Leighton Levy, Gleaner Writer
Jamaica run the risk of losing its Limacol Caribbean Premier League (LCPL) franchise if it fails to have lights installed at Sabina Park by the time the second staging begins, in the next six months or so.
The insinuation was made by LCPL's commercial director, Jamie Stewart, who was on the island last weekend for the Jamaican leg of the competition, which goes into its semi-final phase this weekend.
While understanding the last-minute problems that derailed the initial plan to install lights earlier this year, Stewart, an Australian who was based in India during the initial stages of the Indian Premier League (IPL), said now that the Jamaican leg has passed, whatever issues prevented the installation should now be sorted out.
"I hope that dialogue can start again and we can find a solution to this, because you wouldn't want it to become a barrier to Jamaica having a CPL team," he said, alluding to the possibility of Jamaica losing out on CPL excitement and opportunities.
"Look, there will be a private owner of the team and that will be a decision for them."
Jamaicans turned out in record numbers last weekend to watch the Jamaica Tallawahs win two of their three home matches in the LCPL and securing their place in the semi-finals.
However, unlike in the other Caribbean territories where the matches were played at night, the matches at the world-famous Sabina Park were staged during the daytime, with the largest crowd showing up on Sunday, August 18.
The first match on Thursday, August 15, was well supported, but nowhere near the numbers that showed up on the weekend matche, all because Sabina Park remains the only ground in the region without field-of-play lights.
In early June, it was reported that a deal to have lights installed at Sabina Park fell apart mere weeks before the start of the CPL. The deal that was reportedly struck between Sabina Park Holdings, owners of the facility, through Consolidated Energy Partners and General Electric, was to have seen lights being installed by August 5, just over a week before the Jamaica Tallawahs were to have hosted their first match.
There was no official word as to why the deal - worth an estimated US$2 million - broke down. So Sabina Park remains without the ability to host matches at night when it is more likely that fans of the sport would turn out after work to support the CPL. This is a sore point for Stewart.
"Let's face it: That was disappointing for all of us involved in cricket in the Caribbean, in Jamaica in particular, Jamaica where it looked like the lights were coming and then they didn't," he said of the breakdown of the deal to install lights at Sabina. "I would say it is a prerequisite for the CPL. There has to be a solution found because the whole premise of CPL is night cricket, so everyone can turn up after work and so we can beam it around the Caribbean in prime time."
The bottom line, he says, is that Sabina Park be outfitted with lights before the competition rolls around again next season.
"There needs to be lights here. This is the biggest country in the Caribbean. It jars that this is the one place where there aren't lights. For me as an Australian, an outsider, who has spent a lot of time in the region now, it is just very odd to me that of all places, Jamaica, with your cricket heritage and your size, you would not have lights when places like St Kitts have lights. It's unusual."