England news June 30, 2014

Sammy surprised by lack of EPL


With his Test career now behind him, Darren Sammy is closer to becoming another of the globe-trotting Twenty20 stars appearing in a league near you. From the World T20, it was off to the IPL and then Glamorgan for the T20 Blast. He is now preparing for the Caribbean Premier League after a couple of matches back in West Indies maroon for the T20s against New Zealand.

He is, therefore, a player whose opinion on the shortest format should carry some weight and he admitted some surprise at the route English cricket has taken with T20 cricket - spreading the competition throughout the season. The move had solid reasoning behind it, to try and boost crowds at a family-friendly time largely on Friday nights, but Sammy cannot quite work out why an English Premier League has not taken off in the country that invented the game-changing format.

"While I have been here a lot of the guys have spoken about it. I just thought England invented T20 and I'd have thought you'd have an England Premier League," he told ESPNcricinfo shortly before returning to the Caribbean. "If you look at the Big Bash, the IPL, and even the CPL they keep on improving

"A tournament like that should be played over a block of time. I'm not an organiser, but as a player that is how I would want it. All the other leagues, they've been able to attract world-class players. But you could sit and talk and come up with loads of different ideas. At the end of the day it's about people buying into what is done in each country."

It is not that English T20 is unable to attract big names - Glenn Maxwell, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Junaid Khan, Kevin Pietersen, Saeed Ajmal, Aaron Finch and Sammy himself are among those involved this season - but they are spread unevenly among the 18 counties, often along the lines of those with deeper pockets than others.

"If you look at the IPL, the prime model I suppose for T20, and look at the performances of the Indian players this year it has been tremendous," Sammy said. "Maybe it's the influence of having all that international experience in the dressing room.

"When you watch someone like a Dale Steyn bowling with the Indian bowlers, the feedback they get is priceless. Indian players look forward to rubbing shoulders with those internationals. And then you have the mentors like VVS Laxman with all their knowledge."

The CPL, where Sammy will captain St Lucia Zouks - who will have Pietersen among their ranks for a period of the tournament - is still in the early days of its evolution, having built on the foundations laid by the now disgraced Allan Stanford. Sammy believes the franchise model in the Caribbean has overcome early skepticism and that the fans now embrace the concept.

"When it was Windward Islands, Barbados, Trinidad and the like, a Barbados versus Trinidad rivalry was always big and it took a while to match that in the CPL," he said. "Change is not always welcome, but I think we've got through that and the response of the fans last year shows they are buying into what franchise cricket is about.

"Fans want to see good, competitive cricket and that's what the CPL provided last year. It has been great to see full houses, every cricketer dreams of playing in front of large numbers."

Sadly, big crowds have not been replicated in the West Indies-New Zealand series as the Test format continues to struggle to bring significant numbers through the gates except for when a few teams with large travelling support - England and, to a lesser extent, Australia - tour the Caribbean.

"All the formats have a part to play," Sammy said, "but T20 - and the CPL - offers the fans a new experience. Hopefully we can build on that and some of them will start watching Test cricket. It's important that West Indies perform well, too, which we haven't done for a while."

West Indies' ambitions to turn around their Test fortunes - Sammy says they are aiming to rise into the top five of the rankings - brought an end to his time as captain then his retirement from the format. However, despite watching his team-mates in the ongoing series against New Zealand, he insisted he has no regrets.

"I wouldn't say it's been odd," he said. "It's a decision I made and I'm moving on. When I spoke to the selectors about the direction the Test team was heading it became clear to me. I was thinking about retiring anyway, I didn't see myself going to South Africa [at the end of the year]. Once I heard about the plans it wasn't difficult for me.

"I've been a big advocate that cricket is not about one person - I understood what they were saying. West Indies cricket comes first."

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • GeoffreysMother on July 1, 2014, 15:24 GMT

    How many overseas 'stars' are in the Big Bash, CPL, South frican or New Zealand t20's? I don't think there are that many. Building a league around the needs of a few itinerant T20 players who would like to earn a lot of cash in a short amount of time doesn't seem that good a plan other than for them. Indeed there was a lot of concern about the Big Bash being an exclusive mid season package in Australia being played at the heart of their international test season.

    I like Harlequin's point though about Premier League players suited to T20 and the issue is perhaps how we access them. - given that their clubs will want them on Saturday!

  • Clifford on July 1, 2014, 12:58 GMT

    The shortness of the available playing time in England is an obstacle to having a exclusive block of time for a T20 tournament. The cricket season is only April to September during which time you have to pack in FC, ODI and T20 not to mention whatever international tours are going on. In the other countries mentioned (India, Aus and WI) there is suitable opportunity to have a T20 tournament in addition to the "regular" cricket season.

  • Owen on July 1, 2014, 10:51 GMT

    @yorkshire - I disagree, I think the relegation battles in the football leagues are just as interesting as the winners, which is what a league structure would add instead of a knock-out tournament. How much interest is paid to the other clubs depends on the fan really. It may get people a bit more interested in their local club as well if, after 3 years for example, Sessay CC were playing in the same league as 'Headingley' who were made up of a number of county players.

    No, definitely don't scrap the FC cricket!! As I said, it would take some careful planning but I don't think it's impossible.

  • Jason on July 1, 2014, 10:37 GMT

    @Harlequin, to be honest very few football league games actually have context, at about half way through the season you know who will be towards the top and who is facing relegation and for fans with no interest in those teams its irrelevant. The only time the average Man Utd fan is interested in the City results is if they are facing relegation or they are in contention for a place at the top.

    Also releasing players from counties for the leagues would be VERY controversial especially when theres a clash with FC cricket or should we just abolish FC cricket to have hit and giggles rubbish.

  • Owen on July 1, 2014, 10:03 GMT

    I think there is too much focus on the superstars and not enough focus on context.

    Personally, what I would love to see happen would be a full nationwide league system put in place, much like the football leagues. From village green clubs all the way to 'franchise' teams, with promotion and relegation, and transfers.

    It would take a bit of planning; agreements between the county team and the T20 club team that a player plays for would need to be looked at carefully because they would be two separate clubs essentially.

    It would give a bit more context to games, and it would also open up the talent pool considerably; T20 blast teams are picked from county players, who were mainly picked for their 4-day abilities rather than T20. I suspect there are many players playing premier-league club cricket who aren't good enough to play FC, but would be handy at a high level in T20.

    That doesn't solve the '4-week block' vs 'just friday nights' issue though!

  • Jason on July 1, 2014, 8:44 GMT

    @Nutcutlet, that's a little harsh, we in the UK have other sports for the not so cognoscente to view, in England as you point out its Football, in Aus its AFL, In New NZ Rugby. In Other regions what other major team sports do they have?

  • rob on July 1, 2014, 4:58 GMT

    @ chechong0114: Any game that relies on the non-playing time entertainment to keep it's crowds is in big, big trouble. That seems to be what you think of cricket but I can't share your bleak outlook for the game. It's good enough on it's own to keep plenty of people entertained. I think the problem with English product is that the format needs tweaking. Sammy is right about it being better if played in a block rather than spread out over the season. It's a short, sharp game and does better in a short, sharp format imo.

    @ Nutcutlet: Very adroitly worded there old mate. I'm completely in agreement as well. It seems you can still buy quite a lot with a few beads and baubles.

  • RICHARD on July 1, 2014, 4:54 GMT

    Why do people become EXPERTS with the running of the cricket game in Other Countries ? if it isn't BROKEN why FIX IT ? leave it be !!!!!! Sammy i SUGGEST you spend time on getting WEST INDIES cricket SORTED OUT !!!!!!!!! This would be a GOOD thing to do for WINDIES in the future as players LIKE Chris Gayle and Darren Sammy need to pitch in and HELP the WICB this is the right thing to do as Players have Benefited GREATLY from the game NOW ITS time TO PAY BACK . The Mentoring is BADLY NEEDED to help the Youngsters get into Cricket, this way WICB can maybe secure a proper Future for the game in the Caribbean.

  • Pete on July 1, 2014, 1:39 GMT

    I always thought he was great Test captain. Really worry about the WI brains trust for not keeping him to build a team around over the next couple of years.

  • John on June 30, 2014, 21:21 GMT

    I'm sure there are pros and cons with whichever way you go.

    Like PaulG , I'm not in favour of the Franchise system which is also unfair on the fans. I mean for example if Hants/Sussex and Kent merged to form a franchise and their home games were played at the Rose Bowl it would be unfair on the Kent/Sussex fans denying them home games unless of course you alternated the venues. One benefit of doing it in a block format - if well scheduled is that you may be able to schedule it so that overseas stars are able to play in it for the duration. Also I wonder if financially it would be more viable as many players are T20 only players so maybe they could pay T20 specialists more if it's crammed into 4 weeks or whatever rather than 3-4 months. One thing Sammy and others have to realise is that cricket isn't as big a sport in England as it is in India. Football,Rugby League,GP and other sports will take priority as far as TV investment goes and you also have the football WC this year

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