The 2016 CPL T20 started at the end of June and no doubt, no matter who wins, the tournament will be heralded as a success.
The recent success of the West Indies in the shorter format of the game has contributed in no small way to the tournament’s growth and what seems to be a general acceptance by the public of the new franchise format.
Additionally, let us not forget it was the Stanford 20/20 started in 2006 in Antigua which set the foundation for the Caribbean Premier League (CPL).
We have had some ten years to refine this product. The question I want to address, however, is how has regional cricket benefited?
But more than just how, I want to extract those elements which in my opinion have delivered the greatest benefits so that we can make a case to focus investment in these areas.
In the recently concluded T20 World Cup the second rank West Indies went in as underdogs. I am not aware that any other team ranked at one or two would have been as disrespected as the West Indies team was going into a major tournament.
None of the analysts, including West Indian self- proclaimed cricket gurus, gave the team more than an outside chance to win. The WICB’s treatment of the team is another story but will be discussed in as much as it is relevant to make my point. It is now history that we went on to win that tournament.
I believe that understanding our dominance in this form is linked to the potential for improvement overall and the resurgence of West Indian dominance in all formats. What is the reason though for our recent shorter form dominance?
I have heard persons suggest it suits our style of play, but I want to suggest that that is an over simplification. I believe that it is quite simply the only format of the game where the majority of our first team play at the highest level consistently.
The reality of our domestic league is that the quality is just not there. There really is no other way to say it. This is the core of our decline. Our players ply their trade around the world and play at the highest level consistently.
This is very similar to an earlier period of West Indies cricket dominated by players who played county cricket. Reputation is as important in cricket, as it is in any other sport. Even on a bad day the respect paid to Narine, Pollard or Gayle is undeniable.
I do not think that anyone genuinely believes that the success of Dwayne Bravo’s song “Champion” is due to the genius of the composition. It is due to the genius of seizing the opportunity.
I also do not think that anyone in the WICB can even begin to come to terms with the success of the song. The nature of their limitations in this regard is the major challenge to West Indies cricket.
They see players the same way employers in the region tend to see employees, when the reality is that the shift in sport world-wide is that the players draw the crowds and generate the revenue which in turn provides jobs.
So, Dave Cameron, you are the weakest link. Until the WICB comes to terms with the fact that they are the employees there will be no turn around.
Finally, to the potential of the CPL. We have to know the value of the brand that we have built. We are T20 World Champions but how are we going to leverage that beyond TV rights? We have to force these “franchises” to do their jobs.
The “give back” has to be assurance that they will set up real club structures in the region and register teams at club and regional level in all formats and at all ages. This is what a franchise can do. This can force a restructuring of the regional league and eventually an overall improvement in the standard of regional play.
We have to know that West Indies cricket has to transcend insular tendencies. The regional format has to be played among the best players and not among the individual countries. Only then can there be West Indian pride.