Cayman cricket has been given a massive financial shot in the arm courtesy of the government and a Texas billionaire.
Antigua based financier Allen Stanford on Thursday handed over a US$100,000 cheque to the Cayman Islands Cricket Association, the first part of a total of US$250,000 on the way for Cayman’s participation in the forthcoming Stanford 20/20 Tournament.
But Minister of Sport Alden McLaughlin also used the occasion at the Westin Casuarina to announce that the government has set aside CI$500,000 for the development of cricket here.
Mr. McLaughlin told a press briefing – attended by some of the greats of West Indies cricket, such as Lance Gibbs, Andy Roberts, Richie Richardson and Ian Bishop – that most of that money would be used for the renovation and improvement of the Jimmy Powell Oval in West Bay.
It was planned to finish that work and to include the provision of such features as stands and rest room facilities, he said.
He said he wants the Stanford money for the development of the game itself and he looks forward to Cayman’s participation in the 20/20 competition.
Mr. McLaughlin offered the thanks of a grateful nation to Mr. Stanford.
Real action has been taken to reverse the trend of West Indies cricket over the past 10 years, he said.
It was what the great game of cricket needed, in particular to engage younger people and to attract a wider watching audience, he said.
Whilst Cayman is not well known for its cricket prowess, remarkable strides have been made over the past 10 years, particularly through the efforts of national coach Theo Cuffy and his team, said Mr. McLaughlin.
There is great talent here, although in smaller numbers than elsewhere, and every opportunity has to be seized to develop that talent, he said.
He said that one day, if the progress continues; a player from Cayman could grace a West Indian side.
It was a monumental and historic day, which would see the rebirth of cricket in the region, Mr. Stanford told the briefing.
West Indies cricket has, over the past 10 years, slipped from a pinnacle of greatness and its downward slide is both sad and unacceptable, he said.
Cricket is the thing that collectively represents the Caribbean to the rest of the world, said Mr. Stanford.
When the West Indies was at the top of the game the region looked good but when the game was in a trough it did not look so good.
He has lived in the West Indies for more than 20 years and has fallen in love with the game, he said.
And what he is now doing is for the love of the game, he added.
Mr. Stanford and the cricket legends helping him promote the competition were said to be making their fourth stop of the day, after whistle-stop visits to Bermuda, the Bahamas and Jamaica to present cheques.
Cayman Islands Cricket Association president Courtney Myles said he welcomed a man who had such foresight and vision for cricket in the region.
He thanked Mr. Stanford for giving Cayman the opportunity to take part in such a prestigious competition.
Former West Indies star batsman Richie Richardson, the competition’s adopted legend for Cayman, said what Mr. Stanford is doing is visionary and good for cricket in the region.
The Stanford 20/20 Tournament is due to feature 19 Caribbean countries vying for the top spot and the top prize of US$1 million.
The first staging of what is set to be an annual event will take place in the summer in Antigua.