England and Australia in the frame February 25, 2008

Stanford offers $20 million winner-takes-all pot

Cricinfo staff

Money talks; Allen Stanford and friend © Stanford 20/20
As the second staging of his Stanford 20/20 finished, Allen Stanford, the Antiguan-based Texas billionaire, has again put his money where his mouth is in a bid to stage a winner-takes-all US$20 million showdown. His targets this time are England and Australia.

In 2006 he offered South Africa a US$5 million prize to play a Stanford all-star side but the West Indies board blocked the move, although Stanford and the WICB now have an altogether cosier relationship. A similar US$10 million offer last September for his all-stars side to play the winners of the ICC World Twenty20 was declined by India, something that clearly left Stanford unimpressed.

"They said, 'no, we don't want to do that because it would be endorsing a privately funded programme'," he said. "And look what they've done. They've set up their own privately funded programme. This is all about business, and it's big time business."

While the India board's financial clout has meant it can do pretty much as it pleases, Stanford is one of the few people with the bucks and resolve, if not the influence inside the game, to fight fire with fire.

His latest move - entitled $20 million for Twenty20 - is simple. "It's what I call the OK Corral," Stanford said. "Anytime, anyplace, you come to our field and play one game ... you get England or Australia to come down and play our little eight or nine million population collective group of islands, let me take our best players from those islands and play you right here for $20million and we will see who wins."

When questioned about the detail, he admitted that he had not approached the England or Australia boards, but was clearly a believer that cash would win out. "Let's put it this way," he said. "If enough players in Australia or England know they can spend a couple of days here, and probably in their minds think they're going to win and walk away each with millions of dollars, then I think it will happen."

As for West Indies cricket, Stanford's American roots were to the fore when asked about the state of the game in the Caribbean. "I extrapolate that two or three years in the future we are going to kick anyone's rear end at cricket ... Twenty20 cricket, that is."