Cuffy looks past the 20/20 hype

The Stanford 20/20 tournament, by all accounts, was a resounding success – even if the final was too lop-sided to be the showcase expected.

Trinidad thrashed Jamaica by nine wickets to collect $1m team prize money and the right to play for five times that if benefactor Sir Allen Stanford can lure World Champions India over.

No wonder minnow cricketing countries like Cayman are getting excited by the prospect of becoming full-time pros through Stanford underwriting costs. Even Super Bowl hero Eli Manning did the correct PR job he was paid to do about 20/20 being very exciting when he watched a match in Antigua recently. Advised by The Legends, great players from the past, Stanford seems to be on the right course.

Cayman technical director of cricket Theo Cuffy believes that 20/20 will boost standards – and bank balances – significantly in the near future.

‘The knowledge of our legends has been very instrumental in developing 20/20,’ he said. ‘The Stanford program is now going to take it to another level. Not only the four pro teams, (Antigua, Anguilla, Nevis and St Lucia) I expect another eight or ten teams to get through to pro level.

‘I think he will not move everybody to the full level this year. There are 20 right now and if he goes with another eight, that means he’s about three-quarters there.

I think he will go for the pro teams outside of the established ones because Trinidad, Jamaica, Guyana and Barbados are virtually pro teams anyway.

‘So to raise the standard he’s going to approach and try to get the other teams up to a level. That’s where Cayman comes up. The essence of the Stanford tournament is not the whining and dining. That is only one tenth of what it is. That is to bring the children back into cricket and people generally. Get them to love it and to want to move with it and in the meantime get them to expose some young talent – which we saw.

‘We saw a couple of good fast bowlers. I was very impressed with Danza Hyatt from Jamaica. People at Singh’s roti shop asked me about Andre Fletcher (Grenada) who batted so well. But I saw Fletcher two years ago at the first Stanford tournament. For the first time I’m seeing Hyatt. So when you take those guys from two years ago, like Kieron Powell (Nevis) who is with the Under-19s, William Perkins (Trinidad) who played two years ago and did very well again. Now you add Hyatt and Orlando Peters (Antigua) there’s Chaka Hodge from Anguilla. I like a little fella who didn’t make much from Dominica, Samuel Mitchell. When you put all of them together, West Indies has a lot of people we can start building with. And that is the progress of the Stanford tournament.
‘Look at the fielding progress we’ve seen. Some people dropped some catches. So what? The lighting is not the best for playing cricket under. No matter where you go artificial lights are not as good as sunlight and people drop catches. The point I’m making is don’t just judge the Stanford money and razzamatazz and Mike Haysman with all his foolish interviews. All of that is to get people to like the game again. We’ll like the game again and stop watching people playing basketball on TV.

‘It was short and sweet. Six weeks of real good enjoyment when we had great fun and people were looking forward to it. That means youngsters even in Cayman who don’t normally watch cricket, their parents couldn’t get them to change the station. So what is happening now is that the youngsters coming to play in the Under-17 tournament all come to the ground talking about the Stanford tournament.

There are four teams from John Gray High School competing plus St Ignatius and Cayman Prep. Triple C will come in for the Under-15s. The final will be on Friday 14 March.

‘Here it is, our youngsters are playing cricket now and we’re specifically playing them in white,’ added Cuffy. ‘Traditionally, cricket is played in white and we don’t want them to miss the idea that cricket is still what we call a gentleman’s games. It has certain virtues that you have to adhere to and that is basically what we’re doing, playing this grouping at Under-15 and Under-17 level in white because we want to maintain the traditions; keep your shirt in your pants, wear your hat properly, be respectful to people when given out and you walk. We’re very firm on those things. We don’t expect a miracle to happen overnight.’