Wahlberg helps raise the stakes

A Hollywood star and huge cash prizes are adding glitz to the Caribbean’s biggest cricket event.

Six teams will battle it out for US$800,000 in prizes during the inaugural Limacol Caribbean Premier League Twenty20 Tournament. Among those following the action will be American actor Mark Wahlberg, who has taken an equity interest in the Barbados Tridents team.

“I’m excited to be a part of the league because I know cricket is huge in the Caribbean and a rich part of the region’s heritage,” Wahlberg said. “Sports and entertainment are a powerful combination and the league will appeal to a huge audience worldwide. Thanks to my dear friend Ajmal Khan, who introduced me to Barbados and the league, I am a huge cricket fan now.”

Wahlberg said he was also attracted to the youth development aspect of the league, which benefits the entire community as young men are encouraged to pursue their passions, stay focused and plan for their futures.

Khan, the chairman of Verus International and league founder, said Wahlberg’s involvement will garner more interest worldwide.

“Having Mark involved with the league is quite a coup for us,” Khan said. “He brings a global celebrity appeal, which adds to the party atmosphere and anticipation that is already building in these final days before the tournament begins.

“Having him as an ambassador of the greatest party in sport will indeed draw the attention of current and new cricket fans across the world and we look forward to embracing a whole new generation of cricket fans in the US thanks to Mark.”

League action will take place over the next few weeks in six countries across the Caribbean. Matches, organised in part by Cayman Islands-based company Kelly Holdings, started last week in Barbados and conclude in Trinidad and Tobago on 24 August. Prize money for the 21 preliminary matches totals US$525,000 (US$25,000 per match) and the finals will offer a winning purse worth US$250,000.

Along with the Man of the Match award of US$1,000 per match across the full 24 matches, additional player awards should see the total prize pot exceed US$800,000. For example, official partner El Dorado’s “Catch of the Match” award will go to the player in each of the 24 matches who makes the most thrilling catch.

Virgin, the league’s official airline, will be staging the “Virgin Challenge”, which encourages the players to hit balls high into the sky to try and strike the Virgin red balloon positioned over the stadium for the chance to win a round-the-world trip for two.

In addition, title sponsor Limacol have introduced the Super Six award where US$500 per match – US$12,000 in total – will be given to the player who scores the most sixes in that match.

“It’s all eyes on the Caribbean as the six teams get set to be battle it out and be crowned the winner of the first ever league,” said league CEO Damien O’Donohoe. “While being named the winner of the tournament is a great achievement, we also know that the substantial prize pot plus the fantastic challenges that the sponsors are putting in place will also be a great motivator for the players.

“We are thrilled that Mark has taken an equity interest in one of the teams. He is keen to promote the tournament in any way possible and his fame and influence will definitely raise the tournament’s profile and bring awareness of the game to an audience that traditionally has no connection with cricket. We’re excited to see the many ways in which this partnership will benefit both Mark and the league.

“With the countdown on, we are looking forward to some thrilling clashes as the teams rise to the challenge to try and take home both the bragging rights and the fantastic prize pot.”

Wahlberg’s involvement was ahead of his newest movie, “2 Guns”, which came out on 2 August and also stars Denzel Washington. Wahlberg is known for his starring roles in films such as “Boogie Nights”, “The Departed” and “The Fighter”.