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A THORNY ISSUE: Franchising our cricket

ANDI THORNHILL, [email protected]

A THORNY ISSUE: Franchising our cricket

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First, it was the franchises for T20 cricket. Now, it’s a similar concept for our regional first class season.
?Is this move all about development or is it really about money?
Under the new structure, none of the countries will be represented by all players with the same nationality.
All countries will be entitled to choose 10 of their own players and the other five to make up their 15-man squad will come from a new draft system.
I can tolerate the franchises with T20 because, let’s face it, this form of the game is simply about entertainment and the format is designed in such a way to accommodate it.
Not a problem with that because any attempt to make cricket more spectator friendly in non- traditional jurisdictions should be encouraged but the greatest interest in the sport will continue to remain with the traditional audience for several years to come.
Notwithstanding, either, that Asian investors have fat pockets and their investment in the shortest form of the game will make them fatter and there are also great financial rewards for other stakeholders including players and hemispheric boards.
Credit for the impact of T20 must go to Allen Stanford who was the first to glamourise it and put big bucks in players’ pockets. After his demise, the Indians picked it up and ran with it like a horse out of control. The rest is history and virtually every cricket outpost has a league of their own.
Until now, there wasn’t any talk of having franchises for first class cricket anywhere besides the West Indies.
Why should we be used as the guinea pigs?
Maybe someone decided that West Indies cricket is up for sale and there won’t be much or any resistance to such a plan.
It would seem that we supported the plan to give India, England and Australia autocratic rights in international cricket because it will benefit us financially. It is true that even if we didn’t jump on the bandwagon, the proposal would have been accepted anyhow despite initial concerns from the other lightweights.
So it’s not like if we had a choice!
Our regional first class cricket has been based on the sovereignty of the respective islands and I think the franchise approach will destroy this aspect.
I conceded to this format in T20 because in the overall assessment of a player’s career, this form of play will be at the lowest end in the scales of determining how you should be weighed. When I want to see what a player has achieved, my first inclination would be to review performances in first class and Test cricket.
Consequently, the respective flags the countries play under in regional cricket is sacrosanct. There should be no departure from this particularly when you consider that some of the players in the draft might come from outside the Caribbean.
Once you’re representing a national team, you should qualify by nationality otherwise you are making a mockery of what independence implies.
Even so, why would we think that the new structure will improve our cricket because there’s likely to be an influx of foreign players? If the foreign players aren’t of a high quality (and they certainly aren’t in the CPL) how will their involvement help to improve the standard of the regional game?
We are trying to globalise our cricket even in terms of administration. What does Richard Pybus and Tom Moody know about reorganising West Indies cricket that some of the legends and proven, certified administrators don’t?
Do I smell another rat with Mikey Arthur saying recently he wants to coach the West Indies?
I agree that something has to be done to help the state of domestic play and by extension what we do internationally and the professionalisation of the sport is a step in the right direction with set wages for players and a longer season but we don’t necessarily need an outside influence to accomplish the goals being targeted.
Some of the promising players from the respective territories may not get a chance to play and develop their skills if their national numbers have been cut. This might be a way of losing precocious talent to other sports and probably sports altogether depending on the height of frustration you have to endure.
I think too, it is fair to assume that the marketing of the new first class format is already in full swing and the huge sums to be made from international broadcast rights are being tallied.
Who stands to benefit the most? The franchise investors or West Indies cricket?
Money will not unearth talent, money will help nurture talent that has to be first identified.
I only wish that in this instance we aren’t putting the cart before the horse.
?• Andi Thornhill is an experienced, award-winning sports journalist.
email:[email protected]