Those who read my columns would recall that I was not a supporter of the big-money match between the Stanford Superstars and a team representing England.
This match which was played last Saturday with twenty million US dollars at stake saw the Superstars comprising of players from the West Indies taking the grand prize.
It was a winner take all match and while the game did not quite live up to its billing due mainly to England not setting a competitive target, at the end the starting eleven that represented the Superstars each came away with one million US dollars for a few hours work, far more than they will earn cumulatively playing for the West Indies.
It is because of the large amount of money that is at stake that I was concerned. I do not envy those players whose lives have now been permanently changed, and who will enjoy a level of financial security that is unprecedented. I am concerned about the effects of this big money on the culture of the game in the West Indies.
I think to a great extent I have been vindicated in my views because the game last Saturday was more about the money than anything else.
The pride of wining was there but made so much sweeter because it was backed by such a phenomenal sum of twenty million United States dollars.
This type of money will change cricket in the West Indies and I firmly believe it will change it for the worse.
I have no doubt that West Indian cricket needed an injection of funds but that level of funding will, I believe, change the nature of cricket with playing for the money becoming more important.
I have seen in the past the prize money for Test matches being under US$10,000. Compare that with the US$20M takings for this one match and you will see how changed the game will become.
I have already heard stories of backbiting in domestic cricket because of the lure of the big money. Can you imagine the sort of competition that will now be involved to get into the Guyana side?
The regional Stanford matches had prize money of US1M. Guyana won the first series and each player came home with millions.
This intensified the competition to get into the side because players know that simply by winning that tournament, they could move to riches overnight.
This led to a great deal of bickering behind the scenes over selection policies. This is to be expected with the stakes being so high.
Fortunately or unfortunately, the regional tournament has been discontinued much to the disappointment of fans but the concerns will still remain since there will be more a greater determination for our cricketers to make it into the West Indies team.
This will place a great deal of unwanted pressure on our national selectors because there are many players knocking on the door of national selection but only so many who can be chosen.
A person not chosen but who feels that he ought to have been chosen is going to feel aggrieved, more especially so since he may feel that his non-selection in the national team denies him a chance to get into the West Indies lineup and thus the possibility of playing for the Superstars next year and the added possibility of winning one million US dollars.
The West Indies Cricket Board and the International Cricket Council has to look at this matter very seriously and consider the wider implication for cricket in the region.
The Guyana Cricket Board has to critically assess the situation and determine how best they will deal with the many challenges that the big money game will pose for local cricket.
The regional one day fifty over competition begins next week in Guyana. I am concerned about some of the grounds where matches will be played because of the limited seating capacity.
I hope that the authorities appreciate that with the heightened interest in cricket occasioned by last weekend’s big match that there will be need to address those grounds whose outfield may be up to the required standards but which lacks adequate seating for spectators.
While also I see a great deal of tournaments which are allowing a fair deal of cricket for our senior players, I also remain deeply concerned about the quality of our pitches.
The pitches in Guyana are flat and thus do not provide the sort of challenge to our batsmen nor do they support our fast bowlers. If cricket in Guyana is going to develop, something needs to be done about the quality of our pitches.
Certainly, with the sort of big buck now on offer for matches, we can do far better by investing some time and resources in ensuring bouncier and livelier pitches which can only lead to an improvement in our local players.
Let us not let the big buck blind us to the things which must be done to improve the level of the game in Guyana and the Caribbean.
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