Tony Becca, Contributor
The first year of the CPL T20, which came to an end two Sundays ago, was a tremendous success - more so than anyone could have imagined.
All around the region, from Guyana down south in South America, a land washed by the Atlantic Ocean, to Jamaica up north in the Caribbean Sea, it was carnival time as people packed into stadiums everywhere listening to music and enjoying what there was on offer - drums, steel pan, and trumpets - looking at lovely dancing girls, dancing themselves, and eating and drinking.
Also around the region, people played cricket, and they enjoyed every moment of it, from swinging bats which sent balls sailing over the boundary, almost touching the night sky, to brilliant, almost unbelievable catches.
Lendl Simmons, Darren Bravo, Misbah Ul-Haq, Shoaib Malik, Ross Taylor, Kevin O'Brien, Nicholas Pooran, Kumar Sangakkara, and Martin Guptil played a few exquisite strokes, and Muttiah Muralitharan, Sunil Narine, Shakib Al Hasan, Fidel Edwards, Lasith Malinga, Sheldon Cotterell, and Krishmar Santokie bowled a few good deliveries.
BATSMEN STAR THE SHOW
The men who set the stadiums on fire, however, were the batsmen, who sent to the ball searching for the stars by their big hitting, and the fielders, who left the fans wide-eyed by their acrobatic fielding.
The superb fielders, to name a few, were Darren Sammy, Kieron Pollard, Chris Gayle, and André Russell, Devon Thomas, Kyle Mayers, Cotterell, O'Brien, Pollard, and Guptil.
From the moment Albie Morkell sent the CPL T20 on the way with a wicket with the first ball, the bowlers also played their part, especially Shakib with his amazing six wickets for six runs off four overs.
The batsmen and the bowlers, however, were awesome, and especially so Russell, who, on one occasion of his many exploits batting and fielding in one of the semi-finals, went to bat with the Tallawahs needing 27 to win from less than three overs. People were getting nervous.
He faced the last six deliveries of the match and he hit 29 not out off six deliveries, including the first three deliveries of what turned out to be the 19th and final over of the match from Azhar Mahmood for three sixes.
Mahmood was unfortunate. He arrived from London one day or so before the match, he ran into Russell, and he played only the one match.
The CPL T20 was good, no doubt about that.
As good as it was, however, there are a few changes that I would make in time for the next one - that is, if I were the one investing the money.
I would, if it has not yet been done, set up a group which would be in charge of each franchise, a group which owns or partly owns the franchise, and, for example, since it is named the 'Jamaica Tallawahs', the group would have to include Jamaicans.
Despite its success this year, in spite of the apparent no-problem attitude to it this year, insularity is so steep in the Caribbean that I would probably try to improve on the competitive nature of things by making the teams more island oriented and give each team the right to select a specific number of international players so that they may be more competitive.
In other words, if the number of international players is limited to four players each per team and a team is weak in batting, it could, for example, employ four batsmen, or three batsmen and one bowler.
This year, although Ravi Rampaul was originally listed with the Tallawahs, the Jamaican franchise ended up without another West Indian in their team while the Trinidad franchise, the Red Steel, played without seven of their best players with Simmons, Narine, and Dinesh Ramdin playing for the Guyana franchise; Pollard, Shannon Gabriel, and Rayad Emritt representing the Barbados franchise; and Rampaul listed originally to play for Jamaica.
UNIQUE CARIBBEAN PEOPLE
While it is true that the franchise system is not territory-based, the Caribbean is the Caribbean, the people are a special set of people, the people are insular, and when Trinidad develop their players, when they are the best in the region, it does not sit well that you then take seven of the best of them away, distribute them around the other islands to play against you, and then they turn around and beat you.
And then, day after day, everywhere you go, you hear, "Trinidad lose", or the "Red Steel lose again".
Trinidadians are a proud people, and, sooner or later, they will rebel.
I would also play the tournament on a straight home-and-away format instead of all teams playing each other, all teams playing some of the teams twice, and some of the teams not playing some of the others twice.
I would also do away with the age-group players and let the franchise chose who they consider their best players, that is, if the tournament is for the best, played by the best, and is the best.
GREAT RAPPORT ALL ROUND
And apart from the music, dancing, eating and drinking, and the fielding and the sixes, apart from the international players, what made the tournament a huge success was the rapport with the people, the impression it gives that the people are important to them, that the cricketers are important to them, and that the sponsors are most important to them.
The tournament was well planned, the sponsors were hunted down, the sponsors gave away tickets and they got their money's worth for everything; and the people, those who filled the stands, knew when the matches were being played, long in advance, and they knew where to purchase tickets, easily at that, and way in advance.
For weeks and weeks, everywhere you looked, everywhere you turned, and everywhere you went, there was the CPL T20, there were images of the players, and there were the sponsors.
That was advertising, that was marketing, and that was why, according to the CEO of the CPL T20, 80 per cent of the income came from Caribbean territories.
While we hope that the West Indies Board will take note of the marketing of the CPL T20 this year, we also hope that next year, as West Indies coach Ottis Gibson has asked for, the pitches will be much better so that the cricket, the batting, will be better.