Excitement engulfed Bahrain yesterday as the 2023 International Cricket Council (ICC) Men’s ODI Cricket World Cup trophy made heads turn while being taken around the island in a massive car rally.
The trophy was in Bahrain for a two-day stop on a global tour that will see it taken to 18 countries across five continents ahead of the World Cup that starts in India on October 5.
Formally unveiled on Saturday evening by Supreme Council for Youth and Sports first deputy chairman, General Sports Authority chairman and Bahrain Olympic Committee president Shaikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the trophy was photographed earlier that day at iconic locations such as the Tree of Life, Bahrain Fort and World Trade Centre in Bahrain Bay.
And, yesterday, after being displayed at Dana Mall in the early afternoon, the trophy was brought to Al Najma Club at 4pm where, amid great pomp and ceremony, it was placed in the back of a specially fabricated open-back truck for a two-hour ride across bustling streets and highways to the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC).
But, before the journey started, there was excitement galore for dozens of young boys and girls from the High Performance Cricket Academy (HPCA). Dressed in yellow shirts, with HPCA emblazoned on them, the little cricket stars of the future had waited patiently for the trophy to arrive from Dana Mall, unmindful of the blazing sun and the humidity.
A short distance away from them, members of the women’s and men’s teams also didn’t seem to mind the hot conditions as the minutes ticked down to the trophy’s arrival.
Finally, the glittering trophy made its grand entrance, carried carefully over to a special dais by a member of its own elite security team.
Soon, the cameras started clicking and the videographers started filming as, first, the children finally got their chance to gather around for photographs around the trophy, followed by the women’s team and, finally, the men.
Now, it was time for the great roadshow to begin.
The burly guards from the ICC’s special security detail ensured that the trophy made its way without any hitch through the large crowd of onlookers to its spot in the back of the truck. A few members each from the women’s and men’s team clambered aboard, some carrying Bahrain flags.
Behind the truck, the sound of many engines being revved into life was heard as nearly a hundred drivers readied themselves for departure. And, in front, ahead of the police escort, more than a dozen riders from a locally-registered group of heavy bike enthusiasts suddenly came into view.
Bahrain Cricket Federation (BCF) advisory board chairman Mohammed Mansoor and ICC development head for Asia, former Pakistan all-rounder Iqbal Sikander, jointly waved a large Bahrain flag and the rally started in earnest.
Drivers on the busy highway towards Bab Al Bahrain, the halfway point of the journey, looked around, first in surprise, then with joy, as the long procession of motorbikes and cars passed them by, the red truck carrying the trophy and cricketers in front receiving many friendly waves along the way.
After a brief stop at Bab Al Bahrain, where passers-by stopped in their tracks to take in the once-in-a-lifetime sight, the roadshow continued onwards as darkness fell.
Finally, almost two hours after it had left Al Najma Club, the rally reached the BIC with the long line of cars behind the truck carrying the trophy having swelled to nearly double the initial number.
A military band sprang into action as soon as the heavy bikes roared into a designated area, right next to the race track, where a stage had been erected for BIC CEO Shaikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa to formally receive the trophy.
Before that, however, the truck carrying the trophy had one small task to perform. Led by the heavy bikes, the truck completed one full circuit of the race track, finally coming to a stop right next to the stage where the trophy would be received by Shaikh Salman.
Mansoor and Sikander, then, presented the trophy to the BIC CEO, who posed for pictures with BCF officials before the men’s and women’s team players also lined up for another photo-op.
Word had spread around the island through the day that there could be a chance to have photographs taken with the trophy at the BIC and, for the next few hours, hundreds of people excitedly stood in line to be able to do exactly that.
The World Cup trophy, which began its journey from India in late June, has already visited New Zealand, Australia, Papua New Guinea, the USA, the West Indies, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Kuwait.
It will now head back to India for two days before travelling to France, England, Malaysia, Uganda, Nigeria and South Africa, before returning to India a day before the tournament starts.