The opening weekend of the Limacol Caribbean Premier League (LCPL) found me on the road, in Grenada. It was World Cup Final weekend as well, so those two things combined, it was an eventful time. Here is how it went.
Thursday, National Cricket Stadium, 11.45 a.m.
The official launch of the 2014 season of the LCPL is over. The teams captains, coaches and mentors are all present, and speaking optimistically about the month-long series and their team’s chances. The coming weeks will tell whether such optimism is justified. But this morning the new coaches on the scene are making the right noises. The new men, with the exception of South African Mickey Arthur with the Jamaica Tallawahs, have replaced West Indies cricket legends who were appointed as team coaches in the first season. Those gentlemen-Sir Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes and Sir Andy Roberts are now mentors, along with Sir Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh.
Got a chance to chat with Sir Andy after the formalities. Says he has “no problem” with the shift to the mentor role and was looking forward to working with the younger players. There is so much that a Tonito Willett or a Sunil Ambris can learn from picking the brain of a man who himself was a student of the fast bowling art, and who was second to none with identifying the weaknesses of batsmen.
Administrators in the Caribbean have struggled to figure out how best to use the region’s outstanding former players. But I could see Sir Viv being much more at home getting Shacaya Thomas or Danza Hyatt psyched up for an innings for the Antigua Hawksbills than being burdened with the day-to-day affairs of the team.
Looking around at some of cricket’s all-time greats milling around in almost every corner of the room, I’m struck by the priceless opportunities these current players have to learn from the best without much effort. Why don’t more of them take advantage?
Time to go and sort out some problems with my recording of the launch. At least the rain has stopped now. But it’s a bleak day with more rain on the way. Hope this not a sign of things to come tomorrow.
Friday 11, 1.40 p.m.
Game time is coming up in 20 minutes. Remarkably, it looks as though we will start on time. Rare to see a day like this, so cloudy but not a drop so far. Media colleague from Grenada tells me he was praying for no rain last night. Guess his faith in prayer has been renewed as Ben Dunk lays into the Amazon Warriors bowling.
Dunk, the top player in Australia’s Big Bash this year, was a late addition to the LCPL but didn’t seem to need acclimatisation the way he hit the ball so fluently. Would not have minded seeing him get more than 38. His teammates could not follow his lead though, and in the end, the Hawksbills’ 136 didn’t seem a winning score. Wonder what the crowd is thinking.
The CPL is taking a chance this year. It was the success it was in 2013 because it turned into a people’s festival. But the tournament was run at a loss. The night time matches allowed for big crowds to turn out. But prime time in the Caribbean is hardly that in the bigger television markets outside the region. So, in an attempt to address revenue this season, the majority of games will be day-time affairs to cater for the overseas audience.
Don’t think rows of empty seats looked too great on TV though. But the stadium is one of the bigger ones in the Caribbean, so even a decent crowd like Friday could look inadequate. Will see what happens tomorrow.
Saturday 12, 1.30 p.m.
The first match is over and the Red Steel have won, but captain Dwayne Bravo is still on the attack. He makes a point during the post-match presser to say how “disappointed” he was with the decision to drop the Trinidad and Tobago label from the Red Steel. He goes on for minutes. It is an emotional response, an angry one. A defiant one.
“Maybe I might get in trouble for it, but so be it. I believe it’s the right way,” he says.
Not sure Minister of Sports Anil Roberts, who approached the CPL about removing the T&T name, would be too pleased.
Call the Minister for a response. He says the T&T brand is not for sale and that there had been many talks with the CPL and CEO Damien O’Donohue who “clearly understood” the position. None of the other governments in the region have sought to disassociate themselves from the franchises in their territories however.
Seems a case of the letter of the law being enforced rather than the spirit of cricket prevailing.
This is a story that will run for a while. Not the kind of copy the organisers were hoping for.
One gets the sense season two in the CPL is not going to be the honeymoon of season one.
Sunday, 5.45 p.m.
Chris Gayle, having blazed away for 111 not out in the last game of the weekend, is taking a jump now with the fans in the party stand. Ipad and tablet cameras are clicking away, capturing the scene. This is gold for the marketing people. They will hope dearly by tournament’s end it’s not fool’s gold.