Benjamin speaks out against Stanford

Allen Stanford has a mercurial legacy in West Indies cricket.

For all the short term gains he gave to the sport the fact remains he swindled many out of their money and gave the country of Antigua a black-eye on the world stage.

Many within the region’s cricket fraternity have a tainted view of Stanford. Among them is former WI bowling great Kenneth Benjamin.

‘I have mixed feelings on Allen Stanford,’ Benjamin said. ‘I like what he tried to do with the sport as he had a lot of class in that regard.

‘Otherwise he was a bit arrogant to me and I could not deal with that. Through it all he was just a shrewd businessman looking to make money for himself and he probably got what he deserved also.’

Benjamin, originally from Antigua, was here in Cayman last week alongside current WI stars Chris Gayle and Jerome Taylor.

The trio were here at the behest of Digicel leading coaching clinics geared at Cayman’s youngest and brightest cricket talents.

Benjamin, 42, spent much of his time here coaching the kids at the Smith Road Oval and the John A Cumber primary school field in West Bay.

Benjamin focused on the art of bowling and fielding and passed on many useful pointers to the youth.

In his eyes the clinics were all about getting the kids to learn the skills while having fun.

‘Kids normally don’t have an attention span that is that long. While I’m coaching the game to them, whether in Cayman or elsewhere, I make sure they enjoy what’s going on and they look, listen and learn.

‘Most people don’t know I’ve been doing some work in the community over the years. I’m an U15 coach for the Leeward Islands and I’m president of a sports club at the youth level.

‘Plus I’m a trained instructor with the West Indies Cricket Board and I’ve trained youth coaches.’

It must be noted that Benjamin had a roughly 10 year playing career where he starred in about 26 Tests and 26 One Day Internationals.

The former right arm fast bowler became legendary in the 1993-1994 campaign when he took 22 wickets in a Test series against England.

This reporter was able to catch Benjamin during some of his downtime and ask about the state of his homeland after the mess Stanford put it in.

As Benjamin states the despair and uncertainty Stanford left in Antigua is still being felt today.

‘In Antigua he opened so many businesses and allowed the poor people to see work. Now those jobs are gone and those poor people don’t know what to do with themselves.

‘The WI cricket stars also got hurt in this. They were supposed to get classes that would help them with things like money management but that never happened.’

These days Stanford is in jail in the US awaiting trial for his involvement in a massive Ponzi scheme.

One of the biggest things Stanford did for Caribbean cricket was building the Sticky Wicket cricket grounds in Antigua.

It served as the chief locale for his Stanford 20/20 tournament and was expected to host international matches in the future.

Though Stanford and his resources are gone, Benjamin feels the Sticky Wicket should remain.

‘There is a lot of unease in Antigua about the Sticky Wicket. I’m hoping the government can take it over, over-haul it and keep it going for the benefit of cricket there.

‘It took a lot to maintain it and a huge staff to oversee everything. But it created jobs and a sense of national pride too.

‘I’m not looking at it in the way the politicians do. It’s a first class facility that is quite beautiful and can still hold international cricket in Antigua.’

The demise of Stanford had far-reaching effects in the region. Almost every country felt the lost income by Stanford’s downfall.

Cayman is also caught up in the debacle as this government and the local cricket association no longer have the roughly $10 grand stipend Stanford allotted to cricket here.

Thus Benjamin feels Stanford’s fall from grace will be a lingering dark cloud over the region.

‘The Caribbean public is hurting right now. After the matches came and went they still have massive problems.

‘Poverty in the region hasn’t changed, the 20/20 version of the game took a nose dive and most are unsure if the West Indies Cricket Board will pick it back up.

‘Stanford wasn’t honest with the Caribbean people and the people were too honest with him. I believe if you are dishonest you should be dealt with.

‘When you look back you see where he lulled the Caribbean into a false sense of security.’

Another issue that has sprouted up surrounding the aftermath of Stanford is where 20/20 cricket belongs in the sport’s future.

With West Indies cricket at a seeming all-time low (losing to countries like Bangladesh in Test cricket and seeing its best players refusing to play) the 20/20 game looks to be gone.

Benjamin feels the 20/20 game can survive but must be presented to the young players with great care.

‘Many say 20/20 will develop cricket in the Caribbean but that’s not so. Now most people prefer to see the game in a few hours versus a few days.

‘But great care must be taken in how it’s marketed to the kids. The guys who do well in Test can do well in 20/20 while the reverse is rarely true.

‘Also I don’t feel the 20/20 will create less strain on the players. If anything it adds to the amount of pressure those guys are under to excel.’

Benjamin went on to say the future of 20/20 cricket rests in it being used differently from Stanford.

‘Stanford brought a sort of festival to the Caribbean with his 20/20. Personally I think he used and promoted it in the wrong way.

‘Certainly 20/20 has a purpose but you have to look at how it’s used in other places. In England it’s about making money.

‘Anyone who feels cricket is not sustainable without Stanford has to remember there was cricket here before him.

‘WI cricket was standing on firm ground in the past and it can do so again without him.’