The Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board will be going for a Carnival-like atmosphere when they host the first leg of the 2013 Caribbean Twenty20 at Queen's Park Oval, Port of Spain from January 6-12. It will be the last time the "country vs country" tournament will be held.
From 2014, the West Indies Cricket Board will be replacing the Caribbean T20 with the franchised-based Caribbean Premier League (CPL) with six teams taking part.
West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) director Baldath Mahabir confirmed yesterday that next year's Caribbean T20 will be the last edition in the traditional format. He said while it may mean territories giving up their national identities in terms of the T20 competition, there will be monetary benefits for the players themselves.
Speaking at the launch of the 2013 Caribbean T20 tournament at the Oval's President's Box yesterday, Mahabir explained: "In 2014 it will be the CPL which is a franchise tournament as has been done in India, Australia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and early indications are that it will be external money.
"Franchises will be externally owned for the large part, with minority shareholding in the Caribbean. There will be the opportunity for Caribbean involvement but not as major shareholders in the franchises," he added.
In terms of the benefits, Mahabir said: "Far more cricketers will get a chance to earn a decent living off of cricket.
"The fact that T20 is the highest commercial driver where cricket worldwide is concerned, a guy now gets US$525 for a Caribbean T20 game, I suppose you will be talking contracts of $50,000, or $40,000 to play in a franchise, so while we may have to give up sovereignty in terms of where we are as a country and not have red, white and black and lose that pride, it may be in the long run, better for the players by bringing in external money and helping our players to play with international players and international stars."
Mahabir went further: "No one could really say what benefits we are going to gain and what losses are going to come. I suppose market forces drive us towards a league that will showcase the Caribbean, that will showcase the islands...we should look at it as an opportunity and take advantage of it.
"The Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board (TTCB) and all the other stakeholders, all the other boards should look at how we could win from this commercial relationship. It will definitely help the players."
TTCB CEO Suruj Ragoonath also spoke about national identity and the CPL noting that: "Your national identity is not something you would want to give up readily given the impact Trinidad and Tobago cricket has had in the international landscape going to the Champions League.
"What we need to work out is how the players will benefit. The challenge is here and we have to deal with it. The winds of change have blown and blown quite strongly," he added.
With that in mind, the TTCB hope that the 2013 Caribbean T20 will be one of the biggest in the four-year history of the competition.
Ragoonath announced some of the details for the tournament which includes a grand opening ceremony on January 6 ahead of the opening match between defending champions T&T and Jamaica at the Oval.
"Caribbean T20 2013 is more than just a sporting event. It is going to be the biggest event in the Caribbean's sporting calendar," said Ragoonath.
"ESPN's broadcast of the tournament is going to ensure that millions of people across the globe will be part of this mega event," he added.
"We are going to have the best players in the region participating. Our guys were successful at the T20 World Cup. They are going to be on show again and I think it is very fitting for us in T&T to have a first view of the world champions who will be turning out for their respective teams and that in itself is going to create a lot of hype and competitiveness. It will attract a lot of attention across the globe," said Ragoonath.
The TTCB CEO also noted that the opening ceremony of the competition will showcase the best of T&T giving would-be visitors a taste of the country's culture.
"Caribbean T20 is a business opportunity. Sport in itself is a business. It is an opportunity for us to showcase our people, passion and pride. Off the field is going to embody our culture, our music and the Carnival atmosphere that we hope to create for the tournament," he explained.
Ragoonath, who is a former West Indies Test player, said the opening ceremony will be broadcast live across the Caribbean, North America and parts of Asia and that it will be an opportunity to promoting T&T as a place to invest in.
"We are hoping to have a Carnival village setup and have a spectacular opening ceremony, all of which will continue to highlight the talent that is T&T and our culture that is so welcoming and warm...things that when people see it on television...will serve as a foretaste for those who want more of our Carnival and so will attract people to come to Trinidad...It is about T&T's people, and culture," Ragoonath added.
He also pointed out that the Caribbean players will have something more than national pride to play for in next year's Caribbean T20.
Ragoonath explained that with the Caribbean Premier League on the horizon the players will be looking to bolster their reputations with a view of securing a contract for one of the franchises.