Eyes of the world on Edgbaston for ICC Champions Trophy
The eyes of the cricket world will be on Edgbaston tomorrow when the stadium hosts its first match in the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy - and Warwickshire chief executive Neil Snowball is confident the stadium will reinforce its reputation as one of the great international venues.
Edgbaston will host New Zealand v Australia, the first of its five matches which include the two biggest rivalries in cricket - India v Pakistan and England v Australia - as well as a semi-final on June 15.
The stage is set, and as he prepares for his first major tournament as Bears' CEO, Snowball is excited by the prospect - and determined to ensure that Edgbaston and the city of Birmingham further enhance their record of delivering great sporting occasions.
"Tomorrow's game will be a great one to start our tournament here in Birmingham, with some excellent players on show, hopefully including bears legend Jeetan Patel and our new T20 signing Colin de Grandhomme in the old rivalry between Australia and New Zealand."
"It's a real privilege to be part of such a great global event and we can't wait for it to arrive," he said. "We're ready. We have a great operational team at Edgbaston, many of whom helped to deliver the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy, so they know what to expect.
"An enormous amount of preparation is required for a tournament like this and we are very lucky to have such a strong team behind the scenes. The staff who were here in 2013 recall that, for atmosphere, the games were right up there along with some of the terrific Ashes Tests that we have hosted here at Edgbaston.
"Tomorrow's game will be a great one to start our tournament here in Birmingham, with some excellent players on show, hopefully including bears legend Jeetan Patel and our new T20 signing Colin de Grandhomme in the old rivalry between Australia and New Zealand.
Then on Sunday we host India v Pakistan for the third time which promises to be a very special occasion and a true celebration of Cricket.
"Pakistan v South Africa next Wednesday will be fantastic under the lights and then it's England v Australia, which speaks for itself."
The famous Edgbaston atmosphere is the stuff of fully-justified legend with the likes of Andrew Flintoff, Alastair Cook and Chris Woakes having testified to the galvanising effect the ground has on England's team and naming it ‘Fortress Edgbaston’.
That is something that the club and region can be very proud of, says Snowball - though he knows that, with strong competition to host major international matches these days, the club must continue to deliver memorable occasions which offer spectators great service and excellent facilities as well as great sport.
"We are extremely proud of the unique atmosphere that the fans at Edgbaston create and would never want to lose that" he said. ""We are proud that the atmosphere is rated as the best in the country and we know that England love playing here. But these days it's also important that we consistently deliver in other areas – accurate spectator information, good signage, efficient access, good quality food and beverages and of course a safe and secure environment are all important.
"In this modern era there are a lot of 'big eventers' who attend the highest profile sporting events - people who don't necessarily follow a specific sport but go from big event to big event, like the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Commonwealth Games and Rugby World Cup. They are discerning customers - and we want them to enjoy their Cricket experience and keep coming back to Edgbaston."
Ticket-sales for the ICC Champions Trophy games at Edgbaston have been very strong but Snowball knows that continuing to attract new people, especially young people, to cricket is crucial to the future of the sport.
"This is a special chance for us to showcase Edgbaston and the City of Birmingham and once again the City Council have been extremely supportive," he said. "For the first time in England we have an ICC Fan Park in Victoria Square from 2nd to 4th June where we will be showing the New Zealand v Australia and India v Pakistan games live. I think that is a really progressive step and will hopefully be adopted by other cities and venues across the country as we look ahead to the 2019 Cricket World Cup."
A limited number of tickets remain available for Australia versus New Zealand in the first match of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 at Edgbaston.
A limited number of tickets remain available for selected ICC Champions Trophy matches at Edgbaston, including Australia versus New Zealand.