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Veteran writer and commentator on Caribbean cricket

TV contracts dictate daytime scheduling of Caribbean matches

Whether day-night Tests will be a success or not is yet to be seen, but it's unlikely that fans in West Indies will ever get to enjoy five-day cricket in the evening

Tony Cozier

July 13, 2014

Comments: 15 | Text size: A | A

Cheerleaders egg on a packed house, Antigua Hawksbills v Guyana Amazon Warriors, Caribbean Premier League 2013, North Sound, August 17, 2013
Last season the CPL attendances were solid since fans could come to games after work. No such luck this season © Getty Images
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It is a strange irony that the timing of international television coverage out of the Caribbean effectively eliminates West Indies from the potential move towards Test cricket under lights at the same time as it obliges the Caribbean Premier League T20 tournament to revert to daytime for all but four of its 31 matches in its second season that got underway on Friday.

It appears that only the t's are to be crossed and the i's dotted for the first night Test, in November 2015 between Australia and New Zealand, either in Adelaide or Hobart. The proposal hasn't met with widespread approval from the players. The Australian Cricketers' Association reported that a survey of its members following the 2014 Sheffield Shield season showed sizeable opposition. Over 90% weren't happy with the pink ball to be used and 51% didn't believe night Tests should be played in the future.

The relevant boards make the decisions and, for both, it is a virtual fait accompli. It is likely to be the game's latest innovation to follow those of Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket, which introduced its own night "Supertests" as far back as 1979, and Lalit Modi's IPL.

The purpose is to reverse the decline in attendances that is causing concern over the survival of the traditional, unadulterated form of the game against its newest, trendiest offshoot, T20.

The theory is that play from 2pm to 9pm will allow the public to take in most of the last two sessions after office hours.

The pink ball has been tested under lights in recent years in first-class matches in the West Indies, Australia, and between English county teams in the Emirates. Australian players are not the only ones wary of it.

Whether the experiment - for that is what it will be - is permanent or not, it won't involve Tests in the Caribbean. The regional cricket centres are far enough to the west of the other cricket-playing countries that live television would be delivered at inhospitable hours. A local 9pm close of play would be 1 or 2 in the morning in England, an hour later in South Africa. Indians would have to watch from 10.30pm to 5.30am the next morning. A 10am-5pm day in the West Indies equates to 2 or 3pm-9 or 10 pm in the UK - ideal scheduling.

It's the reason why West Indies have staged no more than a couple of ODIs under lights and none for a decade. Even matches in the 2007 World Cup and the 2012 World T20 were daylight encounters.

For the recent three Tests against New Zealand, the WICB attempted to boost attendances by appreciably lowering ticket prices. By the time the series got to Barbados for the decider, US$5 was the most expensive.

Here was a contest between evenly matched national teams jostling for positions in the ICC rankings. It featured fascinating fluctuations from one match to the next, one day to the next, one session to the next, before New Zealand secured their 2-1 triumph nearing the end of the final day of the series. Only matches over five days without artificial restrictions can offer such ebb and flow.

 
 
A local 9pm close of play would be 1 or 2 in the morning in England, an hour later in South Africa. Indians would have to watch from 10.30pm to 5.30am the next morning
 

One might think it might have been enough to give a bit of a boost to the public's waning interest. Instead, there were rarely more than a couple of thousand in the stands for the five days at Queen's Park (capacity 22,000), about as many as would once turn out for a club match.

While certain extenuating circumstances existed in this case - the simultaneous attraction of the omnipresent football World Cup, West Indies' dismal recent record, the lack of star players on either side - Tests everywhere, England excepted, have long since failed the "bums-on-seats" test.

The floodlit proposal is the obvious corollary. In a recent column in the Times, the former England captain Mike Atherton reckoned night Tests were "worth a try, surely". Shane Warne, the legendary Australian legspinner, is another who believes it should be given a go.

"No one is suggesting day/night Test cricket should be played in England but imagine a Test match in Bridgetown, Barbados, for example," he wrote. "The last session of play could be played on a warm evening, with light falling quickly, and cheap tickets for the final session could encourage the working man in Bridgetown to pop in for a couple of hours to enjoy something he might not otherwise have a chance to see."

It is an agreeable image, except it won't happen, for the same reason the CPL has had to alter its times.

The staging of its matches - with games starting around the time the temperature went down in the evenings, when fans were free of their nine-to-five jobs - guaranteed sellout crowds at all six venues last year. The lights meshed perfectly with the carnival atmosphere and its slogan, "the biggest party in sport". Calypso rhythms, fireworks and dancing girls were added to the mix, making it a rousing success.

It'll have a different feel over the coming six weeks of the second season. With a new contract with BT Sport television channels in England to be considered, the tournament has made the adjustment. After all, television contracts are the main revenue earners as much for the CPL as for the WICB.

In the circumstances, the CPL launched a regional Twitter petition, "calling on businesses and governments across the region to let employees leave work early to watch the mid-week CPL game in their respective countries". The petition, it stated, "is a rallying cry to cricket fans and party people alike to fight for their right to enjoy the 'biggest party in sport'".

"The biggest party in sport" takes in two new islands in 2014. Buoyed by University of the West Indies (UWI) research that put the CPL's combined impact at US$105.6 million in the countries where it was played in 2013, the Grenada government reportedly paid US$500,000 for the first three matches to be staged at its National Stadium; the St Kitts-Nevis government is said to have spent US$1 million to be able to hold nine matches, including semi-finals and final, at Windsor Park in Basseterre.

They clearly regard it as a worthy investment regardless of the timing of the TV coverage.

Tony Cozier has written about and commentated on cricket in the Caribbean for 50 years

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Posted by Sevarino on (July 17, 2014, 0:40 GMT)

The CPL does not belong to the rest of the world while it is cognizant we would like the world to share and view in our tournament I dont see the IPL & BIG BASH changing their times to please any external country. CPL is our tournament but it seems the organizers have already made some MAJOR FAUX PAUS.

BTW expand the tournament from 6-10 teams (invite a team from the USA market your product properly).

get rid of this neutral venue crap. Home and away matches only, play the final in the country that is in the final after the play offs 1st.

CPL has the potential to better the IPL in entertainment but the organizers dont seem to believe in their own products Tag line THE BIGGEST PARTY IN CRICKET

Posted by Sevarino on (July 17, 2014, 0:26 GMT)

continuation.

Point 4. The times of these matches are ridiculous. 10am, 2 pm starts. This is MADNESS.even at the office we have work to do and on weekend T20 are better watched and attended at night. CPL your tag line is THE BIGGEST PARTY IN CRICKET. utter rubish.

5. The uniforms look rather bland and unimaginative. they lack that Caribbean flavor. the uniforms from last season were 100% better and they still needed some more vibrancy. get the commentators out of those stupid Hawaiian shirts. Even they themselves are subliminally ridiculing them.

6. Better Social media presence with twitter& Facebook Q&A segments

Overall the CPL has turned around and began to walk past the starting line. I do not connect with this years version at all unless some drastic changes take place.

its the CARIBBEAN premier (PEOPLES) league (LEISURE) its about entertaining us the fans of the Caribbean, whilst attracting a global audience

Posted by Sevarino on (July 17, 2014, 0:14 GMT)

Well, Well, Well. CPL is in its 2nd season has already began to fail in typical WI inconsistency style & fashion. let me point out the problems.

1. Poor promotion of the tournament and local teams. The home matches schedule for teams should be visible & heard everywhere & everyday. this is not happening. Hence the disinterest in what is going on with the CPL. Who are the players that are in one of the local teams. Let the fans make a connection with the team.

2. I am from TT the party island. U$ 17 = TT $100 that price is too expensive. Fans can take that same $$$ and watch the match at home with food & drinks. Drop it to $50 TT and you will be in better business. You are not even getting reports of ticket sales because they are doing poorly across the region.

3. The gaps between games is crazy.so there is cricket on Thursday, FRiday then skip to sunday, then on a friday, saturday & Sunday etc. this needs to be explained

Posted by CricketChat on (July 13, 2014, 23:09 GMT)

Sorry Tony. Test cricket will eventually die a slow death going forward. Just the reality of changing fan interests in the longer format. Wouldn't be long before we have bilateral series consisting of a 5 T20 series interspersed with one or two ODIs or tests.

Posted by   on (July 13, 2014, 16:33 GMT)

Last year the CPL crowd was the 'man-of-the-match' for every game and that is why the 2013 tournament was so successful and attractive to everyone. The economics of the television revenue is one thing, but I strongly believe it is because of the atmosphere at the ground 'the biggest party in sport' that generated the interest in the television audience. Who wants to watch something boring on television? Certainly, the crowd in Grenada was disappointing and they are not to be blamed rather it is the timing of the games. Fans in other countries in the Caribbean can't even enjoy the games too because of the timing. I do believe the ratings for CPL will drop mainly because of this. You can't have a party if nobody is there to 'sport'. I think the organizers got it wrong this year. Hope it is corrected next year. CPL is here to stay, so lets really make it 'the biggest party in sports', bring back the crowds and the money will flow from grounds, television, et al..........

Posted by D-Train on (July 13, 2014, 15:35 GMT)

Daytime matches don't work out well in Australia. The day matches go from anytime between 12am and 7.30am. Where as the night matches start at about 9.30/10am.

Posted by   on (July 13, 2014, 15:08 GMT)

Had the decision maker stayed with Eurosport or even sky as opposed to BT sports more of us in the UK would not only watch the games we might just visit a few of the islands with friends and family. I and many I know will not subscribe to BT Sports so will only read about this series. I'll go see as many of Surrey and Kent's remaining fixtures. Holiday in the WI cancelled.

Posted by chechong0114 on (July 13, 2014, 13:23 GMT)

What a sad situation for such a great tornament but as with everything else i believe there is a solution that will make everyone happy and keep this great tornament a winner.

Posted by flickspin on (July 13, 2014, 11:20 GMT)

to put the west indies population into perspective

the are nearly the same population in sydney as their are in the whole carribean

more people attend the boxing day test on day 1 as thier is in the whole population of antigua,dominica,,st kitts and nevis, and st vincent and grenadines

more people attend day 1, day2, day 3 ,day 4,day 5 of the boxing day test than the population of st lucia, Barbados, and grenada

you can fit 160 west indies into the population of india

the west indies box above thier weight, in cricket

my plan for academies on each island for under 15's, under 17's & under 19's is to find the best available talent

my idea for prize money, for the fastest bowler for each academy in each age group is to attract a new generation of fast bowlers

i would have money for the fastest bowler that year, & extra money for the fast bowlers who break the national record & more money for the bowler who breaks west indies record

with in 5 years the west indies would improve

Posted by flickspin on (July 13, 2014, 11:02 GMT)

the west indies need to include nations in the carribean who play cricket but are not up to test standard

countries like cuba, Hispaniola( haiti and dominican republic) bahamas, belize, turks and caicos islands and suriname

i really like the stanford 20/20 comp from years past which did all it could do to help grow the game, every nation had a team and lesser teams played

i would like to see every team play 1 match in each lesser nation to give them a taste of international cricket

jamaica could play 1 game in the bahamas, trinidad could play 1 game in belize, guyana could play 1 game in suriname, and antigua could play 1 game in cuba, this way the game would grow

i would also create the west indies division 2, comprising of cuba, bahamas, Hispaniola(haiti and dominican republic), belize, turks and caicos and suriname, when they improve they can enter the west indies division

this way the west indies has a plan to grow the game, the icc should fund the comp, with all it revenue

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