.

Tickets for the West Indies-Australia clash ranged from US$25 to US$100, leading to complaints that locals had been priced out of the market.

But Cricket World Cup commercial director Stephen Price said on Wednesday: "I really disagree with that ... Tickets are definitely not out of reach. There are plenty of lower category seats available."

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