Friday, February 23, 2018

No value for money


Enjoying T&T in action: Local fans at the Queen's Park Oval for Caribbean T20 on Saturday night. —Photo courtesy WICB/Randy Brooks

(BI) Feedloader User

I feel sorry for those folks who could not get into the Queen's Park Oval Saturday night for the cricket.

It can't be nice to get no value for money. Must have raised the blood pressure considerably to be standing outside with legitimate tickets in hand, coolers and high expectations in tow, to hear the crowd roaring and wondering what you missing.

Maybe the 'outsiders' heard a 'clunk' or two, as the white ball smacked into the stands after a beating either from Darren Bravo or Kieron Pollard. That would have only got those on the street more vexed.

However, the police dared not have given them a bligh and opened the gates, since not only legitimate ticket holders, but stormers were ready to charge. Hearing the stories Monday morning, it sounded like a messy scene. Lawless people always make life uncomfortable for others. So between the scalpers, the apparent ticket forgers and the others easing their friends inside the Oval in unauthorised areas, some innocents had their nights spoiled and an unhappy time at the famous ground added to their memories.

However, the fact that regional cricket could cause such tantana, was at least encouraging for the West Indies Cricket Board.

It has been too many years since the WICB has been forced to sponsor its various competitions and thus accrue considerable losses as a result. Crowd support at these events has been practically nonexistent. It has only been the Caribbean Twenty20—the offshoot of Allen Stanford's T20 extravaganza—that has brought the people back to the grounds. West Indies cricket could do with new fans. And as is the case everywhere else in the world except England, it is the T20 game that is drawing people to cricket. So the less incidents there are like last Saturday's the better.

Sticking with those events, one aspect about the stories I heard boggled my mind. It was that the greedy scalpers actually got some people to pay as much as $500 dollars for a ticket!

Me, take my good $500 and give a man for a $40 ticket? I would have to be off my rocker pardner. And to go and watch what?

First of all, call me a 40-something dinosaur if you want, but T20 is not the kind of cricket I would pick up myself to go and watch on my leisure time. Let's just say that like fast food, there is little substance to the thing. Still, when the best players are in action, the shortest form of the game can indeed thrill. But that has not exactly been the case in CT20 so far this year.

As the games passed and the team scores kept going lower and lower, limbo style, I tried to put myself in the place of an outsider; someone who had been intrigued by ESPN's glitzy advertisements to see what cricket in the islands was all about.

What I saw was basically hit and miss business; swings and misses; a swiping festival.

The West Indies Cricket Board put it more diplomatically of course.

In a press release in which WICB president Dr Julian Hunte praised the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board's hosting of the first phase of the competition, part of the document said: "The WICB president said that while some of the matches resulted in low scores and some undesirable batting displays the WICB was cognizant of the fact that the pitches did not benefit from full preparations owing to the rainy weather in Trinidad and Tobago leading up to the tournament."

"Undesirable batting displays" indeed! No doubt the slow surfaces did not make for good T20 spectacles. But the conditions in themselves were not mainly responsible for seven totals below 100. Even in 20 overs cricket that was unacceptable. Whether it was Jamaica being skittled for 72 against Barbados or the Bajans themselves being humbled for 66 against Guyana when going only at 108, people really did not get value for money.

Yes, there was some excitement; like the super over battle Jamaica won over the Leeward Islands. But often those moments were as a result more of foibles rather than acts of genuine skill. So while the pitches were sluggish, batsmen in general did not seem to adjust to the fact that they could not expect to bash as many boundaries as they would expect. And if there was that understanding, there was simply an inability to execute a different approach—like working the ones and twos. It is no surprise therefore, that the West Indies team regularly leaves many deliveries unscored in T20s and one-dayers.

The clear exception was T&T. The two Bravos, Kieron Pollard and Lendl Simmons exposed their Caribbean counterparts. But while the gap in quality may be good news for those hoping for another T&T win in this tournament; it cannot be a healthy sign for regional cricket, the successes of the international side notwithstanding.

But this is no new story. The question is, how long with the ESPN executives find it worth their while? Hope they have lots of patience. And lots more money to spend.