ALLEN STANFORD, the American billionaire in Antigua, has decided to pump US$28 million into regional cricket, and cricket fans around the region, cricketers past and present, are singing his praise.
According to Stanford, he wants to "create a professional Super League where West Indian cricketers can do what they do best, playing with their fellow countrymen and against their Caribbean counterparts and be rewarded for their excellence", and with that in mind he has come up with a Twenty20 tournament.
He is inviting all 17 cricket-playing countries to participate, and he is offering money, plenty money, to the top performers.
In by far the biggest prize money ever in West Indies cricket, Stanford is offering US$1 million to the winning team, US$500,000 to the runners-up, US$25,000 to the man-of-the-match for every match, US$100,000 to the Man-of-the-Match in the final, and in any language, that is plenty money.
On top of that, and apart from the US$5 million prize to the winners of the two-match contest between an All-Star league team and two world class teams, Stanford is also offering the Board of each participating team US$100,000, a stipend of US$10,000 per month to be used to support the players and the coaches, US$5,000 per month to be used for the maintenance and upkeep of each country's facilities, US$200,000 to the Board of the winning team, US$100,000 to the Board of the runners-up team, and with the respective Boards short of funds and in need of help, that is great, no question about that.
"My vision for the Stanford Twenty20 tournament is that it will be the catalyst for a resurgence of love for the game," said Stanford last week Monday during the announcement, and if that is so, he has nothing to worry about.
With so much money at stake, the players will not only love the game, they will also enjoy playing it; with the prospect of earning so much money, youngsters will want to play the game and will play the game; and although one reason for the success of Twenty20 cricket in England is because it is played in the evenings after work, the excitement of Twenty20 cricket is such that the fans will turn out in large numbers to see the ball to the boundary and sailing over it regularly.
THE GLORY DAYS
Stanford, however, also said on Monday last week that he hopes the league "will signal the return to the glory days of (West Indies) cricket," and if that is really part of his vision, he probably has gone about it the wrong way.
As one who believes that it is difficult, if not impossible to build from the top, the way to go would have been for Sanford to spend his money, or some of it, on development - at the under 15 and/or under 19 level where it could be used to provide proper facilities, good coaching, and to encourage more youngsters to play the game and to be more dedicated and committed to it.
As one who also believes that a professional first-class league is necessary if the West Indies are to make it back to the top - and based on his words at a function at his famous "Sticky Wicket" restaurant earlier this year during the Test match in Antigua, so does Stanford himself, he could have discussed it with the West Indies Board, discussed it with Carib Beer - sponsors of the regional four-day tournament.
Based on those discussions and in the interest of West Indies cricket, he probably could also have used his money to kick start a professional first-class league in the West Indies.
Stanford's money, however, is Stanford's money, providing he respects the authority of the West Indies Board in anything to do with West Indies cricket, he has a right to do what he wants with it.
Listening to him earlier this year, his heart seems to be in the right place, and the fact that he remembered the financially stricken territorial Boards and included them in the deal suggests that his heart is in the right place.
On top of that, anything that puts money into West Indies cricket, anything that offers the players more money for their skill and their effort, anything that will encourage youngsters to play the game, and anything that will attract the fans is good for West Indies cricket.
There is, however, something that is interesting - or will be interesting, really interesting.
Twenty20 cricket is not first-class cricket, and yet West Indies cricket is about to find itself in a position where, for example, the first-class champions of the region collect a paltry US$7,500 and the Twenty20 champions a whopping one million US dollars.
That, however, is not Sanford's fault. In fact, remembering the impact of Kerry Packer and World Series Cricket on the game, remembering the changes that followed, West Indies cricket should say thanks to the American.
Remembering that people have a way of following others, or of showing that what you can, I can do, this may be the beginning of something really good for West Indies cricket.