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June 30, 2014
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 ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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