When Sir Allen Stanford announced before Christmas that he is having a rethink on pouring some of his $2.9 billion wealth out of West Indies cricket it was not a shock.
He promised to make public his intentions by the end of January and the cricket fraternity in the Caribbean fears the worse.
For Theo Cuffy, the Cayman Islands technical director of cricket, it is a worrying time.
Cuffy feels that despites the Texan tycoon’s lack of adherence to cricket culture and traditions, he genuinely wants to improve the standards here and return West Indies to its former glory.
The Stanford Superstars – effectively the full West Indies team – thrashed England in November, earning themselves $20m, the richest team prize in cricket.
‘Stanford has been around for a number of years and fallen in love with the West Indian culture,’ Cuffy says.
‘He’s a very rich man and decided to use some of his funds to help the main sporting thing in our lives – cricket. That’s where the Stanford initiative came into play.
‘A lot of people are making comments and criticising his approach and what effect he will have over West Indies cricket, but the 20/20 tournament is just the icing on the cake for the Stanford initiative.
‘Stanford has taken over $100 million of his money to invest in Caribbean cricket and now it’s 20 or 21 countries who are benefiting from what he has given.
‘Each country has different priorities and they must have a basic programme and a strategic plan for their development.
‘And it is there but they have no funds to do it and here comes this angel with the required money who doesn’t ask any questions what so ever.
‘You put forward your plan and he says yes and the money goes to your infrastructure, your development programmes with your youths, building up your nets, covers, rollers and paying your groundsmen. All these ways we were thankful of getting a benefactor called Allen Stanford.
‘Today now there is a problem, which has evolved from the lack of administration coming from the West Indies Cricket Board.
‘If he pulls out it means funding will stop and a lot of countries, especially the new ones like Turks and Caicos, Bahamas, Montserrat, Anguilla and, of course, the Cayman Islands have benefited tremendously from the input of the Stanford funding.
‘All these little countries did not previously have a chance also to call on the West Indies legends to assist us in all aspects of cricket. We could get anybody to help us and it was just a phone call away.’
Cayman had several visits from Wes Hall and Joel Garner, Courtney Walsh and Ian Bishop passed on tips on trips to the Smith Road Oval.
‘This man has done tremendous good for West Indies cricket where the Board has not taken a lead role in,’ says Cuffy.
‘Outside of Stanford’s funding, cricket now reaches a wider population.
‘More people are enjoying cricket, including a lot we’ve never seen; fans, little children and everybody wants to be on the Stanford team. What other chance are we going to get to have 11 millionaires?
‘People make remarks like he doesn’t like Test cricket. But Stanford doesn’t have to like Test cricket. For us to get back where we were, we need Test cricket so the programmes have to be set up and our administration has to be right.
‘And we have no leadership on the West Indies Board, that is where the major problem is. They have no proper strategies and they have no funds.’
Cuffy reckons that after paying off $32m debts the Board had around $59m profit from the 2007 World Cup hosted in the West Indies.
Many territories got $750,000 for their cricket development ‘yet there are no covers in Montserrat when you go to play a regional tournament’.
He adds: ‘Where is the money going? Why is the Leewards Association who received the portion from the World Cup, not able to supply the venue for one of our first-class games with the proper covers?
‘Why is Guyana who has won a Stanford tournament and received funding like everybody else and been able to cover 50 different grounds, still complaining that Stanford is owing money to them?
‘The man has pushed so much money into what you are, why are you solely dependent on what Stanford has to give? Trinidad has a problem too.
‘They should all stop complaining, expecting him to come into cricket to hand feed them.
‘The government is bending over backwards in the Cayman Islands to help sport and I’m grateful to them but we must now try to pick sense out of nonsense on the regional level.
‘We are the only Test playing country without an academy.’
Cuffy hopes that Stanford does not pull out completely but would not be shocked if he did.
‘I’m hoping that Stanford does not say that this is the end of his initiative and he realises that he is doing a lot of good in the region.
‘I don’t believe he came into this just to make a profit. He genuinely wants to take West Indies back to the top.
‘We’ve seen certain signs of it happening, however, unless the West Indies Board puts itself together and get the right people working in the right way, we won’t succeed.
‘How can we have a four-day tournament in Guyana and have Sunday as a rest day when we know that it’s the day when everybody’s going to be home and will come to cricket?
‘We have a four-day tournament and can’t see results on the Board website. Who is thinking about these things?
‘And every time you call them you get a recording. Or you get a secretary who is a secretary to someone else. I am one of the angry ones.
‘When the West Indies president (Julian Hunte) said that they are not dependent on Stanford funding he missed the cue completely because we are totally dependent on him.
‘We had KFC as a sponsor, that’s gone, so too Carib Brewery. Who’s left?
‘Sir Allen Stanford has been a blessing in disguise for West Indies cricket. My head says that it is all over and the dream has come to a close. That sponsorship problem with Digicel has left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth and in particular Stanford’s.
‘He had to give in because the West Indies Board went about this in the wrong way.
‘Stanford said after his side beat England: ‘We are back!’ So he was admitting it was the West Indies side. That is how committed he is to the cause. A rose by any name is still a rose.
‘We need to implement the Patterson Report from a few years ago, which I assume, is just gathering dust now in a corner.
‘For example why do we have 14 territories but 18 directors? That’s a waste of money. We need to bring this thing down to a more manageable level. We have had president after president after president but doing the same things all the time.
‘We need to put people in there who really understand cricket and have a strong committee.’
In the meantime, Cuffy is taking a team to Jamaica today for two practice matches in preparation for a tournament in Argentina next week.
Cayman will play Kensington and JDF in Kingston. They return on Sunday then leave for Argentina the following Sunday.
‘I have high hopes for my team. We have the seasoned players like Pearson Best and Steve Gordon and the youngsters like Ramon Sealy and Kervin Ebanks coming through.
‘It has been fairly difficult for the first time to finalise the 14. I do have options now even with many youngsters away at school. It’s a good feeling.
‘I have some high hopes for the players. We’re going to give it our best shot and if we get in the top two in Argentina it means we’ll be in the World Cup qualifiers.
‘Pearson Best is our best batsman and I’m looking for good performances individually and collectively and show them a true Cayman flavour.’