There are a host of sub-plots to the ICC World Twenty20 Championship that starts at the Guyana National Stadium at Providence on Friday, cricket’s second global event in these parts since the World Cup three years ago.
Some concern the overall organisation, others the players.
For the former, as Sir Viv Richards noted yesterday, it is an opportunity to make amends for what he termed the “disaster” of 2007.
For the latter, it is a showcase to display their power-hitting potential to those who decide on the lucrative contracts dished out in the several domestic Twenty20 leagues that have sprung up of late like productive oil wells.
If Simon Barnes, the influential sports columnist of the London Times, carried his hyperbole a bit far in calling the 2007 World Cup “the worst sporting event in history,” that tournament, the game’s most prestigious and the first staged in the Caribbean, was overshadowed by a succession of setbacks that drew widespread derision.
Some were unexpected and unavoidable but most were caused by overbearing regulations, inflated ticket prices and the tedium of 56 matches spread over six weeks.
Although tournament director Robert Bryan and his staff start with the advantage that Twenty20 has quickly and universally become the most popular version of the game, that each match is over in three-and-a-half hours and that all 41 (men’s and women’s) will be done and dusted in 17 days, they appreciated that something more was required.
They have consequently dealt with some of the factors that diminished the 2007 World Cup.
The price range for tickets has been drastically cut to between US$10 to US$40 for the final (with free entry for all women’s group matches), as against US$20 to US$390 (for the final) three years ago.
Under the catch phrase “Bringing It,” they entreat spectators to come along with their conch shells, their bugles, their horns and the energy and enthusiasm that have always identified West Indian crowds. Stringent rules meant such a mood was generally missing in the World Cup.
Decidedly not so at the two seasons of the regional Stanford 20/20 series in 2006 and 2008 when his small ground in Antigua was packed nightly to its 7,000 capacity.
The similar razzmatazz of the Indian Premier League (IPL), with its huge and frenzied crowds, is obvious even through our television screens. If not quite as commercialised, county and state leagues in England, the birthplace of the phenomenon, and Australia have boomed.
So did the first two such ICC tournaments, in South Africa in 2007 and England last year, which both played to packed grounds.
This is the first Twenty20 competition in the Caribbean since the feds caught up with Stanford and put an end to all of his enterprises. Its success will be judged against those that have preceded it.
The players will see it somewhat differently.
Their obvious priority is to be standing on the presentation platform at Kensington on May 16, under a spray of champagne and confetti and with their captain raising the cup. That is the primary purpose of their participation.
But they will also be conscious of the auction for the next, expanded season of the IPL (whether Lalit Modi is in charge or not) and of the opening up to overseas players in Australia’s Big Bash and England’s equivalent.
A few cameo innings filled with DLF Maximums, a couple of miserly spells and a Kumar Kamal catch or two could well earn some young player a contract that would set him up for life.
Such is the way of the modern game.