Tony Becca, Contributing Editor
When Ajmal Khan, the Nigeria-born citizen of Canada now residing in Barbados, approached the West Indies about staging a franchise-based Caribbean Premier League T20 cricket competition sometime last year, the reaction of almost everyone in the West Indies was negative, if not a surprise.
To many, not even the promise of promoting the region's beaches and its sunshine, its music and its beautiful women, not even the possibility of attracting new business, and not even the commitment to bring in international stars to spice it up could make such a venture a success.
West Indies cricket was in limbo, and although the players were, on their days, the most attractive cricketers in the world, and the team was the world T20 champions, the cricket stadiums in the Caribbean were empty, day after day, and match after match.
Today, however, after months of planning and just under one month of playing, the CPLT20 has been a tremendous success, so much so that people cannot wait for it to happen again next year.
From the first match when Albie Morkel removed Dwayne Smith with the first ball of the match, from the first match also when Devon Thomas took an amazing flying catch at extra cover, and when Kieron Powell smashed a few towering sixes, right to the end, to the last match when Sunil Narine all but bamboozled Christopher Gayle and Kumar Sangakkara in a desperate attempt to win the title, the action was electric, ball after ball, day after day, and match after match.
It was a wonderful spectacle from Barbados and Guyana, St Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Jamaica where the crowds packed the stadiums to enjoy themselves carnival style, to listen to music, to see dancing girls, to eat and drink, and to see the players running, diving, and
jumping in a determined effort to save a run, to run out a batsman, or to take a catch.
The fans also packed the stadiums to see the white cricket ball sailing high over the boundary and disappearing into the night sky, most times.
There were almost 250 sixes with Andre Russell of the Jamaica Tallawahs, the first winners of the trophy, being the master six-hitter with 16 big hits, three of them coming off the last three balls from Azhar Mahmood of the Trinidad Red Steel in the semi-final match.
The CPL was a lovely entertainment package, it was put together as promised by involving the best West Indian cricketers and a few international players playing to the background of lovely music, Caribbean style, beautiful dancing girls, Caribbean style, scenic background, Caribbean style, and before an audience free to enjoy themselves as only Caribbean people can.
And the CPL involved Caribbean people as planners, as sponsors, and as supporters of the game, something which many believed the people had forgotten how to do.
Here in Jamaica, the people turned out in record numbers to see Muttiah Muralitharan, Mahala Jayawardene, Vernon Philander, Ross Taylor, and Shoaib Malik, Gayle, Pollard, Sunil Narine, Ramnaresh Sarwan, and many others, and although they played well, it was great to see the response, the support of the Jamaican fans.
The CPLT20 was great and the fans enjoyed it, it was good, financially, for the players and the ex-players also, and hopefully, it was the signal of the start of the resurrection of the game in the Caribbean.
Next year, hopefully also, two things will happen: it will be able to attract and pay better international players, and no territory, or franchise, will be asked to give up as many as seven of its best players, as Trinidad and Tobago did this time around.