JOHANNESBURG - Steve Elworthy still replays the last moments of THAT World Cup semi-final, over and over again in his mind. And even if he did try and put those memories aside, England, where he resides, won’t allow him to forget.
“That semi-final is on TV here regularly, it’ll come up again next year because it was 20 years ago and yes I do still think back to it, relive those moments, those last few overs, how it all could have unfolded so differently, how great it would have been to play a World Cup final, but.”
Elworthy’s was the ninth South African wicket to fall that dramatic mid-June evening at Edgbaston; the second of three run-outs in the South African innings. The third run out ended the match.
The outcome of that game still haunts South African sport and next year as the Proteas try once more to rid themselves of those ghosts, they’ll have to confront them head on - 20 years later, in England. Heck, Edgbaston will even host a semi-final again.
“I use that energy now, just thinking back to being a player and now organising a World Cup,” said Elworthy from Lord’s, where he has an office from which, as Managing Director of the 2019 Cricket World Cup, he is organising the 12th edition of the competition.
“You realise what a privilege it is to play in a World Cup, I got that experience only once and so you realise how special it is, because that really could be all for many players, just the one experience; so you want to make it as special as possible.”
Elworthy, now 53, who played four Tests and 39 ODIs, has organised a number of other cricket events over the last 11 years, starting with the inaugural World T20 tournament in South Africa in 2007. That put him on the map. The England Cricket Board was so impressed with Elworthy they hired him to help organise the 2009 tournament they hosted.
It’s been a career of organising tournaments since; two Champions Trophy events and the Women’s World Cup last year - the latter a hugely successful tournament that has changed many perspectives on women’s cricket.
All that experience doesn’t mean Elworthy’s job planning next year’s tournament is any easier. “The size and the scale of the World Cup, is what hits you,” said Elworthy.
“The thing is the World Cup has that gravitas, you see it in the reactions on people’s faces, just the knowledge that this is the World Cup, it has just grown and got so much bigger since I first played in one in 1999. It’s one of the biggest global tournaments.”
In another way, the 2019 World Cup is smaller - by number of participating teams. Next year’s tournament has four fewer teams than in 2015. The likes of Zimbabwe, Ireland, and the Netherlands won’t be in England and many have been critical of the tournament "shrinking".
“Look, that’s an ICC decision; but I think you’ve seen with them also that the one area they are looking to grow the sport globally is through the World T20, and that really is the best vehicle for growth of the game.”
The World Cup schedule is similar to the 1992 tournament, when there were nine teams involved in a round-robin format. “Everyone reckoned the 1992 tournament was the best in terms of the schedule; it was simpler to follow and it was deemed one of the better World Cups.
"From a fans point of view it is simpler to plan for, you know where your team is playing and when; the only time there is a wait is around the semi-finals, but overall it’s a fantastic schedule.”
There will be 48 matches next year as opposed to 49 in 2015.
“It’s a round-robin phase, each team has nine group games; there are 11 venues in 10 cities; we were assessing the practice schedules for the teams this week, and there are 350 practice sessions scheduled and that’s just in between the cricket. Security is a big challenge, last year was a stark reminder during the Champions Trophy about security,” said Elworthy, whose organising committee had to deal with concerns in the wake of a terrorist attack at a pop concert hosted by Ariana Grande.
While he’ll be making sure all the players are well looked after, he’ll still be pulling for the country he represented in 1999, even as their chances took a major blow with AB de Villiers’ retirement from international cricket last week.
“It is a big blow to the tournament...I watch the IPL and see just what a superstar he is now and I remember back to the end of my Titans days seeing these youngsters; AB and Dale (Steyn) come through, and you kind of knew it was time to move on,” he laughed.
“He’s done an incredible amount for the game; taken it to new heights. Obviously he’d have brought an additional spotlight to the tournament and it’s incredibly disappointing he won’t be there, but it’s also an opportunity for others and hopefully other individuals step up.”
“I still think South Africa has a very good chance, there are some quality individual players in that team; yes they carry the baggage of 20 years ago - although we did win a tournament in 1998, people mustn’t forget that - but until they do win another ICC event, that baggage will be there.”