Cricket West Indies’ (CWI) plans to tap into the North American market is gaining greater momentum with the board about to embark on a five-year initiative to push cricket in the United States and Canada.
West Indies are planning to host India in Florida next July, immediately after the 2019 World Cup, as part of a long-term strategy to play a minimum of two T20Is in North America every year until 2022.
“There’s full board support as part of our strategic plan over the next five years to bring regular games into the Americas,” CWI CEO Jonny Grave told ESPNcricinfo during the Caribbean Premier League matches in Florida. “So not always talking about USA, we’re talking about Canada and other parts to try to grow the sport. The whole ICC strategic plan is around growing the game and we’re huge advocates of Associate cricket.
“We want to grow the game. We’re big advocates of playing in the Olympics even though one might argue that’s quite complicated because effectively we’d be playing as the separate sovereign countries of the West Indies – but we don’t have a problem with that.”
Since the USA Cricket Board is yet to be fully ratified, Grave said CWI would seek the ICC’s permission directly to host the matches. They are expected to be prime-time affairs, starting as late as 9 p.m. in Florida in order to accommodate Indian television market, while also ensuring the comfort of the people coming to the stadium. The T20Is between India and West Indies from two years ago were played at 10.30 am under heat that Grave felt was “unbearable”.
“That would be our aim,” Grave said. “Clearly we have to discuss that with sponsors and broadcast partners, but realistically when you’re playing India in the Caribbean you have to play either very late at night or very early in the day. If you’re playing India, the passion of the India fans, they’ll turn up whether you play at 11 a.m. or 9 p.m. at night.”
England are touring the Caribbean from January to March 2019 and sources in Florida suggest they may also play some T20Is at Central Broward stadium. Grave, however, wasn’t very keen on relocating these matches.
“England fans love coming to the Caribbean,” he said. “Even though we have a big England tour of three Test matches, five ODIs and three T20Is, that would be a big decision to take matches out of the region, whereas the traveling India fan is [coming from the USA] and it’s a growing market so it’s less of a risk to our region to have the England games in the Caribbean and the India matches [in Florida].”
India will start their 2019 tour with T20Is at Central Broward Regional Park in Lauderhill, before travelling to the Caribbean to play ODIs and Tests. According to the FTP, New Zealand (2020), South Africa (2020) and Pakistan (2021) are also scheduled to tour the region while India will visit again in 2022. Bangladesh have already come and gone.
The PCB and CWI had tentatively agreed to play T20Is in Florida after the West Indies toured Pakistan this past April, but Grave said finding a window outside the FTP has been difficult. When asked if a tri-series in Florida would be possible involving Pakistan and India, he said that playing that many matches at the same venue could be problematic.
Mid-week games scheduled in Lauderhill have had notoriously poor attendance. When Sri Lanka and New Zealand played the first T20Is on US soil in May 2010, the series, originally scheduled for three games, was reduced to a two-match weekend only affair since only 200 tickets were sold for a fixture on a Thursday. However, Grave indicated that in the future West Indies would be open to playing T20Is against Canada or USA on weekdays as the build-up to matches against Full Member sides on weekends.
Meanwhile, CWI extended an annual invitation for the USA and Canada to play in the Regional Super50 competition, which begins in October, with Grave also hoping the women’s teams from both countries would be open to playing domestic cricket in the West Indies.
“We’re not here to make a fast buck, that’s probably the bottom line,” he said. “This isn’t just about economics. This is a five-year plan and in five years we think we can start to make a difference to support USA and Canada and that’s just the next two best teams in the Americas.
“We want to develop cricket in the whole region, but the next two sides have the ability to break into the 16-team T20 World Cup. Through CPL, playing in our Under-19 tournament, the Super50 and making sure this stadium maintains its status as an international ground can only help USA Cricket. We’ve been pretty vocal and been big advocates about how good the quality of the cricket was in the World Cup Qualifiers and how we need to expand the game and not shrink the game.”
CWI had also played a part in helping Canada run their Global T20 tournament in June and July. (Cricinfo)