Tony Becca ON THE BOUNDARY
The West Indies versus Pakistan one-day international series has come and gone, the Caribbean Premier League, a T20 showpiece, is two days away, and West Indians, wherever they are, should be disappointed and ecstatic as they say goodbye to one and welcome the other.
The one-day series, which ended in St Lucia on Wednesday and which was hot and cold for most of the time, was exciting some of the time. It provided brilliant cricket a few times, it was disappointing because of the action and the way the West Indies lost, and that, according to the final count, easily in the end.
The five-match series was, however, quite interesting, and with one match tied and one match going to the penultimate ball, it could really have gone either way.
With a little luck, it could have been 3-2 to the West Indies.
In the end, the contest, played between two highly unpredictable teams, ended 3-1 in favour of Pakistan with the one tied match.
But for one of Pakistan’s famous somersaults, however, and some thrilling, big hitting by Sunil Narine, a few delicate strokes by Kemar Roach, and a couple of lofty drives by Jason Holder in one match, the tied match would not have happened and the contest would have ended in a one-sided 4-1 affair.
In a series between two teams which usually produce exciting players, the action never lived up to expectations. The class performances were few and far between.
But for Misbah ul-Haq’s consistency and, at times, brilliant batting throughout the series, and Shahid Afridi’s superb hitting during his innings of 76 and his brilliant bowling while taking seven wickets for 12 runs in the first match, there would have been nothing by which to remember Pakistan.
And for the West Indies, but for one tremendous century innings from Marlon Samuels, plus one or two good innings from Lendl Simmons and Darren Bravo, it was business as usual.
Batsman Umar Akmal of Pakistan and bowler Darren Sammy of the West Indies also played well, consistently, throughout the tournament.
The Caribbean Premier League, to be known fondly as the CPL, gets under way on Tuesday night at Kensington Oval, and every West Indian cricket fan should be happy to welcome players from around the world as they begin what, the fans hope, will be a winning spectacle.
The fans should be happy, because it promises entertainment, it promises ball after ball disappearing in the sky over after over, match after match.
It should be top-class entertainment with a cricket touch about it, and apart from bringing money into West Indies cricket, it promises to rescue cricket in the West Indies.
It promises, more than anything else, to fill out the empty stands, to put more people into the stands which have been like white elephants around the islands ever since World Cup 2007.
It is a promise which everybody hopes will come true because of the people’s passion for the game, because of the people’s hopes for the game, because of the West Indies previous dominance of the game, and because of the wide range of international players on show.
According to the West Indies Cricket Board, and according to Ajmal Khan also, the Nigerian-born citizen of Canada now residing in Barbados, things are about to change in West Indies cricket, and it is going to change because of the introduction of the CPL – a competition put on by Verus International, a competition consisting of six teams with each team to include a bevy of stars.
The West Indies players will be stationed with different teams all over the Caribbean, with Christopher Gayle, for example, staying at home and leading the Jamaica Tallawahs and Marlon Samuels, going away and in charge of the Antigua Hawksbills while the overseas players will include the likes of Ross Taylor and Martin Guptill of New Zealand, Herschelle Gibbs and Vernon Philander of South Africa, Misbah ul-Haq, Mohammad Hafeez, and Umar Akmal of Pakistan, Muttiah Muralitheran of Sri Lanka, and Tamin Iqbal and Shakib Ul Hasan of Bangladesh.
The WICB will receive an annual fee of US$1.5 million from the organisers, plus a further US$4.5 million a year, each year the tournament is staged.
Although the WICB will have four people on the committee, Verus International will be responsible for everything, including the profits and the losses.
According to the WICB, not according to president Dave Cameron but based on a statement put out by the then president Julian Hunte, West Indies cricket stands to benefit from a lot of money paid to participating players.
With the league promising worldwide television coverage and the presence of fans and businessmen from all over the world, Hunte, in bringing back some unhappy memories about the promises of World Cup 2007, also said, “Most importantly, the league will bring a huge financial injection into the Caribbean and create significant job opportunities across the region.”
Khan has said, simply, that he “Looks forward to bringing in the people and showcasing the talent and the beauty of the Caribbean.”
Probably forgetting, or not knowing, that past West Indian greats paraded their skills to the rest of the world, Khan also said that these West Indians will also “Show the world how only the Caribbean cricketers can play the game.”
Much of the revenue for the tournament will come in through television. A lot, however, will depend on the crowds at the matches, and mostly on the West Indian fans.
Crowds at the matches are important, if only to provide the atmosphere and to motivate the players into performing well, and the hope is that West Indian fans will find the money to attend the matches often enough to make the CPL successful from start to finish.
ANSWER TO MONEY PROBLEMS
The sight of empty stadiums at matches in the West Indies is not encouraging, and the organisers will have to keep their fingers crossed, for the simple reasons that the West Indies is a region of small territories, that it is not a financially rich region, and that, to a set of people who are basically insular, the teams are not territorially based.
The entertainment, the flying balls and brilliant catches, the music and the dancing girls, the give-aways and things like that could be the answer to the money problems of West Indies cricket, especially in Kingston, Bridgetown, Georgetown, Port-of-Spain, St Johns, and Castries.
West Indies cricket needs a financially successful CPL and that success will only come with a committed support of the West Indian people day in and day out throughout the seven weeks of action.