Cricket's burgeoning fad of three-hour festivities will help West Indies re-emerge as a Test powerhouse? © Stanford 20/20
 

It's risky enough to challenge one West Indian cricket legend. But a whole group of them? Man, that is asking for trouble.

I mean, when you have the likes of Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Everton Weekes and Sir Vivian Richards, among others, batting for you, while Wes Hall, Andy Roberts and Curtly Ambrose, just to name three, are coming off the long run in support of your cause, any form of resistance seems utterly futile.

And whether it's due to the backing of these illustrious names or the phenomenal sums of money being invested in his latest multi-million dollar project, Sir Allen Stanford is winning the battle for hearts and minds with his brand of Twenty20 cricket.

He didn't pioneer it, but the American billionaire, who professes to be passionate about West Indies cricket after two decades living and doing business in Antigua/Barbuda, has certainly taken this newest and most marketable form of the game to another level with the inaugural "20/20 for 20" challenge between his Stanford Superstars and England on November 1.

Let's face it. Who was not taken aback, at least initially, by the announcement that a US$20 million winner-take-all jackpot would be at stake in the first of five such showdowns? It had officials of the England and Wales Cricket Board stumbling over themselves to be seen as most accommodating to the big-spending American when the series was launched at Lord's.

Of course, the West Indies Cricket Board, as dependent as ever on the generosity of some benefactor, had gone for it long before, hook, line and sinker. Then again, those worthy gentlemen are merely a microcosm of the wider Caribbean populace, for the vast majority of us were also dazzled by the bright lights and very big money that Sir Allen was throwing around.

Everything about the Stanford Twenty20 is lavish to the point of unnecessary extravagance, as we saw in the elaborate ring presentation ceremony to Daren Ganga's championship-winning Trinidad and Tobago squad almost two weeks ago. But we were meant to be blown away not only by the glitz and glamour. Those few lingering skeptics were supposed to be won over once and for all by the ringing endorsement of the Stanford philosophy by each and every "Legend".

There they were at the Hyatt in Port-of-Spain, men whose larger-than-life reputations as cricketing icons were earned on the basis of consistent and often heroic excellence over a lengthy period, batting and bowling on the side of Sir Allen, who had already urged us to mark his words last September when he stated emphatically that the West Indies would be back at the top in three years.

Back at the top in what, we asked. Twenty20? Okay, anything is possible in this vupping extravaganza. ODIs? Possibly, for even in the midst of this protracted strife, we won the Champions Trophy in 2004 and were beaten finalists two years later. But Test cricket? No man, you have to be joking. Surely you can't sway us into accepting that cricket's burgeoning fad of three-hour festivities will be the platform for the re-emergence of the West Indies as a powerhouse in the five-day version.

Even if we want to relegate the utterings of Sir Allen to the same level of the other Texan bent on world dominance, the fact is that the Stanford Twenty20 has something that the presidency of George W Bush doesn't: the backing of those of who have walked the walk, men who took on the very best of their own time and emerged with heads held high and reputations permanently etched in glory in the long and colourful history of their profession.


The bright lights and the big money that Allen Stanford is throwing around has dazzled most West Indians © hi-octanecreative.com
 

So is it sacrilege then to question the wisdom of the gathering of Sirs and other cricketing knights of the Stanford table when they all claim that Twenty20 can contribute to our revival in Test cricket?

All I will ask, gentlemen, is how? How, seeing that Test cricket is as much about mental as well as physical fitness, as much about perseverance through long periods of adversity in the belief and the knowledge that the tide can turn on one incisive spell of bowling or one gritty innings? Yes, it's the same basic philosophy of bat versus ball and will in fact result in a sharpening of all the associated physical skills, while demanding of the player greater mental agility because there is less time to lahay over fielding adjustments, bowling changes or shot selection. Still, and this may only be a simplistic, amateurish perspective, there seems a world of difference between the two forms, a world that is dominated by qualities of patience and perseverance, concentration and attrition, qualities that appear alien to the core concepts of Twenty20 as a fast-paced, exciting, entertaining form of the game.

Would a diet of the three-hour version assist the cricketing development of the Under-19 squad that has just returned home with the regional youth limited-over title, despite the loss of six players who were sent home for disciplinary reasons a week earlier?

If the argument is that Test cricket is becoming obsolete and Twenty20 is the wave of the future, then I'm on-side with these West Indian heroes. Reluctantly, but on-side. But that's not what they're saying. They're saying, in unison, that Twenty20 will help to take us back to the top in Tests.

Far be it from me to contradict these great servants of our game, but that rationale just doesn't compute.

Fazeer Mohammed is a writer and broadcaster in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad