London (AFP) – London’s Olympic Stadium will not stage any matches at next year’s 2019 Cricket World Cup despite the arena boasting twice the capacity of Lord’s, the sport’s iconic home which will host the final.
The International Cricket Council released the full fixture schedule for its showpiece men’s one-day international tournament, which will take place in England and Wales, on Thursday.
There had been speculation the London Stadium, which has a capacity of some 60,000 — more than double that of Lord’s and nearly three times that of The Oval, London’s other established international cricket ground, could be used during the World Cup.
But the ground, now home to Premier League football club West Ham, has been ignored because the cost of converting it for cricket — a sport it has yet to stage — was too expensive.
“It was probably more than 18 months ago that we commissioned drop-in portable pitches to be growing and potentially sent to the London Stadium,” said tournament managing director Steve Elworthy, speaking at Lord’s.
“But after we understood the unique elements of what cricket would require in that stadium we found ourselves at the point where the infrastructure costs were probably going to be way too much.
“It was disappointing because we spent so much time on it, but I think it was the right decision for the tournament.”
England one-day captain Eoin Morgan was glad his side’s home advantage would not be nullified by a step into the unknown.
“It’s not that disappointing for me,” he said. “Certainly as a captain in the side and a player in the side I feel more comfortable that we’re playing at grounds where we have a proven record.
“We’ve got the curtain-raiser at The Oval against a great South Africa side (on May 30), so it should be a great start to a good tournament,” added Morgan, looking to lead England to their first World Cup title.
The key first-round fixture between sub-continental rivals India and Pakistan is a day/night clash at Old Trafford on June 16.
Reigning champions Australia will launch their title defence on June 1 against qualifiers Afghanistan in a day/night match in Bristol.
In all, 11 venues will be used with all 10 teams in a slimmed-down World Cup involved in an all-play-all first round before the top four advance to the semi-finals.
Edgbaston, in Birmingham, and Manchester’s Old Trafford will stage the semi-finals on July 9 and 11 respectively, with the final at Lord’s on July 14.
This World Cup, which has been scaled back to the dismay of many nations outside the Test elite, is similar to the eight-team 2017 Champions Trophy one-day international tournament in England and Wales won by Pakistan.
“We know from previous ICC events that every country will be proudly supported at each of the venues creating an exceptional atmosphere and a real celebration of the game,” said ICC chief executive David Richardson.
This will be the first World Cup staged in England since 1999, but fifth in all after the country hosted the opening three editions in 1975, 1979 and 1983.