WEST Indies Cricket Board (WICB) president Dave Cameron was even more upbeat than usual over the decision at last weekend’s directors’ meeting in Kingston to award the regional Super50 competition—all of it—to Trinidad and Tobago for the next three years.
It was settled by a commitment from the government, through its Ministry of Tourism, “to play a major role in the execution of the tournament during the three-year period”.
Cameron gave an outline of the event (now with eight teams), to run from January 30 to February 16 next year, and presented several reasons for Trinidad and Tobago’s involvement and the impact it would have on West Indies cricket.
Two were that “the Super50 is an attractive product” and that “there is growing confidence in West Indies cricket and the WICB in the way we are managing the game”.
In addition, he said, it would “certainly help to strengthen our regional 50-overs cricket and we expect that that will redound to the benefit of the West Indies One-Day International team”.
What Cameron didn’t say, although he would surely have been aware of it, was the potential risk such preference for the WICB’s larger, better off members creates in further marginalising the smaller ones. It simply widens the gap between the haves and the have nots.
It is a delicate balance, not simply solved.
There are more valid grounds for the latest arrangement than the vague claim that it will boost the West Indies’ strength at regional and international level and provide proof that the WICB has suddenly been transformed into the epitome of management efficiency.
One is straightforward practicality.
Each match in the four WICB Twenty20 tournaments was televised and shown throughout the Caribbean. So were those in last year’s Super50, staged exclusively in Guyana; last season’s semi-finals and final were located in Barbados, even though Barbados had already been knocked out.
To spread them around would mean the tv production company, along with the teams, hopping, at great expense, from venue to venue with weighty equipment dependent on unreliable air transport.
As the inaugural CPL discovered, it was simply costly chaos.
In addition, as the more favoured venue, Trinidad and Tobago possesses the most buoyant economy in the cricketing Caribbean. Potential sponsors are plentiful—but not for events, such as the four-day competition, that extend beyond its boundaries.
The WICB marketing department has run into brick walls trying to coax local companies to put their names to regional tournaments. It should now find it somewhat simpler for the Super50.
All of which does not escape the fact that the smaller territories are missing out.
The WICB stipulation (since last year) that regional matches be staged only on international grounds has already denied places like Nevis, Anguilla, Montserrat and those outside Georgetown (such as Albion in Berbice) and Kingston (Montego Bay) even first-class matches.
There are only six CPL franchises. All are based in countries that already stage Tests, ODIs and Twenty20s.
Nevis has produced six Test players from its 15,000 population, Albion was where Rohan Kanhai, Basil Butcher, Joe Solomon, Roy Fredericks and other stars first appeared. Interest in the game remains high there as in so many other outposts.
Much of the problem lies in the continuing lack of proper facilities. It is the responsibility of the WICB to have them upgraded so that, once again, Nevis, Anguilla, Albion and the like can see their players performing at first-class level at home.
Otherwise, we are in danger of going back to the days when the lesser cricketing lights were excluded from the mainstream. And that can’t be good for our cricket.