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CPL 2021: ‘Reds’ and McWatt review 2021 edition, suggest new franchises, umpiring reviews and more

“[…] Our suggestion would be for the CPL to explore the possibility of allowing franchises based in Florida and Toronto… The 17 member rosters of the Canada and US franchises could also comprise nine local players, five born in the Caribbean and three internationally based. 

“In addition to providing much-needed international T20 match exposure to nine Canadian and US players, such a format would also allow similar exposure for 10 more West Indian cricketers…”

Veteran West Indies cricket commentator ‘Reds’ Perreira and Toronto-based Canadian Cricket’s media relations manager Tony McWatt review the 2021 CPL competition and look ahead to the 2022 edition:

Photo: St Kitts and Nevis Patriots batsman Dominic Drakes (right) celebrates in front of a crestfallen St Lucia Kings bowler Kesrick Williams at the climax of the 2021 Hero CPL final in Warner Park, Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis on 15 September 2021.
(Copyright Randy Brooks – CPL T20/Getty Images)

The 2021 Caribbean Premier League (CPL), the ninth edition of ‘the biggest party in sports’, reached an exciting conclusion on Wednesday 15 September. 

After 32 matches had been played for the first time ever at a single venue, Warner Park, St Kitts and Nevis Patriots prevailed in the final with a thrilling, last-ball three-wicket win over the St Lucia Kings.  

For keen observers of this year’s CPL, there were several discernible takeaways.

First off, kudos of the very highest order are now deservedly due to the Warner Park curator and his ground staff, the tournament director and indeed everyone who was in any way involved in the hosting of such a very well-organised and executed tournament. 

Hats off also to all concerned for having managed the required bio-bubble without incident and for getting the players and their attending family members in and out of St Kitts safely.

Photo: St Kitts and Nevis Patriots players (from left) Dominic Drakes, Fawad Ahmed and Joshua de Silva celebrate the dismissal of GAW batsman Kevin Sinclair during CPL semi-final action at Warner Park in Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis on 14 September 2021 .
(Copyright Randy Brooks – CPL T20/Getty Images)

As successful as it was, St Kitts’ single venue CPL 2021 hosting should now open the door to the possibility for other similarly equipped Caribbean territories to host future tournaments. Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana and St Lucia can now be considered potential hosts, as the previously held notion that only countries with dual venues were suitable—such as Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago—is now no longer valid.

Regardless of where CPL’s future editions are held, there should also be a marked improvement in the tournament’s marketing. Despite the allowance for fully vaccinated fans to attend its matches, this year’s CPL spectator presence at Warner Park was noticeably and dismally low. 

CPL’s self-ordained billing as ‘the biggest party in sport’ becomes highly questionable if its matches are only being viewed by television audiences, albeit in their millions, but not actually by fans in the stands. Furthermore, a massive part of the excitement usually associated withT20 cricket is participating players being cheered on by adoring on-site spectators.

Photo: St Kitts and Nevis Patriots supporters enjoy the show during 2021 CPL season at Warner Park, Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis.
(Copyright Randy Brooks – CPL T20/Getty Images)

It therefore now behooves CPL’s owners to seriously consider the adoption of far more aggressive and innovative marketing initiatives, as a means of addressing this year’s paucity of spectator attendees. Allowing school-aged children to attend matches for free, while offering their accompanying parents half-priced admission tickets is one such practice that should be considered.

Knowledgeable cricket fans are, however, typically only willing to part with their well-earned monies if and when they are confident of witnessing a relatively high standard of cricket. Unfortunately, the standard of the cricket at this year’s CPL was disappointingly low. 

The tournament’s statistics provide irrefutable evidence of the generally poor batting on display. Among the top ten batsmen only two, Roston Chase (446) and Evin Lewis (426), scored over 400 runs from ten or more innings. 

No one else managed to score 300 runs in total and six of the top ten batsmen finished with tournament averages of less than 35 runs per innings. 

Photo: TKR opener Lendl Simmons is bowled during CPL 2021 action against Barbados Royals.
Simmons struggled in his first five CPL matches this season although he managed an impressive 70 against the Jamaica Tallawahs.
(Copyright CPL T20 Ltd 2021)

The overall bowling wasn’t that much better either. The tournament-leading wicket hauls of the top three bowlers, Ravi Rampaul (19), Romario Shepherd (18), and Odean Smith (18), were accumulated at an average of fewer than two wickets per match—not that impressive by even the lowest standards.

Finally, the ground fielding was at times almost amateurish. Some of the catching, particularly during the last two weeks, was even worse. Abysmal is perhaps the most complimentary description appropriate for the numerous rudimentary catches that were spilled! 

Far too many of the umpiring decisions were also highly questionable. So much so that the CPL must now seriously consider adopting the two reviews per innings rule that has become standard within other T20 tournaments.  

Despite the poor quality of cricket played, there were some encouraging performances by a few exciting young, talented Caribbean cricketers such as the 26-year-old Shepherd’s 18 scalps and 23-year-old Dominic Drakes’ 16 wickets as a left-arm, impressively quick seamer. 

Photo: Guyana Amazon Warriors fielder Odean Smith drops a catch off St Lucia Kings batsman Timothy David during CPL action at Warner Park in Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis on 8 September 2021.
(Copyright Randy Brooks – CPL T20/Getty Images)

Drakes was also the hero of the Patriots’ final victory, striking a boundary off the very last ball to exceed the three runs that were required for victory.    

The 22-year-old Jeavor Royal’s 12 wickets with his left-arm spin was yet another encouraging CPL 2021 performance as well as the 23-year-old Sherfane Rutherford’s aggregate of 262 runs, including three half-centuries from 10 innings.  

The 2022 edition will be the tournament’s 10th anniversary and as fitting an occasion as any for the CPL to now seriously consider increasing the number of its participating franchises from six to eight. 

T20’s marquee Indian Premier League recently announced its own intended 2022 expansion from eight to ten teams, thereby setting a most worthy example for the CPL to follow.

Our suggestion would be for the CPL to explore the possibility of allowing franchises based in Florida and Toronto. The expanded eight-team tournament could then be played in two groups of four, with preliminary round home-and-away matches leading to semi-finals between the two top teams from each group.

Photo: The Canada cricket team at the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup.

The 17-member rosters of the Canada and US franchises could also comprise nine local players, five born in the Caribbean and three internationally based. 

In addition to providing much-needed international T20 match exposure to nine Canadian and US players, such a format would also allow similar exposure for ten more West Indian cricketers—as well as intense competition among the world’s very best T20 players for the remaining six available international spots.

Both Miami and Toronto are now replete with very rich cricket fanatics with South Asian backgrounds, so finding suitable and willing owners for either franchise should not be challenging. 

It should not be hard either to entice fans for the respective franchises—likely to be in the thousands from among the resident Caribbean and South Asian communities—to actively support their teams with visits to the Caribbean as attending spectators of their away matches. 

Needless to say, the ensuing tourism bonanza would be highly beneficial and most welcome to the Caribbean countries hosting all such matches.

Photo: St Kitts and Nevis Patriots batsman Dominic Drakes heaves high over the offside for six runs during the 2021 Hero CPL final against the St Lucia Kings at Warner Park in Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis on 15 September 2021 .
(Copyright Randy Brooks – CPL T20/Getty Images)

Indeed, plenty for the CPL to ponder as it looks back on its concluded 2021 season and ahead to 2022! 

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