Finally, a league in West Indies' comfort zone

Port of Spain, July 8 -- Though the West Indies are far from completing their revival, the first step towards it was winning the World Twenty20 last year. It made the team realise their potential and the countrymen sit up and take note that they could again be world champions. Go around the Caribbean and most people say they would pay to watch only T20s. It has struck a chord with everyone, from Dwayne Bravo's father, who eats, sleeps and breathes the Chennai Super Kings, to even the old generation.

"It is three hours of thrilling cricket, non-stop music, dancing and a lot of drinking. I think T20 cricket is made for the West Indies," said Bryan, a 60-year old bar owner.

The Caribbean has had quite a few T20 tournaments - the Stanford Twenty20 to the one run by the board till last year. By the end of this month, however, they would be jiving to the Caribbean Premier League (CPL), a tournament planned to be at par with the Indian domestic league and Big Bash in Australia in terms of star and entertainment quotient.

Right now, preparations are in full swing for the tournament. Lights are being installed or renovated at the stadiums. There will be cheer girls, a lot of hip-hop music and alcohol. In fact, a major liquor company that specialises in rum is an official partner.

Full representation

All six countries making up the West Indies are represented through franchises, which have coaches who are stalwarts, the biggest of them being Viv Richards, who will coach the Antigua Hawksbills.

For a change, it is local players like Chris Gayle, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard, Bravo and Marlon Samuels who have courted more attention than internationals.

"If you see our team, eight or nine of them are superstars in the Indian domestic T20 league. And we are hoping the CPL will produce more superstars, more players who can get used to the fierce competition. That is one thing that we got to see in the Indian league," said West Indies coach Ottis Gibson.

The lack of quality cricket has led to a dip in the game's popularity. It has got worse with the ICC hardly handing any good tours. "We need to play more against top teams. Last year, we played Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and New Zealand. This year we played Zimbabwe. Next year we again play Bangladesh and New Zealand. You can only play according to the ICC Future Tours Programme," said Gibson.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.


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