The Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) is once again upon us and cricket enthusiasts throughout the region and beyond are surely caught up or soon will be in the excitement that the tournament has generated since its inception in 2013. Some cricket purists weaned on traditional Test cricket still scoff at what they term fast food cricket and have dismissed the format. But Twenty20 cricket has captured the imagination of cricket fans across the globe and it is here to stay. We believe the CPL is a gold mine waiting for more excavation and the more gold unearthed, the wider it can be spread and the more persons this part of the globe can benefit.
Presently, the Indian Premier League (IPL) is the world’s greatest and most lucrative Twenty20 tournament. Started in 2008, the brand value of the IPL this year reached BDS$12.6 billion. According to figures produced by the Board of Control for Cricket in India, in 2015 alone the IPL contributed BDS$364 million to India’s GDP. Those are serious numbers and if the upward graph that the IPL has shown since is taken into consideration, then those numbers have significantly increased.
The entire Caribbean region does not boast of a population even close to the 1.4 billion that is the approximate number in India. Millions of Indians have embraced their IPL with a mania that has redounded to the benefit of the sport and their countrymen in that populous country. Their cricket fanaticism has also benefited hundreds of non-Indian cricketers from Afghanistan to Barbados to Nepal. Twenty20 cricket had had an influence on television rights and broadcasting, improved stadia and other ancillary facilities, inclusive of accommodations. In essence, India has become a better place to be Indian with the IPL than without it.
The CPL will never reach the heights of the IPL but if it even gets three to four arms-length away from the IPL, those countries in which the tournament is played and where businesses invest are sure to reap significant rewards down the road. Of course, owners and persons responsible for the massive financial outlay must be at the forefront of the personalities reaping the sweets. Presently, the salary cap for the CPL is about BDS$1.6 million, a country mile away from the BDS$5.4 million which Indian captain Virat Kohli made with the Royal Challengers Bangalore this year. But the CPL numbers are rising and will continue to rise with support from all involved.
The question which organisers of the CPL must obviously address is how to grow the tournament to make it perhaps second only to the IPL. So far, Pete Russell, the chief operating officer of the Hero CPL, has spoken continuously of the potential of the regional tournament and the fact that presently it has not turned the type of profits that it can and should in the future. The tournament has attracted investment from the United States, Australia, India, and England, among others. International television concerns have entered into partnerships with the CPL. And, some regional companies have also come on board. But while companies in India seem to be tripping over each other in long lines to be a part of the IPL, one gets the impression that there is still very much a wait-and-see approach to some of the major regional companies, as though they need further convincing that this is an opportunity not to be trifled with.
We recall in the first year of the tournament there was a reluctance by many companies in their respective islands to invest in this project – Barbados being no exception – but they were still keen to have their presence and/or products loitering within the precincts of the various stadia in the region. That has changed markedly but still not enough. There is a need for more corporate and government involvement in the CPL across the region. Thankfully, there appears to be increasing impetus in this area. Fans can also play their part by their massive attendance at games and by their patronage of products and services provided by sponsors. Packed stadia across the region make for fantastic optics for those putting their monies on the line.
If the growth of the IPL can be used as a gauge, as well as the number of high-quality international cricketers who show an interest in the CPL, our regional tournament should be viewed as one fast food that we should all be seeking to consume and on which to get fully bloated for our mutual sporting and social benefit.