Sir Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, has given the Limacol Caribbean Premier League his seal of approval after attending the Antigua Hawksbills/Barbados Tridents clash.
The Virgin Group is a founding team sponsor for the Hawksbills and Sir Richard’s presence had a galvanising effect on the team as they overcame the table-topping Tridents in a low-scoring thriller.
“I love this league,” said Branson as he watched the action. “I love the fact it is not stuffy (and) I love the fact that you arrive and there is music playing. People are partying as you only get in the West Indies. The great thing about this cricket is that it is exciting – it is designed to entertain and people want to be entertained.
“Equally there are cricket buffs who want five-day cricket where no-one wins at the end of it and that is very British and that has a place as well, but from a pure entertainment perspective nothing beats this.”
The Hawksbills’ win against the Tridents ripped up the form book and it was a result that gave Branson cause for celebration.
“It is great to be involved with [Sir] Viv [Richards] and his team,” he said. “We always like to be involved with the underdogs and at the moment the Antigua team is the underdog but that means there is only one way to go – which is up.
“We will have to see how they do in this first season but over the next few years, I am sure you will see them competing with the best teams.”
Branson also explained the value of the Virgin Group’s association with the league.
“I think Virgin flies to more destinations (in the Caribbean) than anyone else in Europe and we bring an awful lot of people into the Caribbean and we are very proud of that.
“We are about to put on brand new planes on all our Caribbean routes and that will be happening in the next few months. The Caribbean has been kind to us and hopefully Virgin’s been kind to the Caribbean.”
Hawksbills coach Sir Vivian Richards presented Branson with his own Hawksbill playing shirt but was diplomatic about his chances of making the squad.
“He will have to do some practice and then we will assess it from there,” said Richards, to which Branson replied: “At least he is considering me!”
Richards added: “It has been a great format for the region with the excitement and the different side of things it brings with the music, the entertainment and the spectacle. To have Sir Richard and his company Virgin involved is great. It is great to have heavyweights behind you.”
The Virgin Group is a tournament partner with Virgin Atlantic, the official airline, while Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Media and Virgin Holidays all support the competition. The inaugural Limacol Caribbean Premier League runs until 24 August with the two semi-finals and final taking place in Trinidad.
Among the teams looking to feature in the playoffs are the Guyana Amazon Warriors and Jamaica Tallawahs.
Tallawahs captain and explosive left-handed opener Chris Gayle says they are keen on getting further in the competition.
“The competition is still wide open,” Gayle said. “Playing at home though is always a pressure game because you actually want to please the crowd and do well at home but we will try and keep it simple as much as possible, go out there and do the basic stuff.”
The Tallawahs reeled off three straight wins with victories over Antigua Hawksbills, Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel and St. Lucia Zouks. Their winning streak, achieved on the road, has moved them to six points and put them on the brink of a semi-final spot.
Amazon Warriors had won three of their five games in the competition to also move to six points. They won their first two games – against Red Steel and the Tallawahs – before losing their next two to St. Lucia Zouks and Red Steel.
Guyana captain Ramnaresh Sarwan says they are up for future clashes.
“I think the way we’ve been playing, we’ve been pretty confident,” Sarwan said. “Prior to the last game, we had lost our previous game so we just want to continue to play positive cricket and continue to believe in ourselves and try to achieve the goals that we set ourselves.
“I’ve said from the start of the tournament that I don’t think we have one or two individuals that are match winners. I think our strength is built on all 15 players that we’ve got. I think, fortunately for us, we’ve got quite a few experienced players from abroad as well and a mixture of West Indies players.
“In T20, you just need one or two individuals to play well on that day and we’ve been able to do it a little more consistently than a few other teams, so hopefully we’ll be able to continue that trend and do well as a team.”