Packer's second coming
Seventeen island teams competing for a US$1 million first prize. The selection of a Super Team to compete against two still undetermined countries in separate one-off matches for a winner-take-all US$5 million prize in each game. All of that is contained in a US$28 million budget, compiled by Antigua-based Texas billionaire R. Allen Stanford in what the region will soon know as the Stanford 20/20 tournament.
The details of the mega-project were unveiled on Monday at Stanford's Pavilion Restaurant in Antigua, part of the complex that also houses the Sticky Wicket West Indies Hall of Fame. They are all projects of the Texas-born businessman and developer.
The details of Stanford's latest venture were divulged before an audience made up of Caribbean and international media. But speaking on behalf of the Legends-14 of the West Indies' greatest-ever cricketers who will form the Technical Advisory Board for the project-Clive Lloyd summed the whole thing up.
"This is not a tall Texas tale," he said. "As I digested the magnitude of the Stanford multi-million-dollar 20-20 regional cricket tournament over the last 48 hours or so, I must confess that I'm now a true believer."
Lloyd, the West Indies' most successful captain ever and currently an ICC match referee, is joined on the board, to be chaired by former fast bowler Andy Roberts, by a cast that includes the Sirs, Garry Sobers, Everton Weekes, and Vivian Richards, along with Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Richie Richardson, Lance Gibbs, Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose and Ian Bishop.
They will oversee a tournament, which will be the first of its kind in these parts in which all of the islands in the West Indian chain will be involved as separate units - with exception of St Kitts/Nevis.
The tournament is due to be held next August over a five-week period and has been given its blessing, according to Stanford, by the governing West Indies Cricket Board. "Ken [Gordon, WICB president] has assured me that the West Indies Cricket Board will work with us. We are going to work with them to build the best possible athletic product we can in the region."
Stanford said it was time for the private and public sector to "step up to the plate" and commit the necessary financial resources to bring about "some much-needed change in cricket."
Lloyd responded to the Stanford plan by describing it as "Potentially the single greatest private sector investment in cricket since the Kerry Packer revolution 28 years ago."
"Like Kerry Packer," he said, "Allen Stanford has recognised that West Indies cricket at its very best has been undervalued and its greatest ambassadors have long been grossly underpaid. Like Kerry Packer, Allen Stanford is a visionary who is committed to putting his money where his mouth is."
Lloyd, recently unsuccessful in his attempts to become either the new WICB president or the vice-president, noted further about the venture: "Recently, as West Indies cricket has lurched from one crisis to the next, [some] have been prone to say that the regional game is unlike before. I say the patient is indeed ailing, but he is breathing on his own. In his condition, ladies and gentlemen, and precisely at this juncture, this well-conceived Stanford investment initiative, properly administered, is exactly what the doctor has ordered to restore West Indies cricket to its former glory. And coming in 2006, needless to say, it will be essentially preparatory and pivotal for the 2007 Cricket World Cup in the Caribbean."
Having been entrusted with the responsibility, along with his fellow directors, of administering the tournament, Lloyd also gave his new 'boss' this commitment. "We pledge to bring, sir, the very same work ethic, dedication , discipline and astuteness that propelled us as a team to the zenith of international cricket. And be assured, ladies and gentlemen, that in seeing this monumental venture to its fruition, we will demand at all times, high standards, total commitment, and a passion for excellence from every participant in the tournament I can only see good things coming."
Stanford, for his part, was straightforward about his plan. "I view this as the last chance [for West Indies cricket]. That is as blunt as I can put it, the last chance. Politics as they are and bureaucracy as it is, the problems that exist and the confusion that there is we gotta do something."