January 26, 2008

Stanford's win-win situation

The second edition of the Caribbean Twenty20 tournament has been a success. More important, it marks the success of a rigorous approach to developing top-drawer cricketers

Stanford's success may just set West Indies cricket on the road to redemption © Stanford 20/20

The emphatic win by Trinidad and Tobago over Jamaica in the final match of the Stanford 20/20 tournament on Sunday night helps underscore the validity of a particular approach towards cricket development.

The entire match lasted 26 overs, with Jamaica succumbing in 16.4 for 91 runs, and Trinidad and Tobago wrapping it up in 9.2 with only one wicket gone.

We are fond of saying that cricket is a game of uncertainty, and more so that Twenty20 is not a real gauge of a team's strength, but there have been patterns enough to see.

On the surface the Jamaica team had the most formidable line-up in the tournament. Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Wavell Hinds, Carlton Baugh, Xavier Marshall, Jerome Taylor and Darren Powell have all played for West Indies, and are quite capable of tearing any team apart. So what made them fall so appallingly in the final?

The night before, after Jamaica had beaten the defending champions, Guyana, Gayle had curiously said that his team was a hard one to captain. He didn't elaborate on the nature of the difficulty, but it wouldn't take much to surmise that team spirit was weak. In striking contrast, Daren Ganga, TT's captain, has said consistently that his team was full of camaraderie, discipline and enthusiasm for the sport. It has been a formula for the successes they have had over the past three or four years in regional cricket.

Ganga's team is not star-studded, but good players adorn it, and they have invested heavily in physical and mental preparation as part of their ongoing programme of training. It's about discipline and composure, said the team manager, Omar Khan, after their victory.

This approach to developing players has become culturally embedded in the TT team - not surprisingly, as captain, Ganga is the firmest supporter of the concept of building thinking cricketers possessed of discipline and a strong work ethic.

It is what underlies Allen Stanford's ProTeam enterprise, which is currently four teams strong, but is projected to have 20 teams within a short time to form a regional professional league. Fully funded by Stanford, the league will feature players who have been contracted and paid to play and train under coaches on a daily basis whether or not a match is looming ahead. It exposes players for the first time to the rigours of daily training with fines for breaches of their code, or for missing targets.

One of the differences in this year's Stanford 20/20 tournament, as compared to the inaugural one in 2006, is improved fielding. Although the early matches were often one-sided affairs, it was possible to discern which of the teams had been out on the field regularly and which had just booted up for the tournament.

Just three years since he tossed his ten-gallon hat onto the cricket pitch, Stanford has accomplished several feats that have eluded the West Indies Cricket Board - and he has magnified that organisation's dinosaur demeanour in the process

Stanford spoke at the closing ceremony about his strategic plan to lift the standard and excitement of West Indies cricket over a period of three or so years. He pointed out that one of the major benefits of the tournament's growing spectator figures was increased interest in the game from youngsters. It is true that the level of hype skilfully created for the tournament was so masterfully done that cricket, albeit Twenty20, has once again become a sexy Caribbean sport.

Just three years since he tossed his ten-gallon hat onto the cricket pitch, Stanford has accomplished several feats that have eluded the West Indies Cricket Board - and he has magnified that organisation's dinosaur demeanour in the process. He has made cricket attractive, lucrative and entertaining as a whole. And by constantly reminding everyone that all cricket decisions are being made by his board of legends, he has also fetched himself credibility, and shown that he is prepared to move with the times but without losing touch with the elements at the heart of the game.

Many still argue that Twenty20 is not cricket and will ruin the traditional form. It is not Test cricket, in the way that champagne is not beer, and everyone has their preferences. What is important is that the millions of dollars that Stanford has been injecting into the "grassroots," as he likes to call it, have been targeted at development programmes that teach cricketing skills in a modern environment.

As Curtly Ambrose pointed out, "When you're in a professional set-up, it simply means you're playing cricket all year, and you will become better cricketers. Twenty20 shouldn't change your ability to play any form of cricket." Ganga's team demonstrated that when you absorb the fundamentals of the game and practise it with intelligence and commitment, victory can be yours at any level. If Stanford succeeds in getting a professional league going within this culture, it won't be long before all West Indians can enjoy champagne again.

Vaneisa Baksh is a freelance journalist based in Trinidad

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sunil on February 29, 2008, 0:21 GMT

    All this T20 nonsense is bullcrap. I hope the corporates and bollywood good-for-nothing's go bankrupt writing cheques to the players for the rest of their contracts (some of the non-descript, no-talent morons) while no spectator shows up. I've heard nothing since Brian Lara signed up for the rebel ICL group. Looks like no one's showing up to these games from the lack of noise. Speaking of Brian Lara, he must feel like the world's biggest loser for signing up with the pathetic ICL, when maybe he could've pocketed $2 million had he waited for IPL to come around.

  • Abdul on February 28, 2008, 0:51 GMT

    You just need to look at the spectators to realize that sexy is back in West Indies cricket. Special mention to the dancing of the spectatress with the one-footed cut-out jeans.

  • Rameez on February 27, 2008, 19:26 GMT

    In reply to Steven500, even if Dave Mohammed is the best spinner in the West Indies, that does not mean that he deserves to be in the test team. As it was evident right throughout the tournament that West Indians all around do not play spin very well, backed up by the fact that the spin bowlers took the most wickets and caused the most problems. I think what is even more highlighted now is that, the West Indies need to take some measures to improve the play of spin in the caribbean and only when that has happened can we properly judge the spin bowlers.

  • abdel on February 27, 2008, 15:51 GMT

    i think that Mr. Stanford has being the greatest thing to happen to cricket in the caribbean for the past 15 years. i think that this can only get better. what would be a nice addition is to have a u-19 20/20 competion next as this would also unearth a few younger talents. i wish also that the west indies cricket board would allow Mr.Stanford a wee bit more room in the west indies. all i can see is that he has the best intrest of cricket at heart.

  • randal on February 27, 2008, 15:06 GMT

    Hats of to T&T in their T20 victory.It goes to show what proper management and coaching does to a team with good work ethic and proper attitude.It also shows that T20 is not only about hitting across the line, but playing good cricket shots ..demonstrated by the T&T batsman....Also i hope the WI selectors open their eyes now and see that a spinner in needed in the team..not for one or two tests..but he must be given a good run just like the fast bowlers have..

  • Baradutt on February 27, 2008, 1:42 GMT

    It is a great tournament and I appreciate the efforts of the Stanford 20/20 organizers. How's it different from the ICL? Does ICC support the Stanford 20/20 like it should as it does the IPL? Why should Shane Bond take the stick while all the West Indian countries stand united to make "unofficial" tourneys which are as exciting (not much publicised globally though) as other "official" tourneys? Why does the ICC / BCCI take double standards when they compare ICL & the Stanford 20/20? Shouldn't they consider this as a competitor to the IPL too? Well, they might say the Stanford 20/20 is not a financial competitor.. is that reason enough to ban Shane Bond? Only time will tell.

  • Tejas on February 26, 2008, 18:56 GMT

    Great stuff! When I see history books and see how much West Indies cricket was filled with great players..I feel ashamed that they do not have that cutting edge factor to them. I can already see that this tournament is giving a lot more talent pool to west indies cricket..and in long run this will be the best thing that happen to WI cricket in long time.

  • Mohamed on February 26, 2008, 17:39 GMT

    Vaniesa Baksh is a bit late on this. Once again Ms. Baksh is propping up Ganga and the T&T team and intelligent, etc. I doubt she would have said the same thing about Guyana and was it not just like her to play down the inaugural tournament which Guyana won.

    Any fair analysis of the finals would have to conclude that maybe - just maybe Jamaica having just played a very tense and emotional match the night before and Trinidad having an additional day's rest may have had an impact on Jamaica's performance. She should have also pointed out that Guyana perhaps had the toughest opponents - Bermuda with their WC experience and Pro Team Antigua and Barbuda. Neither are pushovers. After all, Sir Viv and Andy Roberts hail from Antigua and they do produce a lot of 1st class players.

    What Ms. Baksh should also have pointed out that the WICB top officials are finally on board with Stan 20.20. A positive step indeed. Now, all they have to do is put Sir Allen on the WICB Board.

  • Stefan on February 26, 2008, 16:12 GMT

    I agree that the intrinsic and necessary details of continuous playing are met by the Stanford Programme. It's good to see how simple entrepreneurship beats back the West Indian disease of hegemony that grips many facets of our lives, not just cricket. Inevitably, the programme will produce better, more competitive cricketers. For long term success, this model needs to be applied to the longer versions of the game, of course with due consideration for the peculiarities of each form.

    And its time Dave Mohammed is selected for long term use by the WI team.

  • Steven on February 26, 2008, 13:23 GMT

    I can only hope that after The West Indies selectors have seen Dave Mohammed in action that they will realise that he is the best spinner in the West Indies and pick him for the West Indies Test Team......and I dont mean on the dead Antigua pitch.

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