Rowley Says CWI Missed The Mark With CPL Deal

(CMC) — Trinidad & Tobago Prime Minister Keith Rowley said the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) Twenty20 tournament was an important sport event on the calendar in the region, and Cricket West Indies (CWI) lacked vision with the deal they signed with the organisers to establish it.

Rowley, the chairman of the Caricom prime ministerial subcommittee on cricket set up to examine all matters related to the development of the sport in the Caribbean, said he did not think CWI got the best deal they could when they signed the initial agreement, but there was nothing that could be done to change it.

“I was never happy with the deal we got because people probably felt that it could not become anything and gave away what we thought we never had,” he said.

“You must have a vision of a better future to protect the future. We did not protect that future. Turns out today, the CPL shows us that there is a potential for us to play like anybody else and participate in what is now the modern cricket business.”

Still, Rowley said, his Government was prepared to invest in staging CPL matches, particularly the highly visible finals, in the two-island republic, and they will pursue that opportunity when it arises again because Guyana now has hosting rights until next year.

“When our administration came in, they approached us and made all kinds of demands of us, but we did not fall to what they were demanding,” he said. “We negotiated and we got three years, same that Guyana got, but before we got those terms remember for one year CPL went to St Kitts…That had to do with what was demanded of T&T.”

“But we can’t just take taxpayers resources and throw it into what is a commercial, private sector enterprise, so we did eventually come to an agreement, and we set the tone in T&T for CPL to become a big event.

“Up to now, the best CPL final was at the Brian Lara Stadium, and if the owners want to get the benefit of the game in the franchise, they will want to play the games in T&T, and there is no reason why the games can’t be rotated around the region as long as the various entities come to a good contracting position.”

Rowley said the support the CPL received from T&T Government was more in kind, rather than in cash, with the organisers benefiting from concessions on stadium fees, policing, and other government services, in addition to a small amount of cash.

He said with the cooperation between the regional governments and the franchise owners, the CPL finals could rotate around the Caribbean unless “someone wants to host it every years and wants to keep paying more and more and more”.

Rowley described the tournament as “a festival season” and he said the greater tragedy for West Indies cricket was if all the players in the Caribbean came straight out of school and their careers in the game was a “CPL career”.

“Because they will discover very soon that franchises will not want you if after two years you produce nothing,” he said.

“On the other hand, if you develop into a genuine talent in the game that can occupy the crease and make runs, and play the four-day and five-day game, West Indies reputation in Test cricket will be restored, and some of the same players will be able to cross over and play in the CPL and franchises.

“If you notice, many of the [foreign] players that come into CPL, they have come from Test cricket, and in their homelands, Test cricket is still very strong.”

Rowley said it was important to develop a nursery for the game in the Caribbean to develop a stream of players that are properly prepared for the international stage and having a wide appreciation of what the game can deliver.

“They must have a commitment to the game, to their country, to their region, even their club, then that feeds into the three forms of the game — the CPL, there’s a place for that; the white-ball, 50 overs game, there’s a place for that; and of course, Test cricket,” he said.

“West Indies must aim to do all three, but to do that, our boys and girls have to be properly prepared at the most junior level, where you take them through careful training and character building because in the days of the older ‘legends’, character was a matter when you grew up at home, but it is no longer so.”

Rowley said he was not as pessimistic as others that West Indies cricket was dead and not worth saving, and he will do his best through the Caricom prime ministerial subcommittee to put a plan for a stronger, brighter future forward.