The first few matches of the inaugural Caribbean Premier League have been a spectacular success both in terms of crowd participation and television viewership and could herald a new era in West Indies cricket.
That is the opinion of Theo Cuffy, technical director of Cayman Islands cricket. The former Trinidad and Tobago captain is supporting the Jamaica Tallawahs partly because Trinidadian players are dispersed in several sides although one team is called Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel.
Millions of dollars have been pumped into the Limacol Caribbean Premier League and major sponsors include Digicel. The hope is that this tournament will become as big and generate similar revenues to comparable events in India, England, Australia and South Africa.
For a first attempt, it has certainly started off well. Crowd, player and media response has been positive.
“The Caribbean Premier League has already gone way beyond my expectations,” Cuffy said. “I never expected that kind of crowd participation.
“It just goes to show that by having international stars in addition to our own it can be successful.
“Twenty20 cricket has enormous appeal and we are seeing new crowds, not necessarily purists. The dancing, music and camaraderie adds to the excitement.
“I’m also pleased that the Cayman Islands company Kelly Holding are the media organisers. Congratulations to them.”
The only reservations Cuffy has is that the teams are aligned to countries but players from various nationalities – especially Trinidadians – are spread among many teams.
“I don’t agree with that,” Cuffy said. “That’s one of the only drawbacks.”
Of the newcomers he has been impressed with Nicholas Pooran, who at 17 is the youngest player in the tournament. The wicket-keeper/batsman for Red Steel scored a half century during his CPL debut last week against the Guyana Amazon Warriors, looking as composed and experienced as a player twice his age.
Krishmar Santokie, the 28-year-old Jamaican all-rounder, has also impressed Cuffy. Santokie is playing for the Amazon Warriors. He took 3-20 against Tallawahs last Friday. “I was always wondering why Santokie was voted the best 20/20 player in the Caribbean, but he was not in the West Indies team.
“But he showed that he can bowl four overs and concede only 20 runs. Even if he doesn’t take a wicket that’s okay. You don’t need more than that in this format. He bowls a nice variety of medium pace.
“Pooran shows a natural talent.”
Cuffy likes the fact that Kieron Pollard has performed well as captain of the Barbados Tridents. “Pollard has shown his leadership qualities and I’m now wondering when he is going to show that ability at the highest level.”
Darren Sammy, the West Indies Test and T20 captain, has overcome all the criticism of him getting the skipper’s job in the past couple of years and Cuffy is pleased that he continues to flourish against all adversity as skipper of the St. Lucia Zouks.
“Sammy continues to perform well. He has done a good job and proven that he is a valuable T20 player.”
Red Steel play Tallawahs in Port of Spain, Trinidad on Wednesday which will pit the likes of Chris Gayle against Dwayne and Darren Bravo.
The Zouks play the Tridents in St. Lucia on Thursday.