The 2023 International Cricket Council (ICC) Men’s ODI Cricket World Cup trophy, which arrived in Bahrain yesterday for a two-day stop on its global tour, was unveiled in a spectacular ceremony last night by Supreme Council for Youth and Sports (SCYS) first deputy chairman, General Sports Authority (GSA) chairman and Bahrain Olympic Committee (BOC) president Shaikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa.
The glittering trophy is scheduled to visit 18 countries in five continents ahead of the World Cup, which begins in India on October 5 and ends on November 19. Before landing in Bahrain, the trophy, which began its journey from India, had already visited New Zealand, Australia, Papua New Guinea, the USA, the West Indies, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Kuwait.
It will head back to India for two days before being flown to France, then England, Malaysia, Uganda, Nigeria and South Africa before returning to India a day before the World Cup starts.
“It gives me such great pleasure to see this iconic trophy in our glorious country,” Bahrain Cricket Board (BCF) advisory board chairman Mohammed Mansoor told an invites-only assemblage at the Gulf Convention Centre.
“And I am extremely pleased to welcome Mr Imran Khwaja, the deputy chairman of the ICC to Bahrain for this momentous occasion.
“All this has been made possible by the encouragement of Shaikh Khalid under the leadership and guidance of His Majesty King Hamad and the support of His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and Prime Minister, and His Majesty’s representative for humanitarian work and youth affairs and SCYS chairman Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa.”
Mansoor also thanked Khwaja for coming to Bahrain and his continuous support to the BCF.
“And, I can tell you,” he added, “ there is no one better than Shaikh Khalid to unveil this trophy!”
Mansoor then invited Khwaja to take the stage.
“Our mission, our goal at the ICC,” he began, “is to hold the best sporting event in the world. And we intentionally selected Bahrain to be an import stop on the trophy tour.
“You deserve that honour! And I’ll tell you why. Bahrain has begun to make its mark in the cricket world because of immense contributions on and off the field.
“You have risen to 29th in the ICC Men’s T20I rankings, which is no mean feat in a field of 109 countries. But Bahrain and the BCF’s contributions have been even greater off the field. You have an able and competent administration which is so effective that Bahrain is doing much better than even some of the Test-playing nations.”
Khwaja continued his address by praising Mansoor for being “the silent hand that turns the cog-wheels of Bahrain’s cricket administration” and paying the highest tributes to Shaikh Khalid.
“Your Highness’ exploits in different sporting disciplines speak volumes for your love for and devotion to sports,” he said. “This is what makes Bahrain cricket different: this committed leadership at the top of state administration and sports. There is a strong culture and tradition of sports in Bahrain and cricket can be added to that.
“Also, cricket can be a major commercial market to raise funds for communities and society at large. For example, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have built their sports economies on cricket.”
If Bahrain could harness its resources to take advantage of the many opportunities that cricket presents, Khwaja added, he foresaw the kingdom becoming one of the ‘great players’ in hosting international cricketing events.
“At the ICC, we are looking to develop new markets for cricket,” he explained. “We have already started in the United States and China is another huge market.
“But I believe that Gulf Countries – and, especially, Bahrain – can be a formidable force for cricket in the future, with the diaspora of people you have from cricket-playing countries.”
Finally, as he ended his address, Khwaja made both a plea and a promise to Shaikh Khalid.
“All you need are two good cricket grounds for the game to flourish in Bahrain,” he said. “If you can develop two proper cricket grounds, I can say, on behalf of the ICC, that we will bring international cricket to Bahrain!
“The kingdom is poised on the cusp of something great that’s going to happen in sports.”
For the unveiling of the trophy all the guests turned around to look at the back of the large hall where ten little boys, dressed all in white with the flags of the participating nations in the World Cup emblazoned on the front of their T-shirts, started walking towards the stage to the accompaniment of music from a military band.
Behind them, clad in smart red Bahrain team uniforms, walked two flagbearers from the men’s senior team followed by the captains of the men’s and women’s teams, who carried the beautiful trophy past dozens of awe-struck onlookers, all of whom had their cell-phones out to record the historic moment.
Soon, Shaikh Khalid, accompanied on stage by Khwaja, performed the official unveiling of the trophy to loud applause and, shortly thereafter, when the MC announced that the guests could line up to have photographs taken with the trophy, everyone made a beeline for the stage.
“This is the best day of my life,” a little boy of about eight said excitedly to his beaming parents. “I will get to see the World Cup trophy and have my picture taken with it!”