By Fazeer Mohammed
(Trinidad Express) What a tangled web this second season of the Limacol Caribbean Premier League is becoming.
Anil Roberts is quite obviously on the ball when he asserts that “Trinidad and Tobago” is the name of a sovereign nation, so if the government of that country, after protracted discussions with officials of the LCPL, determines that the name is not to be used to identify a franchise – whatever its structure and composition – based in the country, then that is their right.
But is the Sports Minister fervently beating this drum and therefore presenting himself as defender of national identity and honour so as to divert attention from both the scandal surrounding the LifeSport programme and a one-year-old video clip that has come into the public domain featuring a man saying something about taking two pull, prompting the elite-level swimming coach to declare that neither voodoo nor the People’s National Movement will distract him from his mission? Or is he just being churlish and mean-spirited, given that the governments where the other five franchises are based have not voiced any similar concern?
Last year, even as the fans were filling the grounds and much of the cricket-loving Caribbean public had bought into the hype, the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board was expressing its objection to the name of the country being attached to the Red Steel, noting that the national cricket team of this country already had its own brand, “The Red Force,” which was important to protect as the legitimate national cricket brand given the success enjoyed with a hat-trick of Caribbean T20 titles and global exposure through frequent appearances in the Indian Champions League.
Yet the question was raised immediately: what have the TTCB done to market their brand, even now? Is “Red Force” merchandise available at sporting and other outlets across the country? Or was the objection to the Trinidad and Tobago name just about spite, based on the belief, expressed by quite a few fans and media observers during the inaugural competition, that the LCPL franchise format was all about mashing up T&T’s dominance of regional T20 cricket? Then we have the LCPL CEO Damien O’Donohoe issuing a statement last week in which he is quoted as saying: “The CPL would like to take this opportunity to reiterate that the Red Steel team is not a franchise that is based in Trinidad and Tobago. It is a team selected from the fantastic talent pool across the country.” This is inaccurate on two counts. Firstly, every news release issued by the Caribbean Premier League, from last year to now, states at the bottom: “Caribbean Premier League is a ‘FRANCHISE-BASED’ T20 format cricket tournament that combines two of the most compelling aspects of Caribbean life – dramatic cricket and a vibrant Carnival atmosphere.”
Secondly, the first three in the batting order for yesterday’s match, Kennar Lewis, Kevin O’Brien and Ross Taylor were not drawn from the “fantastic talent pool across the country,” unless we’ve annexed Jamaica, Ireland and New Zealand and forgot to tell anyone about it.
That’s the accuracy part.
Now for the inference element of the release. “The team is not restricted to play its home games in Trinidad and Tobago, and ultimately, any decision on where the team is based is dependent on the commitment and support that the CPL has already enjoyed with other Governments and owners…The fans in Trinidad and Tobago are second to none. They were fantastic supporters of CPL during its first year, and we look forward to bringing more games to Trinidad and Tobago, no matter where the franchise is based.”
So, given that the present Government of Trinidad and Tobago does not appear willing to play ball, does this mean the Red Steel could be based elsewhere from next season? Curiously, throughout yesterday’s match at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, where the team that plays in red, white and black thrashed the hosts Antigua Hawksbills by nine wickets with almost three overs to spare, the television commentators made consistent reference to the “Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel.”
My understanding is that there has been no change to the government’s stance on the matter, so what’s going on here? Then there’s the issue that appears to have seriously impacted on spectator attendance so far in the 2014 tournament— the timing of the matches, which is geared to cater to a more international television audience.
We’ll be experiencing the situation first-hand this week with the side based here (I really don’t know how to refer to them now) taking on the Guyana Amazon Warriors at 8 p.m. on Thursday, the Jamaica Tallawahs at 12 noon on Saturday and the St Lucia Zouks at 4 p.m. on Sunday. TV rights money versus “live” atmosphere. Just another issue for debate at LCPL 2014.