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Haves and have-nots

Tony Cozier

Haves and have-nots

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West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) president Dave Cameron was even more upbeat than usual over the decision at last weekend’s directors’ meeting in Kingston to award the Regional Super50 competition – all of it – to Trinidad and Tobago for the next three years.
It was settled by a commitment from the government, through its Ministry of Tourism, “to play a major role in the execution of the tournament during the three-year period”.
Cameron gave an outline of the event (now with eight teams), to run from January 30 to February 16 next, and presented several reasons for Trinidad and Tobago’s involvement and the impact it would have on West Indies cricket.
Two were that “the Super50 is an attractive product” and that “there is growing confidence in West Indies cricket and the WICB in the way we are managing the game”.
In addition, he said, it would “certainly help to strengthen our regional 50-overs cricket and we expect that will redound to the benefit of the West Indies One-Day International team”.
What Cameron didn’t say, although he would surely have been aware of it, was the potential risk such preference for the WICB’s larger, better off members creates in further marginalizing the smaller ones. It simply widens the gap between the haves and the have-nots.
It is a delicate balance, not simply solved. 
There are more valid grounds for the latest arrangement than the vague claim that it will boost the West Indies’ strength at regional and international level and provide proof the WICB has suddenly been transformed into the epitome of management efficiency.
One is straightforward practicality.
Every match in the four WICB Twenty20 tournaments was televised and shown throughout the Caribbean. So were those in the last year’s Super50, staged exclusively in Guyana. Last season’s semi-finals and final were located in Barbados, even though Barbados had already been knocked out. 
To spread them around would mean the TV production company, along with the teams, hopping, at great expense, from venue to venue with weighty equipment dependent on unreliable air transport.
As the inaugural Caribbean Premier League (CPL) discovered, it was simply costly chaos.
In addition, as the more favoured venue, Trinidad and Tobago possesses the most buoyant economy in the cricketing Caribbean. Potential sponsors are plentiful – but not for events, such as the four-day competition, that extend beyond its boundaries.
The WICB marketing department has run into brick walls trying to coax local companies to put their names to regional tournaments. It should now find it somewhat simpler for the Super50.
All of which does not escape the fact that the smaller territories are missing out.
The WICB stipulation (since last year) that regional matches be staged only on international grounds has already denied places like Nevis, Anguilla, Montserrat and those outside Georgetown (such as Albion in Berbice) and Kingston (Montego Bay) even first class matches.
There are only six CPL franchises. All are based in countries that already stage Tests, ODIs and Twenty20s.  
Nevis has produced six Test players from its 15 000 population, Albion was where Rohan Kanhai, Basil Butcher, Joe Solomon, Roy Fredericks and other stars first appeared. Interest in the game remains high there as in so many other outposts.
Much of the problem lies in the continuing lack of proper facilities. It is the responsibility of the WICB to have them upgraded so that, once again, Nevis, Anguilla, Albion and the like can see their players performing at first class level at home.
Otherwise, we are in danger of going back to the days when the lesser cricketing lights were excluded from the mainstream. And that can’t be good for our cricket.
They are not packed with Twenty20 superstars.
Those they have produced – the mighty hitter Kieron Pollard, the all-rounder Dwayne Bravo and the mesmerizing spinner Sunil Narine – have moved on to lucrative contracts with several franchises on the international circuit.
Pollard and Bravo were with the opposition in their stirring campaign in the latest Champions League. Narine was available only because his Indian Premier League (IPL) team didn’t qualify. On paper, they appear no stronger than most other teams.
Yet, Trinidad and Tobago have a record in cricket’s newest, shortest and most popular version second to none at regional level and, notwithstanding yesterday’s semi-final loss to the Mumbai Indians, better than any outside of India in the annual Champions League.
They have been champions four times out of six in the two separate regional Twenty20 tournaments – Stanford’s in 2008 and the WICB’s in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Although they haven’t repeated in the Champions League, losing to New South Wales in their first of three appearances in 2009, their 10 wins in 15 matches are second only to the Chennai Super Kings’ 11 in 19 matches. They were the only team outside the IPL to make it to the 2013 semi-finals. 
So what is their formula?
For sure, it comes through a combination of basic talent, proper preparation, leadership and self-confidence. But, above all, it seems to me, is the motivation of intense national pride. Call it the “Trini to the bone” attitude, if you will.
The Champions League is the only international cricket tournament in which their identity is singular and clear.
While others flew the standards and wore the colours of the city franchises their cosmopolitan mix of players represented, Trinidad and Tobago were bedecked in the predominant red with black and white trimmings that identify the national flag proudly waved by the dozens who flew to India to support their team which, significantly, is comprised completely of Trinis, and Tobagonians, through and through.
These are powerful factors. No wonder there is a strong body of opinion in Trinidad and Tobago that this will be the last time the “Red Force” will be together as such.
From now on, their representative team is the Trinidad Red Steel, the multinational combination of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL). It can’t be the same.
? Tony Cozier is the most experienced cricket broadcaster and writer in the Caribbean.