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Cricket News & Views

Riches vanish in the haze

WHEN something seems too good to be true, it usually is. Players in the England and the Middlesex squads might have suspected that to earn thousands and thousands of pounds by showing up for a few 20-over jousts was simply too easy for comfort.

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Now dreams of lucre have been dashed. England, after earning nothing from their pathetic 10-wicket defeat in the Stanford match against the 'All Stars' in Antigua, look like earning less than nothing from Sir Allen Stanford in the future. And Middlesex's chance of big money in the Champions League in India has been postponed until probably October.

Even the Indian Premier League is not yet the cash-cow that the investors had hoped. The heavy initial outlay will take time to recoup in the worsening recession, and the more modest Champions League, an international event, could prove to be the real long-term winner. Stanford failed to sell £10 million worth of broadcasting rights for his England-Caribbean venture and might well pull the plug, even though his desire to help West Indies cricket cannot be doubted.

The England and Wales Cricket Board said they were unaware of reports that the Texan was considering pulling out of the five-year deal, which included pumping money into the English Twenty20 Cup and expanding it with two foreign teams. Even the winner-takes-all Stanford match might be discontinued, which would be a shame for those individuals hoping to pocket about £640,000 in the future as the West Indian victors did in October.

The only evidence so far that the Stanford bubble might burst is the termination of the contracts enjoyed by the eight West Indian 'Legends' for fronting the cricket, including Sir Viv Richards, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh. The Stanford ideal is not doomed, though the cash mountain might have to be shaved down.

To amend a comment by Al Capone -- "you get much further with a kind word and wads of cash than you can with a kind word alone" -- the Stanford affair and the IPL have destabilised international cricket. Capone used a gun, but a wealthy Texan and the Indian Cricket Board have used the same tactic with power.

For example, the persecution of the unofficial Indian Cricket League, who filled a void the Indian authorities initially ignored, has been deplorable, and the promise of significant money has turned the heads of players, leading to the cancellation of Sri Lanka's tour of England next summer.

The black bats used for the Stanford match did not conform to the Laws of Cricket, as interpreted by the custodians MCC; yet the ECB turned a blind eye. This vulgarity was hardly good for 20-over cricket, an excellent vehicle for public interest.

A judge in London prevented Stanford from marginalising the long-suffering West Indies sponsors, Digicel, with an outrageous conjuring trick. The idea that the All Stars was not the West Indies always seemed far-fetched and, indeed, did not pass the scrutiny of the arbitration court. Thank goodness the two warring corporations had the sense not to fritter away their sponsorship money on a High Court battle.

The West Indies Board have been made to look like idiots, not for the first time, and the ECB have been too vulnerable to the Stanford foot in the door sales pitch. The ECB will benefit from a fee of more than £2 million from the Twenty20 game in Antigua, but from now on expectations will have to be tempered with a dollop of scepticism.

Posted by Charlie Randall
17/12/2008 13:35:41

England v Stanford No Stars

THE Texan tycoon Allen Stanford has failed in his attempt to steamroll an existing agreement between the West Indies Cricket Board and Digicel, their main sponsors. A High Court decision in London ruled that the so-called Stanford All Stars is indeed the West Indies team by another name.

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That puts the England match in Antigua in doubt and quite possibly Middlesex's tilt at Trinidad & Tobago, the Caribbean 20-over champions, which forms part of the build-up week.

The West Indies Board will have to withdraw their sanction for the lucrative match against England in Antigua on Nov. 1, which offers £500,000 in prize money to each player on the winning team. What Middlesex will earn out of the week remains to be seen as they prepare to the Champions League in India in December.

The only way the Stanford All Stars can remain as an entity is by selecting non-centrally contracted West Indies players, which would not be an attraction. Digicel demanded sponsorship and branding rights for the match, and a High Court arbitration hearing in London found in their favour.

Digicel are in the process of pumping £11 million into Caribbean cricket and have extended their sponsorship agreement that is due to run out in July next year.

CHARLIE SAYS: When big money hits the road, human problems follow -- such as greed and economy with the truth -- and lawyers wait not far behind. I am with Digicel on this. How dare the West Indies Board mess with them after a fantastic sponsorship deal in 2004 when their money was badly needed. Hopefully Stanford and Digicel can climb on board together before West Indies sponsorship money is diverted from cricket to fight legal battles.

Posted by Charlie
07/10/2008 21:48:58

ECB tap Stanford's millions

SIR Allen Stanford has been as good as his word. England cricket has been coaxed into accepting a Twenty20 international commitment with about £82 million at stake over five years, including an annual four-team tournament in the United Kingdom, always involving England and the West Indies.

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The bottom line for individual players is that each man will receive £550,000 for winning the West Indies versus England games at Sir Allen's ground in Antigua. This is a winner takes all arrangement, something that the ECB opposed and appear to have been mollified somehow. The management share a £550,000 bonanza in the event of victory, and the respective boards receive a substantial donation. The first match is scheduled for Nov 1, Antigua's independence day.

Less will be generated by the Standford-ECB event than by the Indian Premier League, which should benefit the Indian Cricket Board by roughly £800 million over the next few years, but Stanford players will be bigger earners generally if successful. Big names featuring in both circuits, such as Kevin Pietersen, will join the mega bucks brigade. Earnings from cricket alone -- not to forget Test matches -- would probably top £1.5 million a year, with endorsements on top.

Sir Allen said during the launch at Lord's today: "I see the Stanford 20/20 as a fantastic opportunity for current players in the Stanford 20/20 tournament to take a giant leap into the spotlight and gain exposure to top class opposition." He added that the Stanford Twenty 20 would be a "highly anticipated" event. "It's not just because of the prize money, but because of the traditional friendly rivalry that exists between England and the West Indies."

CHARLIE SAYS: This will mean that Stanford players and the ECB can afford to tell the IPL to get stuffed if they want to. The commercial vindictiveness shown by the IPL towards the rival unofficial ICL is a taste of what could happen when power becomes concentrated. The arrogant banning of ICL players from playing in the new Indian-funded world club championship might prove to be illegal.

Posted by Charlie
11/06/2008 18:03:54

Cricket wows Fort Collins

Taken from the West Indies Cricket Board website.

IT IS no surprise that the Stanford 20/20 tournament in Antigua has attracted the attention and interest of cricket enthusiasts everywhere, but many people would be shocked to learn that there is a small town in Colorado that has been introduced to cricket for the very first time and has fallen in love with the sport.

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Fort Collins, Colorado was chosen after extensive research to be an American test market for the Stanford 20/20.  The fact that the residents of the small town are not familiar with cricket made them a perfect case study, and so far their response to the game has been overwhelmingly positive and significant curiosity has been generated.

“I wanted to see if we could get a city in the US that knew nothing about cricket to become cricket crazy,” said Sir Allen Stanford, creator and financier of the Stanford 20/20. “Stanford 20/20 is fast-paced, filled with energy, emotion, colour and excitement from beginning to end so my message to Fort Collins is, 'you just gotta see this!”

In December Stanford 20/20 launched an aggressive £1.7 million marketing campaign around the concept You Gotta See This 20/20 in Fort Collins.  The campaign consisted of local radio, newspaper and television advertisements, including a spot during the coveted Super Bowl time slot, outdoor media such as billboards, bus panels, bus shelter and bench ads, as well as indoor mall banners and panels. 

The Stanford 20/20 marketing agency also engaged a street team comprised mostly of students from Colorado State University to spread the word on campus and around town by walking around wearing mobile computer monitor screens called Adwalkers that showed the You Gotta See This television advertisements and allow members of the public to undergo a cricket trivia test and enter a sweepstakes to win a grand prize of almost £10,000.  Literature was direct mailed to every household, inserted into local newspapers and available at all Stanford hosted events. 

In addition, a customised website was developed and as of Feb 12, it has received thousands of hits to date. “Demographics were a key factor in choosing Fort Collins as our test market,” said Sir Allen of the Fort Collins campaign. “I would like to see the American audience made up of 60 per cent women and children. So my ideal test market is a young, family-oriented community, something that Fort Collins exemplifies.” 

The city having a college was the second most important factor and the cold climate also played a part in the decision, the theory being that city in a cold climate would respond well to a sport being played in the tropics. Ann Arbor, Michigan and Lincoln, Nebraska are other cities that were considered, said Stanford. 

In addition to the advertising campaign, a customised US broadcast feed has been produced by Century TV, the same production company that broadcasts the tournament around the world.  American broadcaster Chris Gann is in Antigua and he hosts a pre-match show that is geared towards explaining the game to the people in Fort Collins.  The show and the matches are aired locally in Fort Collins to the general public at no cost. 

Viewing parties are held for every match at local pubs and bars throughout Fort Collins.  Each venue has a Stanford 20/20 promotional kit which includes full size free-standing player cut-outs, flag garlands representing the countries participating, bats for display, coasters, posters and other paraphernalia.
The viewing parties have proven to be very popular with groups of people coming out each night to watch the matches and ask questions about the game and how it is played. 
Julie Hodge, executive assistant to Sir Allen on site at Fort Collins, said: “The overall response has been very positive, with a regular following being developed and more and more people becoming interested in the game. They are really very enthusiastic about the game, asking lots of questions about how it's played, cheering when fours and sixes are made and screaming when there are dropped catches and wickets. 

“It is appealing to a young crowd as well, and the children are really interested in learning how to play, with some even setting up makeshift wickets in their backyards and streets so they can play, just like you would see in the Caribbean.”

The former West Indies captain Richie Richardson travelled to Fort Collins to train the street team in the fundamentals of cricket, and a Fort Collins Stanford 20/20 ambassador, the former Colorado State University football coach Sonny Lubick, has been retained to advance the Stanford 20/20 cause. “I love sports, and I felt now was the perfect time to learn a new game,” said Lubick.

“Our community has the best sports fans, and the spirited nature of cricket will fit right in here.  I'm looking forward to experiencing the energy and excitement of cricket and the Stanford 20/20 cricket tournament.”

The final numbers have not been crunched yet to determine how successful the extensive advertising and marketing campaign in Fort Collins has been, but initial reports suggest that Sir Allen may have hit upon something big, especially if the emails that are coming in to the website are any indication. “I live in Fort Collins, Colorado, USA,” writes David. “Sir Stanford launched a campaign to bring the 20/20 tournament to local television.  I would just like to say that I could not be more excited.

“I have never watched cricket before, but I am now hooked.  I watch every night, even the replays from previous matches.  The atmosphere in Antigua is absolutely amazing.  I would like to personally thank Sir Allen Stanford.”

“I'm thoroughly enjoying the cricket from the Fort Collins broadcast,” says Joe. “What an incredibly exciting game! I would like to start planning to attend a few matches live for the next tournament. When is the next Stanford 20/20 going to be?”

Posted by charlie
28/02/2008 21:22:28

Trinidad take Stanford's prize

CLEVER left-arm wrist spin by Dave Mohammed proved to be the key to Trinidad & Tobago’s victory in the final of the Stanford 20/20 Cup in Antigua. Success earned the team a share of almost £500,000, a figure dwarfing the English Twenty20 county prize of £42,000.

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Trinidad defeated a disappointing Jamaica by nine wickets after Mohammed’s return of four for 21 had helped bowl them out for only 91 in 16.4 overs at the Stanford Cricket Ground yesterday. This was the inter-island competition’s third year sponsored and organised by Sir Allen Stanford, the American wealth management billionaire, and crowds flocked to see the games.

William Perkins hit 50 off 33 balls in reply as Trinidad cruised to their target with more than 10 overs to spare. It was perhaps an anti-climax for the spectators at Coolidge, including Stanford himself, but that hardly worried the winners when Lendl Simmons swung a delivery from Marlon Samuels over long-on for the winning six.

Samuels conceded 18 runs in his 1.2 overs of off-spin, disappointing enough, but the all-rounder was today suspended from bowling in international cricket by the ICC, pending fresh assessment, after analysis in England showed his bent-arm action exceeded the level of tolerance permitted.

Dr Mark King, member of the ICC panel of human movement specialists at the National Cricket Academy at Loughborough University found that Samuels’ average elbow flexion/extension angle for an off-break delivery was 27 degrees and the elbow flexion/extension angle for his faster delivery was 35 degrees – way over the 15 degree leeway. Samuels’ action was reported during the West Indies tour of South Africa

The Stanford victory enriched the players by a small fortune and benefited the Trinidad & Tobago Cricket Board development programme by £100,000. Jamaica had the stronger side on paper, but reckless batting condemned them to their fate

There were no reports of any batsman hitting the new £25,000 pavilion clock in the three weekend matches at the extensively refurbished ground. The first to do so would have pocketed £50,000 from Stanford. Upgrading work was completed during the past year at a cost of about £2.4 million, including new practice areas and new catering services for the public. An entirely new facility, complete with lights and a player's pavilion, was built to the south west end of the ground.

The project executive Scott Glendinning said: “The original grounds were built for club cricket and only a few hundred spectators, but after the success of the 20/20 competition in 2006 and Sir Allen's decision to make it an annual event, we set about building permanent facilities focusing on improving the quality of the Stanford 20/20 experience for everyone involved.”

During the first tournament in 2006, after heavy rainfall the outfield dried quickly but there were two areas which caused some drainage concern to Andy Roberts, the ground and pitch advisor, and Steve Watt, the landscape architect. These two areas were modified.

With Stanford challenging the world to send a team over to Antigua to compete against the best West Indians for £10 million, the Texan showed he had his teeth into the 20-overs cricket concept.

In yesterday’s final, Shawn Findlay's loose drive produced his second duck in as many days after the semi-final win over Guyana, and Jamaica were 48 for three in the ninth over when Mohammed came into the attack. He quickly removed Chris Gayle, bottom-edging a cut, and had the in-form Danza Hyatt stumped, a dismissal that triggered a collapse.

On Friday Mohammed had excelled in T & T’s five-run semi-final win over Barbados, who needed 14 to win off the last over, bowled by the spinner. Barbados wondered how they managed to lose after Patrick Browne had hit 55 off 55 balls and their captain Dwayne Smith had taken four wickets for nine runs from 2.1 overs.

Jamaica’s semi-final win over last year’s champions Guyana on Saturday was even closer – one run. Guyana made a strong attack on a tough target of 144, and it was Samuels who held his nerve as a bowler when 12 runs were needed off the final over.

The Guyana seamer Lennox Cush became the first bowler to take a hat-trick when he bowled Hyatt for 59, off 47 balls, and had Wavell Hinds and Marshall caught at long-on off the last two deliveries of the innings’ penultimate over.

Stanford 20/20 final, Antigua
Jamaica 91 (16.4 overs; Marlon Samuels 27, Xavier Marshall 20, Dave Mohammed 4-21, Rayad Emrit 3-18)
Trinidad & Tobago 94-1 (9.2 overs; William Perkins 50*, Lendl Simmons 26*)

Posted by charlie
25/02/2008 10:51:32

Samuels action under scrutiny

THE West Indies all-rounder Marlon Samuels is flying to England next weekend for independent analysis of his bowling action after he was reported to the ICC during the recent Test series in South Africa.

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The ICC said the analysis would be performed by Dr Mark King, member of their panel of human movement specialists, at Loughborough. Samuels was reported for a suspected illegal action in respect of his ‘fast’ deliveries by the umpires after the third Test against South Africa in Durban last month.

Within 14 days of the independent analysis completion, the appointed specialist will supply the ICC with a written report advising the outcome of the biomechanical assessment. This will confirm whether the action used by the off-spinner was legal or illegal. Although only his ‘fast’ deliveries have been reported as suspect, the ICC process requires his action generally to be analysed.

The ICC said that if the analysis confirmed that it was his “fast” deliveries only that were illegal, he would be allowed to continue bowling in international cricket without using that delivery. If the action is regarded generally as illegal, further analysis will be performed while he is suspended from bowling.

The regulations for the review of suspected illegal bowling actions: .

CHARLIE SAYS: Seen on television, his action under stress is a poor advert for cricket. The ICC simply had to take action.

Posted by charlie
06/02/2008 16:47:38

Jason Bennett marks his mark

BUOYANT Combined Campuses & Colleges fast bowler Jason Bennett has described his 11-wicket match-winning haul against Barbados as “a tremendous feeling and just amazing” as he cited team work as the key to the upset 24-run victory in the third round of the Carib Beer Cup at Bridgetown last weekend.

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“It is a tremendous feeling because of what I went through before and to come here today in front of this crowd and do it for the CCC team is just amazing,” the 25-year-old Bennett said before adoring fans in front of the pavilion at the Three Ws Oval, Cave Hill, on Sunday following the students’ success inside three days.
“It was a whole team effort basically. The guys believe in themselves. We believe in ourselves and they gave me the confidence to go out there this afternoon and just wrap it up for them.”
One of seven Barbadians in the Colleges team - all of whom play in the island's Division One championship - Bennett grabbed six for 59 and five for 46 for a career-best tally of 11 for 105. It was his second 10-wicket match haul in 21 first class matches, which include eight five-wicket hauls and have brought him 93 wickets at 20.60 runs apiece.
Bennett, whose absence from the Barbados side after the 2005 season has been attributed in some quarters to inconsistent practice and hard work, said he tried to instil as much confidence as possible in his Colleges team-mates, especially after the defending champions were well placed to win the match. The dismissal of the dangerous Dwayne Smith for the top score of 85, leg before wicket by slow medium bowler Kurt Wilkinson, triggered a sensational collapse.

The last seven wickets crashed for 36 runs in 13.1 overs, with Bennett grabbing four including the last - Sulieman Benn, his former Spartan club team-mate, who was leg before wicket after scoring just three in 48 minutes.
“Cricket is a matter of who panics first and I mentioned that to the guys in the dressing room,” Bennett said. “We all had the confidence that we would come out and just put in a 110 per cent effort and we did it from start to finish and that is what gave us the victory here today.”
Bennett also said he thought the Colleges had a role to play in the development of West Indies cricket, despite criticism by some observers that they would be easy victims for the other established teams.
Apart from Bennett and Wilkinson, the other Barbadians in the Colleges team  were captain and batting all-rounder Shirley Clarke, veteran batsman Floyd Reifer, a former West Indies Test batsman, a gifted middle order batsman Nekoli Parris, fast bowler Jamel Noel and utility player Jamal Smith.
Parris and Noel made their first class debut in the second round match against Jamaica in Kingston which Colleges lost by 10 wickets, while six-footer Smith, who bats high in the order, bowls off-spin and can keep wicket probably best among the three disciplines, got his first game at this level against Barbados.
The other members of the side against Barbados were Romel Currency, the experienced Windwards batsman from St Vincent, his opening batting partner Simon Jackson, of Jamaica, wicketkeeper-batsman Chadwick Walton, of Jamaica, and left-arm spinner Kavesh Kantasingh, from Trinidad & Tobago.

CHARLIE SAYS: Barbados were below strength from the West Indies tour of South Africa, but this was still a good effort. Well done, Jason Bennett.


Posted by charlie
22/01/2008 11:06:48

Hector’s debut calamity

THE promising Caribbean batsman Donwell Hector achieved the rare feat of running himself out twice on first class debut as Windward Islands subsided to a nine-wicket defeat against Barbados in their Carib Beer Series match at St Vincent.

Voted the island’s cricketer of the year at the age of 19, and on his home ground Arnos Vale, Hector had reached 19 when his call for a run to mid-off was refused and left him stranded. In the second innings, on 14, he drove a ball straight to cover for a quick single and failed to survive a direct hit from the Barbados substitute fielder Jonathan Carter.

In the same match the Windward Islands captain Deighton Butler drove a ball from left-arm spinner Ryan Hinds that hit Jason Haynes at short leg and lobbed up for a catch by Carter at point. Vasbert Drakes, the Barbados coach, felt his team had played poorly, dropped too many catches and escaped unpunished by a Windwards side who lost focus too often. Barbados did have the luck. This sort of malaise would be only too familiar to supporters of the West Indies Test side.

Posted by charlie
11/01/2008 13:54:43

ICC finger Marlon Samuels

A WHIFF of fixing has been detected, and the ICC anti-corruption section have latched on to Marlon Samuels, who apparently was recorded making a suspicious late night telephone conversation from his hotel in Nagpur early this year before the West Indies’ one-day international against India.

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The ICC have ordered the West Indies Cricket Board to investigate Samuels thoroughly – with the emphasis on ‘thoroughly’ – after Michael Beloff QC reviewed evidence of “inappropriate activity”, including a transcript, from the Indian police.

The conversation allegedly suggested the possibility of ‘micro-fixing’ – the manipulation of a small incident such as a bowling change, which could be the target of betting among a voracious betting public on the subcontinent.

Samuels, an inury-prone World Cup batsman, is one of a large and impoverished Kingston family, a profile that would in theory make him vulnerable to approaches from the gambling fraternity. There were unsubstantiated rumours, not mentioned by the ICC, circulating during the World Cup, especially when he ran out Brian Lara for 18, preventing a glorious sign-off for the great man’s last West Indies innings. Suspicious? Well, batsmen often change their minds about a run, but Lara was very angry indeed with his batting partner at the time.

Samuels was not in the Jamaica team who won their first one-day title since 1999 at the weekend when they defeated holders Trinidad & Tobago by 28 runs in the KFC Cup final in Barbados.

Posted by Charlie Randall
31/10/2007 20:29:45

West Indies hope for the best

THE West Indies have appointed another Australian as their coach and have taken on a new chief executive, this time a man who has courted controversy in the academic world.

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John Dyson, a former Test batsman, who had a stint in charge of Sri Lanka until 2005, becomes coach, replacing David Moore, a third Australian, who took over from Bennett King after the World Cup in April. The new chief executive is Donald Peters, a former president of the College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts of Trinidad and Tobago. He is due to start on Nov 5, replacing Bruce Aanensen, another short-lived appointment.

Dr Peters, from the island of Dominica, has a wide academic and sports background.  He has served as a college president, provost and university vice president in the United States and Bermuda.  He was elected as the youngest general secretary of the Dominica Amateur Sports Association and subsequently was appointed one of the country's representatives on the Windward Islands Cricket Board of Control.

Controversy followed him during his time as vice-president of Bermuda College and most notably when he held a post at Plattsburgh State University in New York, where he resigned in 2002 after making allegations of racism against five members of staff.

The West Indies Board announced they had approved an “innovative leadership and motivational programme” at the High Performance Centre in Barbados for senior West Indies players, and a camp for the team at the same venue prior to the start of the tour of Zimbabwe and South Africa. Security consultants have to still report whether the Zimbabwe leg should take place. Safety, security and “food integrity” issues are to be assessed.

The West Indies Board announced immediate, medium-term and long-term steps for improving the present standard of West Indies Cricket.

Immediate Measures:

1. A significant performance-based evaluation process as part of the new retainer contracts to be agreed with West Indies Players Association.

Medium Term Measures:

2. A review of existing territorial cricket development programmes and the development of a uniform region-wide programme incorporating the best practices regionally and internationally. 
3. Senior team members will be attached to key regional organisations networked as Friends of West Indies Cricket.  This will introduce some of them to the world of work while simultaneously developing their understanding of the challenges facing the Caribbean as well as the positives of regional development.
4. Greater interaction between the Board and players
5. Support for the WICB Academy.
6. An enhanced role of the WICB's cricket committee in this process.

Long Term Measures:

7. Development of a professional environment in which players could better understand and practice their craft.
8. Greater emphasis and programmes from school level in all territories as part of a renewed focus on younger players within a uniform system of leadership and training.

Posted by Charlie Randall
22/10/2007 12:49:13
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