Montserrat Eyes Stanford 20/20 Title
Wed, Feb 22, '06
For years, the cricketers from the tiny island of Montserrat have had to sit back and watch the Soufriere volcano spill lava and ash all over their playing fields, melting their dreams and the possibility of producing another Jim Allen, the formidable Montserratian batsman who represented the West Indies in the Kerry Packer Cricket World Series in 1978 through 1979.
However, the players have been given a reprieve thanks to Antiguan financier Allen Stanford and his US$280,000 capital investment in Montserrat cricket, and now these same players are poised to be the "wonder" team of the inaugural Stanford 20/20 Cricket Tournament which will take place in Antigua in July.
Reuben Meade, president of the Montserrat Cricket Association (MCA) was in Antigua recently to accept Stanford?s initial drawdown of US$100,000, where he expressed confidence in his team?s performance in the Stanford 20/20 competition. He also noted that one of the highlights of the tournament as far as Montserrat is concerned is the possible return of several players who left in the 1990s when volcanic activities rocked the island.
?Quite a few of our players have gone off to the United Kingdom, having relocated because of the volcano, and we are seeking to bring back a few of them,? said Meade. ?Also several of the players who are likely to represent Montserrat are from other islands across the Caribbean. These guys are working on the reconstruction of the island following the eruption of the volcano. The aim is to put up lights so that when the players come off from work, they can first go home and get some rest, and then come to the ground for training in the night. The lights would allow for training to go on way into the night.?
Meade, Montserrat?s former chief minister, and now head of the opposition explained that the master plan submitted by his board to the Stanford 20/20 committee focused on the next generation of cricketers as well as improvements to the infrastructure such as erecting lights at the lone playing facility.
?We have to thank Mr. Stanford and his team of legends for their assistance at this time when we desperately need it because we only have one ground (Salem) currently and we will have to do a lot of development work there in getting the players ready for the Stanford 20/20,? Meade said. ?The ground is relatively small and is barely able to host first-class matches. The pitch is now lower than the outfield because of the constant eruption of the volcano and we have, while we are training, been able to raise the pitch.
Meade says his association is also looking at developing another ground in the north because every time the volcano erupts, the ashes disrupt the cricket matches. If they are successful in acquiring this ground, some of the funds will be allocated for the development of that facility.
Montserrat has a pool of 50 players from which to choose, forcing the MCA to devise a method of trimming the fat, so to speak. Their solution is to put the players in teams that will play in a tournament in the lead-up to the Stanford 20/20.
?We have two very talented young players in Lionel Baker (fast bowler) and Bryan Stephney (off-spinner),? boasts Meade. ?They have made it to the Leeward Islands ranks and will be at the helm of our team. We also have a number of Under-15s coming up who look promising and exciting, and we are putting a lot of focus on them as these young men will form the future of Montserrat and the Caribbean.?
Indeed the future does look bright for cricket in Montserrat and one person who is among the first to voice his support for, and faith in the volcano-ravaged nation is Sir Vivian Richards, who has adopted Montserrat as one of the countries that he will be working with leading up to the Tournament.
Sir Viv publicly voiced his opinion several times about the possibility of Montserrat winning the US$1 million jackpot during the cricket legends? recent tour of the region to present the remaining 15 countries with their US$100,000 cheques, and bantered back and forth with the other legends as to whose country would be successful in capturing the US$1 million jackpot.
?I believe it (winning the tournament) is achievable. When you are playing a shortened version of this game there isn?t any second and third day to come back and have a good day. If you are down, you are down, and if you are out, you are out. So anything is possible really. I look forward to seeing my two countries, Montserrat and Guyana, in the finals.?
The US$100,000 presented to the MCA is just a drop in the bucket, a small percentage of the whopping US$28 million overall investment that Stanford has committed to grassroots cricket in the Caribbean that includes over US$6 million just to prepare all the participating countries for the Tournament. With all of the cricket boards having received their initial capital development funds, they can now look forward to a monthly stipend of US$15,000 which will go toward the maintenance and upkeep of their facilities and the financial support of their players and coaches.
In addition, each team will soon have access to two nutritionists and four professional athletic trainers who will be hired shortly to travel around the region using their expertise to prepare the teams physically for the Tournament.