ICC President Ray Mali has thanked his homeland of South Africa for hosting a magnificent inaugural ICC World Twenty20.
And he added the success of the event has proved beyond question that cricket now has a third credible international format to sit alongside Test cricket and one-day internationals.
Speaking after India’s nerve-shredding five-run victory over Pakistan in the final at The Wanderers on Monday, Mr Mali said: “Thank you South Africa for doing such a superb job of staging this event. You have done yourselves, Cricket South Africa and the ICC proud.
“This tournament was something of a journey into the unknown for all concerned given the newness of the Twenty20 format but I can say without a shadow of a doubt that it is has been a huge success.
“To have it finish in the way it did, in the final over in front of a packed and excited crowd was fitting, and completely in keeping with the 26 matches that had gone before.
“We can now move forward to plot the next staging of this event, in England in 2009, the ICC’s centenary year, safe in the knowledge that Twenty20 International cricket has taken its place at the game’s top table.
Its success here, shown clearly by attendances and interest in the matches, puts us in the fortunate position to now have three credible and high-quality formats of the game, formats that can cater for everyone’s taste and help broaden cricket’s appeal.
“And by managing the balance between those formats as we move forward, something we have already done by limiting the number of Twenty20 Internationals that can be played in any year above and beyond an ICC event, we will ensure our strong sport grows even stronger,” he added.
There were plenty of skeptics in the run-up to the tournament and not just because the format was new. The weather in Cape Town was unkind with an exceptionally wet winter and doubts were raised about whether or not the venue would be fit for play.
Thankfully the weather changed for the better just in time, a stroke of fortune that was fully deserved according to Mr Mali given all the hard work so many people – both paid and unpaid – put in to the event.
“The weather gods smiled on us and people packed into three venues that hosted the matches, Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg, to see cricket that has produced a lifetime of memories,” he said.
“The first-ever Twenty20 hundred by Chris Gayle in the opening game, a hat-trick by Brett Lee, six sixes in an over by Yuvraj Singh, Zimbabwe’s win over Australia, the amazing final between India and Pakistan and numerous other thrilling matches, the list of highlights goes on and on.
“For that I must thank the players and officials for embracing the format so readily, applying themselves to the contests and also supporting the Spirit of Cricket so well both on and off the field.
“That was never more evident than the way they supported our continued efforts to raise awareness and reduce stigma about the issue of HIV and AIDS through our partnership with UNAIDS and UNICEF and also through the backing of our first-ever Diversity Day.”
Mr Mali also paid tribute to the people who made sure the players and spectators got the tournament they deserved.
“The work of Tournament Director Steve Elworthy and his staff, the ICC staff including host liaison Sybil Fernandes, and the three venues that staged the matches, has been phenomenal,” he commented.
“Andre Odendaal in Cape Town, Cassim Docrat in Durban and Alan Kourie in Johannesburg were asked to get their grounds ready far earlier than would normally be the case but they achieved it and the ground-staff at all three venues deserve special praise.
“And with the help of those venues we were able to enact some of the lessons we learnt from the ICC Cricket World Cup.
“We saw fantastic atmospheres generated at all the grounds and by providing free tickets to schools and disadvantaged groups we were also able to introduce the next generation of South Africa’s youth to the joys of the game.
“Our thanks, too, go to the 500 magnificent volunteers – “T20 Ushomi” – who gave up their time for nothing to pitch in and help players, officials, spectators and the media. They have painted our rainbow nation in a wonderful light through their willingness to help and their ever-present smiles.”
The tournament represented the start of a new eight-year commercial period for the ICC, saw the retention of some long-standing commercial partners, the arrival of others and also a new broadcast partner. All played major roles in the success of the tournament, said Mr Mali.
“The game owes a huge vote of thanks to our Global Partners Reliance, Emaar MGF, Nokia, Pepsi, our global soft drinks and snacks partner, and Emirates Airlines, together with Yahoo! as our official partner, internet website and portal,” he said.
“That vote must also go to our South Africa-based supporters Standard Bank, South Africa Tourism, Southern Sun Hotels and Imperial Car Rental.
“These commercial partners, together with our host broadcaster ESPN STAR Sports (ESS), help ensure that, as a not-for-profit organization, we have been able to generate both interest in the game and funding for our Members through events such as the ICC World Twenty20.
“ESS’s commitment to innovation from new camera-angles to measuring the distance each six was hit undoubtedly brought a new dimension to the game and added to the excitement felt by the viewer.
“This tournament has been an excellent advertisement for all that is great about our sport and we look forward to working with these partners in the years to come.”
The next ICC event to be covered on ESS will be the ICC U/19 Cricket World Cup, due to take place in Malaysia in February and March of 2008; that will be followed, later in the year, by the ICC Champions Trophy in Pakistan.
Further details of these events and others, including the Women’s World Cup Qualifier in Pakistan and the ICC World Cricket League Division 2 in Namibia, both set for November 2007, will be announced in due course.
Cricket World.com – For all the latest international cricket news, reports, live international and county cricket scores; broadband radio and TV; free audio commentary; exclusive interviews, women’s cricket, club cricket, youth cricket and disabled cricket news.