Andre Fletcher showed England what he is made of during the Stanford Super Series
West Indies' opener, Andre Fletcher
, has spoken of his lasting gratitude to Allen Stanford, the disgraced former bankroller of West Indian cricket - even though the collapse of Stanford's financial empire has caused Fletcher to lose a significant portion of the US$1million prizemoney that he picked up for his matchwinning role in November's Super Series in Antigua.
Speaking to Cricinfo in the build-up to West Indies' Twenty20 international against England in Trinidad, Fletcher admitted that approximately US$100,000 of his winnings have disappeared after he accepted investment advice from Stanford's people in the wake of the tournament. But nevertheless, he still spoke fondly of the man who changed his life.
"He did a lot for me, and I'm very grateful," said Fletcher. "After all that has happened to him he is still a very good person, because if it wasn't for him, maybe I would not have been as well known as I am now. He did a lot for West Indies cricket, but life still goes on from here. I wish him all the best for whatever is to come, and maybe one day, after all this, he can continue with his tournament."
Never mind the million-dollar match, it was Stanford's regional 20/20 tournament, first contested in 2006, that catapulted Fletcher from virtual obscurity after a string of big-hitting performances for his native Grenada. To date he has played just four ODIs and a solitary Twenty20 international, all against Australia in 2008, but having helped
seal the Stanford Superstars' ten-wicket victory over England with an unbeaten 32 from 31 balls, he is sure to start in Sunday's match at Port-of-Spain.
"I am very happy to get back to the West Indies team, and once I get out there and play, I will do my best," he said. "My form is still there from that game, I've been playing some regional games and scoring heavily. That's not to say there won't be any form of nervousness, but I just have to play my natural game."
England's captain, Andrew Strauss, certainly knows what that natural game involves. He was playing for Middlesex prior to his recall to the ODI squad when Fletcher flogged a brilliant 90 not out from 66 balls in the Superstars' final warm-up fixture. That innings left him in the perfect frame of mind for when, two days later, he and his captain Chris Gayle strode out needing a meagre 100 for victory, and wrapped up the match with a stunning 44 balls to spare
"It was a very great feeling, knowing that whoever won would get a million, and whoever lost would get nothing," he recalled. "We knew the total was not a lot, so Chris and I said we would play our natural game, and that's what we did. We went out there to do our best, and if we did our best the money would come. We were not focusing much on the money, just on cricket how it should be played. Looking at the crowd, there was a little form of anxiety, but we got over it and delivered."
Gayle, unfortunately, will play no part in Sunday's Twenty20 after tearing his hamstring during his century in last week's fifth Test, but Fletcher insists he will feel no added pressure in his captain's absence. "I helped in the team victory, and Chris and Darren Sammy played a big part also, but just knowing that I helped bring the team home brings a lot of confidence in me," he said. "It's hard to have Chris out of the team, but that'll be no form of setback. We still have a fairly strong team, Dwayne Bravo is back, and we're just waiting for the day to arrive."
Fletcher believes he will actively thrive on the atmosphere at Port-of-Spain on Sunday. "From the start of the Stanford tournament in 2006 there were big crowds, and I'm the type of player who actually performs better with big crowds, not little crowds," he said. "There won't be any added pressure on me to go and bat when a game like this is on show, I'm just looking forward to delivering my goods. There may not be a million dollars at stake this time, but once we win it will feel like a million dollars!"
Despite his stratospheric rise in Twenty20 cricket, Fletcher does not see his future exclusively in the shortest form of the game. He has been a regular fixture in the Windwards Islands' regional four-day campaign this season, scoring three fifties in six matches, and he has his sights set on becoming Grenada's fourth Test cricketer, after Junior Murray, Rawl Lewis and his current team-mate, Devon Smith.
"I am very happy knowing that our guys won the Wisden Trophy, and coming into the squad I can see those guys are really happy, and so I just have to come in and gel with them, and show my confidence," he said. "Just to be in the Twenty20 team now is a great feeling, but I have what it takes to be on the Test team also. I am doing well in the longer version, and the people back home are behind me, so hopefully they'll one day give me a call so I can prove myself."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo