Sorry cricket at T20 level
The first round of the current edition of the Caribbean T20 competition played at the Queen’s park Oval, Port of Spain, Trinidad, must have left many cricketing enthusiasts totally disappointed with what they saw.
While clearly the hosts were content with their winning ways, topping the first round with 13 points, the overall performances of the participating teams did not do much to inspire.
Many could not believe that this is the level to which regional cricket has sunk. Small wonder then that so many cricket lovers have opted to steer clear of the playing venues whenever regional cricket is being played. The players have only themselves to blame. They consistently embarrass themselves while clamouring for larger remuneration packages without giving due consideration to the sorry displays they so often give to those who pay to watch them in action.
The administrators of the sport around the region, with few exceptions, now seem more concerned about the increased income derived from the T20 than about the development taking place in the sport in their respective countries. This leaves the game in decline generally around the Caribbean, a rather shameful reality, with associations depending heavily on one or two good players.
The T20 origins
Sometimes we spend too little time seeking information about things happening around us. As it turns our, former West Indies captain, Richie Richardson, played in the first ever T20 cricket match in the United Kingdom. Not only did he play but he captained one of the two teams involved, Lashings, against Gloucestershire.
The Hindustan Times quoted Richardson thus, I actually played in the first T20 match in England ever. The England board was experimenting with T20, I captained Lashings which played Gloucestershire (Sanjjeev K Samyal, Hindustan Times
October 04, 2012).
His view of the competition…I just thought it was a great idea. It was fun, different. I like to try new things and just wanted to go there and have a go at it. We won against Gloucestershire. I remember Wasim Akram, Chris Harris, Rashid Latif and Stuart Williams played for us.
It was Richardson who first brought the idea to the Caribbean. I started the T20 tournament in Antigua, getting teams from the UK and the Caribbean.
Of course, given the way we do things in this region it is not surprising that Richardson is not given the credit he deserves for the foresight he had for the game in the Caribbean.
Happily here we are today with T20 being fully integrated into the sport in the region as is the case across the cricketing world.
The Stanford enterprise
Allen Stanford readily saw the opportunities that T20 offered long before the West Indies Cricket Board and introduced the Stanford T20 regional tournament.
The Stanford T20 was for him an investment opportunity and clearly he was looking well into the future in the hope of perhaps getting rights to a World T20 competition.
Stanford’s cricketing enterprise was essentially in respect of the T20 version although the WICB seemed to have wanted him to become more involved in the general aspects of the sport in the region.
What Stanford brought o the table was huge financial resources that addressed marketing the competition and the players. He got significant buy-in from national cricket associations largely by offering to pay for the players to attend and also by making financial contributions to these bodies to assist in developing their players for the annual event.
For those national cricketing bodies that were always operating hand-to-mouth the Stanford infusion of funds was most welcome and few, if any, gave thought to the source of what appeared to be limitless financial resources. Even the West Indies Cricket was taken in by the financial splurge from the big man and allowed the creation of the only West Indies Cricket Hall of Fame – the so called Legends of West Indies Cricket – to be Stanford’s property.
Stanford learnt the importance of what was happening in other parts of the world in so far as ensuring that T20 was not only entertaining to the players but also to the spectators. The range of entertainment options that have become attached to the game has made patrons want to be their whether or not they know anything about the sport.
Stanford’s major and final splurge was highlighted by his landing in a helicopter at the prestigious Lords Cricket Ground in England, with what was supposed to be a he box of money – the million dollar prize for the winner take all match between his super star-studded Caribbean XI and an English team. That may well have been his own undoing just as well.
Unfortunately for Stanford the International Cricket Council (ICC) was also watching developments globally in respect of the T20 and its impact on spectators to say nothing of television viewers. The latter organisation was also at the time caught up in significant decline relative to the longer version of the game, test cricket.
Stanford must however be credited for allowing a number of Caribbean cricketers to become millionaires in short order through his T20 competition.
It should be noted that following on from the demise of the annual Stanford T20 competition the WICB, hapless organization that it is, has been struggling to manage the game in the region. While there has always been much interest the performances of the teams have not always facilitated the enthusiasm of the supporters and lovers of the sport in the Caribbean.
Finally, the growth in popularity of the T20 globally and the infusion of investment funding by people everywhere, has led to an agreement being forged in the Caribbean.
The WICB announced in the latter part of 2012 that it had signed on the dotted line with
The Barbados-based Verus International to launch a professional franchise-based Twenty20 League in the Caribbean starting in 2013.
The approach being undertaken in the proposed tournament seems to follow along the lines of the Stanford version as well as the Indian Premier League (IPL) and several others currently organized.
The players, the majority of whom we are assured will be from the Caribbean, will receive immense benefits commensurate with the takings via television rights and gate receipts.
A release stated, The league will provide financial benefits for participating players with the majority of players being West Indian. In addition, as part of the arrangement, WICB will receive annual funding for new retainer contracts for regional players (above and beyond the 20 Central Annual Retainer Contracts currently offered by the WICB).
President of the WICB, Dr. Julian Hunte is quoted as saying, …A significant number of players at the regional level will benefit through greater financial stability both from playing in the league and from year-round retainer contracts while having an international platform on which to showcase their skills and talent…Most importantly is that the league will bring a huge financial injection into the Caribbean and create significant job opportunities across the region in a wide cross section of sectors.
The new approach will significantly change the way things are done with T20 in the Caribbean. We have been told, the league is expected to comprise of up to six privately owned Caribbean city-based teams.
With several Caribbean players attracted to contest competitions across the globe and many already millionaires from the shortest version of the game it will be interesting to see what obtains here at home.
The intention is to ensure that sufficient internationally recognised T20 players are also attracted to content in the new competition in the region thereby stimulating interest at home and abroad to boost television sales.
Richardson has recently expressed his amazement at the way T20 cricket seized the international cricket market. It has transformed the game. It will also open up a new avenue to a different type of fan. It also attracts more sponsors, the former star observed.
The WICB now seeks to cash in on this in a big way.
The current Caribbean T20 has revealed the paucity of cricketing genius in the Caribbean. While Gayle and others often appear to strut around as a new generation of near-pompous players the reality is that playing at home they do little to earn the respect and support of loyal cricket fans.
The current T20 tournament has shown how little regard the players have for all of us.
The performance of the Leewards in their match against Jamaica in the final over said it all. In the midst of carving out a first victory in the tournament one player thought it would be cute to play a stroke with which he was obviously unfamiliar, resulting in the loss of the encounter.
The low scores highlight the numerous deficiencies in our cricket as one team after another display chronic weakness to spin bowling.
The WICB has to take on board a new approach that would help the players help themselves to an understanding of and practice of professionalism. Failure to do so will mean remaining nearer the bottom of the heap than striving after excellence.