WI Legends React to Stanford 20/20
Wed, Oct 5, '05
from MICHELLE McDONALD in Antigua
The invitations were intentionally vague. Only a place and date were revealed and invitees were promised that they would witness the announcement of "a unique event; the first of its kind in Caribbean regional cricket." Like the rock star Tina Turner sings, "never in my wildest dreams" could anything the magnitude of US$28m have been imagined.
The 14 West Indies cricket legends invited by R Allen Stanford to act as ambassadors and motivators for cricketers from 17 nations were also bowled over.
Over the last decade, past greats have been lamenting the fall in the standard of cricket they took to such great heights. And they also continually expressed their disappointment at not being asked to contribute by the West Indies Cricket Board in a meaningful way. Those who were involved were made to feel less than capable seemingly because of the lack of 'qualifications'. But as one former superb batsman said, "why wouldn't I be able to teach somebody how to bat?"
With the Stanford 20/20 Super League, a past era of cricketers gets to influence present day players. They have jumped on board with enthusiasm and vigour, expressing the view that this is what is needed right at this catastrophic period in West Indies cricket.
And perhaps for the first time since they last donned their whites and padded up, they will be treated like rock stars.
Here is what some of the legends had to say about this cash-filled initiative and being asked to be an ambassador. Of course, with such a motley crew gathered, you were bound to get a few laughs.
Sir Everton Weekes
48 Tests, batting average 58.61, 15 centuries, Wisden cricketer of the year 1951
I thought it was a tremendous experience to be present to see how this thing unfolded. I am still slightly in shock to think that so much money is being put into West Indies cricket. It could only, I hope, serve West Indies cricket well. I hope this would also be a great incentive to the young players and also give some help to the West Indies Board.
I think they were looking for people from all the eras. I am from the 40's; we've got some from the 50's, the 60's and the 70's. It would seem that I am the most senior of the lot at the moment! I am honoured to be asked to be one of the people involved.
79 Tests, bowling average 29.09, 309 wickets, Wisden Cricketer of the Year 1972
It's going to give more cricketers exposure. If you've got 16 cricketing countries that are playing, it's not like in the olden days when you had Antigua as a Leewards side and Grenada as a Windwards side. These teams will be on their own. It's a great thing for West Indies cricket. When you look at England, county cricket, look how many cricketers get the exposure. I am delighted that something of this nature is happening.
As a former world record holder and as an off spinner of a certain calibre, I think I could help out in the spin bowling department extremely well. [said tongue in cheek]
43 Tests, bowling average 24.27, 161 wickets
It's an interesting initiative. It's a great initiative. I think it could kick-start a lot of interest from a spectator point of view, at a grassroots level, for young people and across the board and once we get that interest, I think it's up to the WICB to then tap into that and try to capitalize on that interest to get more people playing; get more people watching. And it's entertainment as well and primarily that's what cricket is all about, it's entertainment, not to mention the prize money involved for the cricketers themselves to improve their way of life. So I think all across the board it's a good opportunity. How well it is capitalized on, is left to be seen.
It's a privilege. First of all I don't think there is anything like it in the world and to be asked to be an ambassador, an advisor, to be able to help somewhere along the line when the tournament actually starts, it's an honour, really. And to sit at the table with legends of West Indies cricket is also an opportunity to learn and to be able to put something back and I think in most cases that is what is important.
Sir Vivian Richards
121 Tests, batting average 50.23, 24 centuries, one of five Wisden cricketers of the 20 th century
I think it's a huge incentive in my view, especially someone from the private enterprise coming and putting all that money into, not West Indies cricket itself, but to try and generate the interest that I think we need, especially with what we are going to have here in 2007. I think it will be a platform.
What I am very interested in as well is for all the countries who haven't been part of West Indies cricket in the past, it's a pull, and to use the term Mr Stanford did, it's like a knockout and the winner takes all and this reminds me of it because I am certain for some of these teams, it's an incentive for them to play against the very best and some of the better known islands.
There could be, with the incentives involved, enough work done amongst the teams where you could have some giant killers and this is some of the passion which I think is going to be generated. Just seeing some of the names ? British Virgin Islands, St Kitts & Nevis, St Vincent & the Grenadines ? and all these islands being involved. What we have here, it is an opportunity where everyone gets a chance at that huge, huge prize.
How we could make this even better, in the position as ambassadors would be to highlight this huge incentive because I think judging from the response at the press conference, to me it sends the message that this is one of the hugest things we're going to have happening in the region. So being a part of this as a past player and especially with the situation that West Indies cricket is in at this point, I do believe just the interest, and having all these great individuals ? one of my favourites Sir Everton, and Sir Garry and Clive who would have been my captain ? there is a whole lot of inspirational stuff.
I'm just pleased to be with them and hope that with this incentive the expertise, advice that you can get from this board, that it just may just help to better West Indies cricket and that is my only aim.
110 Tests, batting average 46.67, 19 centuries, Wisden Cricketer of the Year 1971
Like in the Packer era, West Indies cricket at its very best has been undervalued and its players underpaid. Like Packer, Stanford is a visionary, putting money where his mouth is.
As West Indies cricket has lurched from one crisis to the next, our cricket is on life support. I say it is ailing but it is breathing on its own. This investment is just what the doctor ordered.
We will demand high standards, total commitment and passion. With a venture such as this, I can only see good coming from it.
116 Tests, batting average 42.29, 18 centuries
WICB has just launched the Win World Cup Committee. This venture will be the right event leading up to the World Cup. The only thing that I found is wrong about this venture is that it came 10 years too late!
48 Tests, bowling average 26.38, 192 wickets
Mr Stanford could keep his money and let us slip you know. But money is analogous to manure. It is not effective unless it is spread around!