The Caribbean Premier League (CPL), the inaugural edition of which is set to begin on July 29, will include six franchises with 90 contracted players in all. Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Sunil Narine, Dwayne Bravo, Darren Sammy and Kieron Pollard have been named 'franchise players'. Each of these icon players will turn out for one of the six teams, which are likely to be from Antigua, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, St Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago.
This was announced by the WICB, alongside Verus International - the Barbados and USA-based company that is funding the Twenty20 league - during a press conference in St James on Tuesday. The CPL agreement between Verus International and the West Indies board stands for a minimum of 20 years. This tournament, the WICB reaffirmed, will replace the existing Caribbean T20 as region's domestic Twenty20 competition.
The financial benefits that the league will offer the players are a big positive, WICB president Julian Hunte said: "The WICB is elated with the agreement, which will allow for regional retainer contracts for a broad pool of players. These contracts will be funded by the CPL to the tune of US$360,000 annually. This significant investment will truly allow for cricketers in the Caribbean to pursue their profession as professionals."
The icon players will not necessarily represent their country in the league. Dirk Hall, managing director of Verus International, said this was to ensure better balance: "The CPL has chosen the top six T20 players in the region based on their stats and performances in this format of the game. Doing it this way ensures that each team is bolstered by a talented, top West Indian player, and that there is balance and fairness across the board on all six teams."
The CPL is also looking to rope in six international 'franchise players', one for each franchise. Every franchise will contract 15 players in all, with a maximum of four overseas signings. Of the regional players, at least six must be from the franchise country (in the case of St Lucia, locals will include players from the Windwards Islands and the in case of Antigua, players from the Leeward Islands) and four must be under-23 players. Apart from the appointed icon players, the rest of the squads will be assembled via a draft system, the working details of which are as yet unknown.
The WICB confirmed that the tournament's schedule has been drawn up so that the dates do not clash with any other West Indies international or domestic tournaments, or the IPL. All contracted players will be under an obligation to turn out for their franchises in the tournament.
The inaugural edition will include 30 group matches, followed by an eliminator and a final. Each of the franchises will play the other five on a home and away basis during the group stage.
The 2014 edition of the CPL is scheduled to be played between July 5 and August 10, while the 2015 tournament will run from June 21 to July 26.