Damian O’Donohoe is a big man, physically. And when we chatted last week, he spoke with a certain assurance. When it comes to the just concluded Caribbean Premier League, its CEO had every right to be sure of himself.
Throughout the series, right up to the end when he and CPL Cricket Committee chairman, former Jamaica Prime Minister PJ Patterson handed over the trophy to Jamaica Tallawahs captain Chris Gayle, many words good and positive had been uttered from many quarters about this first season of franchise Twenty20 cricket in the Caribbean.
Searching for the not-so-positive over the last three-and-a-half weeks was not easy. Trained to take nothing at face value, I have been trying to determine whether everything with the CPL was as good as it seemed. I didn’t expect to hear different from the CPL’s man in charge. But I was curious as to whether or not he was concerned about the fact that two franchises--Barbados Tridents and the Tallawahs--were only partly owned (by Hollywood actors Mark Wahlberg and Gerard Butler) and that another--Antigua Hawksbills--had no owner at all.
“That has been a strategic decision by us at the CPL. We don’t need to sell franchises. What we need to do is make sure that we partner with people who will help us develop the League...So we’re being very careful in terms of who we choose to partner with.”
I suppose if you have, as O’Donohoe said, five potential owners lining up to do business, you can afford to be picky. It also does not hurt when you also have a host of other businesses wanting to align themselves with your product. O’Donohoe said 80 per cent of the CPL’s sponsorship partners were from the Caribbean.
How Michael Muirhead, his West Indies Cricket Board counterpart must wish his team could attract such commercial interest!
The entire enterprise also has Digicel as its major shareholder. I was curious about the shift in the balance of power, even before the series had begun from founder Ajmal Khan and his Verus International to the Irish telecommunications outfit.
“It was their vision,” says O’Donohoe, “but I think they realised very quickly that the level of investment was going to be in the multi-millions and Ajmal Khan had a personal relationship with Denis O’Brien (Digicel chairman) and he knew that Denis O’Brien had been a big part of West Indies cricket for a long time and he approached and Denis stepped in to bring Digicel in and put the money in that was required.”
Having interviewed Mr Khan at one of the early CPL press events, I got the distinct impression he and his group were quite aware of the magnitude of the venture and were prepared to shoulder the load.
Maybe he knew more than he was prepared to say. But the fact is in the space of just two months of that interview, Digicel was running the CPL show.
So far, so good one has to say however, although CEO O’Donohoe points to one drawback this year.
“The one difficulty that we faced is logistics and getting around the Caribbean. That’s one thing we’re gonna need to look to improve for next year. It has been an issue and I know LIAT have had their own problems with the new planes. I’m not putting the blame on them specifically, but logistically this has been a very difficult event to run. That’s something we need to review for 2014.”
I have no doubt that inter-island travel was a challenge for all people working the CPL. But those difficulties did not seem to impact the product on the field. The cricket was good enough, rather than great, and that was mainly because of the sluggish tracks. But because of reasonably priced tickets and ample promotion of the series, it was a runaway success anyway.
The fans at all venues--grannies, grandpas, mummies, daddies and their youngsters--were the real players of this series. Their enthusiasm, your zeal readers, was contagious, spreading I think to the players. This CPL produced a level of passion among the West Indian cricketers that normal regional cricket has not for quite some time. If ever. Some of the fielding and catching was brilliant, world class.
Perhaps the biggest benefit the CPL can have on how West Indian cricketers play, is bring a more purposeful approach to matches. That sense of purpose players in all teams showed in the CPL needs to be translated to all the other formats, and to the international team. Certainly this series had a positive effect on people like the resurgent Andre Russell, his Tallawahs teammate Danza Hyatt, St Lucia Zouks’ Andre Russell, and Sheldon Cotterell of the Antigua Hawksbills. Player-of-the-Series Krishmar Santokie needs not to be mentioned in that bracket, since his T20 credentials have been steadily top draw.
Not all the overseas pros who came through the draft were hits. But the Tallawahs would not be champions today had they not had Vernon Philander and the evergreen Muttiah Muraliatharan.
Mohammad Hafeez for the Amazon Warriors played one of the knocks of the tournament, a nerveless, breezy 50 in Antigua to deny the Hawksbills a place in the semi-finals. His New Zealand teammates Martin Guptill and James Franklin were even bigger influences on the Warriors’ progress to the final, while Pakistani Shoaib Malik carried the Barbados Tridents’ batting.
And while they were late in coming, Sri Lankans Tillekeratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara brought their class to bear with Player-of-the-Match performances for the Amazon Warriors and Tallawahs in the two semi-finals.
Their willingness to come to the party so late, suggests that they saw the CPL as something worth being a part of. Word was already getting back. Others too will hear.
So, O’Donohoe and company can plan with confidence for 2014. They are onto a good thing. email@example.com