Evolution of the Caribbean Premier League
When Nathan McCullum told us recently, “It’s definitely the biggest party in the sport going on,” he was not too far away from the truth.
There is a joy about Calypso cricket, an unbridled joy, unadulterated at its core, like how it should be when it comes to sport.
West Indies has, for so long, been the team that everyone wants to do well. Their cricket is less about method and more about passion, less about strategy and more about exuberance, they play less like a practiced executioner and more like a maverick genius, making their game highly attractive.
The Caribbean Premier League (CPL) was therefore always a great event, coming from the region that supplies a lot of the world’s best Twenty20 freelancers with a World T20 Title in their kitty.
Tournaments always face a severe test when the novelty about them fades away. The CPL started in 2013, long after the world had been introduced to IPL and the Big Bash.
This was its third year and was probably the year when audiences could finally rule it a success or failure, and if it was working or not.
No matter how much the fanfare or the glitz, it is the eventual competition and the level of contests which determine the popularity of any league. The CPL checked that very vital box this year.
“This season is much better than last year as you couldn’t know till the very end as to who will be making it to the semi-finals,” said Andre Russell, pointing out to the fact right until the end it was hard to separate the six teams.
“It is good for the CPL that we are into the last phase and no one has qualified just yet. It is exciting,”Kieron Pollard, skipper of Barbados Tridents had also mentioned, also noting how big crowds came in to support the teams.
It is certainly not a bad sign that three different teams have won the CPL in three years in Jamaica Tallawahs, Barbados Tridents and Trinidad & Tobago Red Steel.
Add to that the fact that Guyana Amazon Warriors finished runners-up in both of the first two editions and that makes it for a reasonably competitive league.
This season though, the competition was a class apart. In a maximum of 20 points, only four points separated the top team and the bottom team.
More importantly, there was no team that was totally out of their depth. The team which finished with the Wooden Spoon, St Kitts and Nevis Patriots had four wins, as many as the semi-final qualifiers Jamaica Tallawahs - who had a worse run-rate than the former and only made it on the basis of one extra point won through a washed-out game.
The team that finished third in the league stage, Trinidad & Tobago Red Steel had to play two play-offs to reach the final,and then beat the table-toppers and direct finalists Barbados Tridents, giving Dwayne Bravo, the skipper and man of the series, bragging rights over his banter-mate at the IPL, Pollard.
What added to the charms of this year’s tournament was the fact that the much trolled, butt of many jokes for his wicket-keeping, Kamran Akmal, was the man of the match in the final after producing a scintillating performance in one of the play-offs as well.
Yes, there is enthusiasm and joy. But, there are problems for the tournament to address as well.
While players like Chris Gayle, Pollard, the Bravo brothers and Sunil Narine will always attract crowds, the tournament didn’t have too many superstars from around the world.
In years to come, that might be an area they would like to address. The party also seemed in trouble with news that Barbados Tridents were making losses, with the CPL organizing committee not happy with the returns.
That is not good news for a team that has lifted the trophy once and ended as runners-up another time.
It wouldn’t be for the first time that a team has been ousted either, considering how St Kitts and Nevis Patriots was created after disbanding Antigua Hawksbills.
Some teams receive backing from their governments while some don’t and that is a pity considering the Tridents are among the most effusive of the teams, finishing top of the league this year.
Whatever direction that may lead to, the CPL’s attraction lies in its Calypso culture with crowds dancing and singing in the isles.
It is in spirit different from the IPL or the Big Bash which are backed by mega-millionaires. What would one give to get those old West Indian legends like Viv Richards and Malcolm Marshall play in a tournament like CPL?
With pitches slowing down and fast bowlers disappearing in droves, the CPL has to find the difficult balance between economics, finances and its very own brand of ‘happy cricket’.
© Cricket World 2015