Tony Becca | Spreading the game is wonderful but ...
Cricket, like almost every other game, is a wonderful pasttime. To some, however, it is an exciting profession, and it deserves to be played all over the world so that everyone can enjoy it.
It is good, therefore, to see that Cricket West Indies (CWI) is involved in an attempt to spread the game, not only by reaching out to the USA and to Canada by inviting them to participate in regional limited-overs tournaments, but also, and regardless of their reasons for doing so, by playing in these two economically successful neighbouring countries.
It is also good to see CWI supporting the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) in its effort to play cricket in Florida, regardless of its reasons, business or otherwise.
Time has moved on, and cricket, in spite of marking time for so many years, and the International Cricket Conference (ICC), have moved on.
One must, however, temper all the good feelings and praises on these developments and on the people involved with a little common sense.
First of all, change is a natural process in life. In other words, as long as there is life, change will always occur, and one should embrace it, especially when it is something good.
As far as cricket is concerned, however, and although the ICC controlled the development of the game through its strict and lodge-like rules with England and Australia, until recently, in control, the ICC, in the 1990s, instructed all Full Members to take on, as little brothers, neighbouring countries in a bid to develop the game.
During that time, the West Indies were given responsibility for America and Canada, but after a few early attempts, nothing happened, nothing, that is, until New Zealand's short-lived interest.
That plan, like almost all the plans of the ICC in recent years, fell by the wayside.
SAVIOUR OF THE GAME
T20 cricket, which is now seen as the saviour of the game, was ushered in way back in 2003, not by the ICC but by the English counties as a way of getting fans into very short games in the evenings after work when they can pay a small entrance fee, stand around and watch some cricket, and enjoy a drink while doing so.
It has been 15 years since then, and T20 cricket has taken off all over the world, not so much because of sixes disappearing over the boundary, or because of flying, diving, and acrobatic catches, but because of money, money for those who fund the format and money for those who play it.
One of the changes which has taken place over the years, however, is that sport is now big business and T20 cricket is bigger business.
In any kind of business, and especially in big business, however, taking risks is par for the course. Taking risk in business is as natural as changes.
The profits of any business go to, or belong to, the owner of the business, and, therefore, it always baffles me when an investor expects governments, as the CPL apparently does, to bow to his or her request for financial help, regardless of the situation, and especially when investors come into poor countries and make unreasonable requests, or demands, in an effort to eventually fill their own pockets.
The West Indies was once the best cricket team in the whole wide world, and regardless of the reasons, it has seen better, much better, days.
And times have changed so much that it now will take money, a lot of money, and skill, to get it back.
With the coming of T20 cricket and its popularity as people flock to it, business people saw the opportunity of making money, and naturally, they grabbed the opportunity to invest.
In the West Indies, the first owners of the Caribbean Premier League paid the West Indies Cricket Board for the right to host the CPL, and on top of that, promised an annual fee.
The CPL then got the territories to contribute to it because of its expected attraction around the world, the money it promised to bring in, and the CPL also agreed to fully fund the league because of its possibilities.
BIGGEST PARTY IN SPORTS
Ajmal Khan of the CPL promised "the biggest party in sports", he promised to "fill out the stands at all the grounds", he promised to do everything, including picking up the "profits and losses" of the tournament, and he also promised the world that they would see "West Indian cricketers play cricket as they have never played it before".
After listening to this, and in spite of hearing that the territories would have no say in the management, in the composition of the respective teams, or hardly in anything to do with the tournament, an ecstatic Julian Hunte, then president of the West Indies board, said that the CPL would "bring huge financial injection into the Caribbean".
Maybe that was the reason why all the territories, with the exception of Trinidad and Tobago, agreed to the franchise using their names in the CPL despite the absence of any input in the business, despite teams sometimes playing only one or two players from the territories, and despite the promise of seeing "West Indian cricketers play cricket the way they have never played it before."
West Indies cricket was accustomed to empty stands, but the stands rocked with happy fans in the first two or three years before, except for a few matches, the stands began to look more like West Indian stands, though not half as bad.
Maybe the crowd at first was due to the novelty of the CPL, maybe the fall-off in attendance was due to economics, and maybe it was due to the absence of enough home-grown players in the teams.
Whatever it was, that was when the CPL first hinted that they wanted more money from the territories to run the show, probably to pay for all the added attractions, or else.
The question is, especially now that the Florida owners are playing, so far, only two of the Jamaica Tallawahs 'home' matches in Jamaica and as many as three 'home' matches in Florida, why should Jamaica protect someone else's investment unless it stands to gain, particularly when there are so many things to do, so many people to educate, to house, to keep healthy and secure, and so many mouths to feed?
The big question is, however, why should Jamaica do unto others when it did not do, or could not do, for itself during the time of need, especially the time when support was needed for its ailing cricket and for the dying clubs and losing national teams?
And even more important, why should the economically stretched West Indian territories support a foreign investor when West Indies cricket needs their support?