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Lawrence Booth: Stanford’s demolition derby

October 15th, 2008 by Lawrence Booth in England, Stanford Twenty20, Twenty20 and tagged , , , , , ,

You know the job of a cricket writer is changing when one of the biggest stories of the past week concerned the presence or otherwise of the word Digicel on the shirts of England’s Stanford crusaders. Forgive the sarcasm of that last noun. But remember this: the Twenty20 match in Antigua on November 1 has so far failed to bring the best out of, well, anyone at all actually.

What has been most striking in the build-up to this car-crash of a cricket game is the gap between appearance and reality almost every time someone opens their mouth to talk about it. Here are a few to mull over before the big day:

1) Sir Allen Stanford’s involvement is not really motivated, as he has claimed, by helping cricket in the Caribbean. Put it like this: he has not become the 239th richest man in the US by being a philanthropist. His business is investing money for the wealthy, so making a name for himself in the UK – where there will be plenty of wealthy people even after the economy has done its worst – by backing a high-profile cricket match will do his brand recognition (apologies) no harm at all.

2) The England and Wales Cricket Board has overstated its commitment to helping West Indies cricket too. You’ve all heard the one about the world game needing a strong West Indian side. Well, England needs a pliable West Indies, one that will feel grateful enough for their involvement in Stanford’s plan for the next five years to vote with them on every issue against the Asian bloc. But then that doesn’t quite sound as noble as helping to prop up an ailing but much-loved cricketing dynasty, does it?

3) Stanford says he decided to get into bed with the ECB because it is the best-organised of all the national boards. So why did he offer the game – for less money, it’s true – to the Indians and South Africans first?

4) England’s players have done the very best to claim that this match, one that will net them $1m a man if they win (£571,850 according to the exchange rate as these words are written), lies somewhere near the bottom of their list of priorities. And I’m a Dutchman.

5) The West Indies side is calling itself the Stanford Superstars. But this must be a relative term. After all, have you ever heard of Lionel Baker, Lennox Cush, Travis Dowlin, Rayad Emrit, Andre Fletcher, Chad Hampson or Lindon James?

6) Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman, said last week that there was a lot of excitement in the Caribbean ahead of the game. Yet an impeccable source who lives in the region and has no vested interest told me just a couple of days earlier that there was “surprisingly little interest”. What’s going on?

7) The pretence all along has been that this match has far more than a nodding acquaintance with what most of us would call sport. Yet the high-court squabble between Digicel and the West Indies Cricket Board knocked that disingenuous notion on the head.

Other than that, I can’t wait to watch it.

Lawrence Booth
writes on cricket for the Guardian. His third book, Cricket, Lovely Cricket? An Addict’s Guide to the World’s Most Exasperating Game is out now published by Yellow Jersey

Posted in England, Stanford Twenty20, Twenty20 | 10 Comments »

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