CPL

CPL 2021 takeaways: Points to Ponder

By Tony McWatt and Red Perreira October 03, 2021

The 2021 Caribbean Premier League (CPL), the 9th edition of “the biggest party in sports,” reached an exciting conclusion on Wednesday, September 15. After 32 matches had been played for the first time ever at a single venue, St Kitts’ Warner Park, it all came down to the Tournament final. The result of which was a thrilling, last ball three wickets win for the St Kitts Patriots over the St Lucia Kings.

As very keen observers of this year’s CPL having between us watched every single one of its 33 played matches, there were for us several discernible takeaways. The examination of which leaves plenty to ponder over.

First off was St Kitts’ highly laudable hosting of the entire tournament’s thirty-three matches at a single venue, the Warner Park stadium. Kudos of the very highest order are now deservedly due to the Curator and his ground staff, the Tournament Director and indeed everyone who was in any way involved in the hosting of such a very well organized and executed tournament as this year’s CPL was. Hats off also to all concerned for having managed the required Bio Bubble without incident and as well for getting the players and their attending family members in and out of St Kitts safely.

As successful as it was, St Kitts’ single venue CPL 2021 hosting should now fully open the door to the possibilities for other similarly equipped Caribbean territories to host future CPL tournaments. Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, and St Lucia can now be considered as CPL hosts following St Kitts’ conclusive demonstration, that the previously held conception that only countries with dual venues, a la Antigua, Jamaica, and Trinidad & Tobago would be suitable, is now no longer valid!

Regardless of where CPL’s future editions are actually held, there should also be a marked improvement in the tournament’s marketing. Despite the allowance of fully vaccinated fans to attend its matches, this year’s CPL spectator presence at Warner Park was noticeably and dismally low. The validity of CPL’s self-ordained billing as “the biggest party in sports,” becomes highly questionable if its matches are only being viewed by television audiences, albeit in their millions, but not actually by fans in the stands! Furthermore, a massive part of the excitement that is usually associated withT20 cricket is directly derived from the participating players being cheered on by adoring onsite spectators.

It therefore now behoves CPL’s owners to seriously consider the adoption of some far more aggressive and innovative marketing initiatives, as a means of addressing this year’s paucity of spectator attendees. Allowing school-aged children to attend matches free, while offering their accompanying parents half-priced admission tickets is one such innovative practice that should be considered.

Knowledgeable cricket fans are, however, typically only willing to part with their well-earned monies to purchase match tickets, if and when they are confident that doing so will result in their witnessing a relatively high standard of cricket. Unfortunately, the standard of the cricket played at this year’s CPL was disappointingly low.

The tournament’s overall statistics provide irrefutable evidence of the generally poor batting that was far too often on display. Among the top ten batsmen only two, Royston Chase (446) and Evan Lewis (426), scored over 400 runs from ten or more innings batted. No one else managed to score 300 runs in total and six of the top ten batsmen finished with tournament averages of less than 35 runs per innings.

The overall bowling wasn’t that much better either. The tournament-leading wicket hauls of the top three bowlers, Ravi Rampaul (19), Romario Shepherd(18), and Odean Smith (18) were accumulated from either 10, in the case of the former or 11 matches for the other two, at an average of fewer than two wickets per match! Not that impressive at all by even the lowest standards.

Finally, the ground fielding was at times almost amateurish. Some of the catching, particularly during the last two weeks was even worse. Abysmal being the most complimentary description worthy of the numerous rudimentary catches that were spilt!

Far too many of the umpiring decisions were also highly questionable. So much so that the CPL must now seriously consider its adoption of the two reviews per innings that has become standard within other T2o tournaments.

Despite the overall poor quality of cricket played there were, however, some very encouraging performances from a few exciting young, talented Caribbean-born cricketers. As a 26-year-old, Romario Shepherd’s 18 scalps as the tournament’s second-highest wicket-taker was highly encouraging. So too was the 23-year-old Dominic Drakes 16 wickets as a left-arm, impressively quick seamer. Drakes was also the hero of the St Kitts Patriots Championship Final victory, striking a boundary off the very last ball to exceed the three runs that were required for victory!

The 22-year-old Jevan Royal’s 12 wickets with his left-arm spin was yet another encouraging CPL 2021 performance. Among the batters, the 23-year-old Sherfayne Rutherford’s aggregate of 262 runs, including three half-centuries, from 10 innings batted was also impressive.

As the tournament’s 10th Anniversary next year’s 2022 edition will be as fitting an occasion as any for the CPL to now seriously consider increasing the number of its participating franchises from 6 to 8. T20’s marquee Indian Premier League has recently announced its own intended 2022 expansion from 8 to 10 teams, thereby setting a most worthy example for the CPL to follow.

Our suggestion would be for the CPL to explore the possibilities for the participation of franchises based in Florida and Toronto. The expanded 8 team tournament could then be played in two groups of four, with respective preliminary round home and away matches leading to semi-finals between the two top teams from each Group.

The 17 member respective rosters of the newly added Canadian and US franchises could also be comprised of nine local players, five who are Caribbean born and the remaining 3 being internationally based. In addition to providing both Canada and the USA with much-needed international T20 match exposure to a fair number (9) of their own local players, such a format would also allow similar exposure for 10 more West Indian cricketers. It will also most likely result in intense competition among the world’s very best T20 players for the remaining six available international spots.

Both Miami and Toronto are now replete with very rich cricket fanatical South Asian-born residents. Finding suitable and willing Owners for either franchise should not, therefore, be challenging. Neither should be enticing the respective franchises’ fans, likely to be in the thousands from among the resident Caribbean and South Asian communities, to actively support their teams with visits to the Caribbean as attending spectators of their away matches. Needless to say, the ensuing tourism bonanza would be highly beneficial and most welcome to the Caribbean hosting countries of all such matches.

Indeed, plenty for the CPL to ponder as it looks back on its concluded 2021 Season and forwards to 2022!

About The Writers:
Guyana-born, Toronto-based, Tony McWatt now serves as Cricket Canada’s Media Relations Manager. He is the Publisher of both the WI Wickets and Wickets monthly online cricket magazines that are respectively targeted towards the Caribbean and Canadian readers. He is also the only son of former Guyana and West Indies wicket-keeper batsman the late Clifford “Baby Boy” McWatt.

Guyana-born Reds (Perreira) has served as a world-recognized West Indies Cricket Commentator for well over fifty years. Reds made his broadcasting debut during the 1971 West Indies-India Test Series, and has commentated on hundreds of matches since then!

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