Cricket in West Indies and it’s increasing fascination with the T20 format will be once again in focus for the next six weeks as the fourth edition of the Caribbean Premier League starting from Wednesday.
Defending champions Trinidad and Tobago will face St Lucia at the Queen’s Park Oval to start the tournament. The franchise was previously known as the Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel and now comes with the branding of Trinbago Knight Riders and it definitely reflects the increasing international appeal of the tournament.
Not only that, the growing attraction to the immensely lucrative Indian market also has some twisted ambition. With Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, owner of two-time IPL champions Kolkata Knight Riders, becoming the controlling stakeholder of the Port-of-Spain-based franchise reflects the trend. The timing of the four home fixture (9pm local time) to catch the morning television audience in India pinpoints the outward-looking strategy of the CPL organisers which used to prefer the West Indian audiences earlier.
In 2013 most of the matches in the three-week inaugural season started at 8pm and attracted the handsome amount of crowds for almost all the matches. Since then there has been a notable change in the approach as midday and afternoon matches were more attractive to television audiences in a larger aspect for the cricket loving markets internationally.
Last year’s international television audience reached a stunning 90 million and the CPL 2016 climbs a step further because six of the preliminary matches will be staged at the internationally-approved Central Broward Regional Stadium in Lauderhill, Florida.
West Indies, New Zealand, and Sri Lanka all have played T20 Internationals there in recent past but this is the first time CPL will step into the US. The format of the game is also an ideal one to capture the interest of the West Indians settled there and Indian sub-continentals who have often complained that they didn’t have the opportunity to see their cricketing heroes first-hand.
Another intriguing aspect which will likely force a detrimental impact on the traditional ICC tournaments is the clashing of the CPL schedule with the West Indies’ home test series.
West Indies will play four Tests against India in July and August with the first two in Antigua and Jamaica likely to feel the impact of cricket fans drawn to their television sets at home rather than to the venues as CPL matches will be played in St Lucia and Florida simultaneously.
Home Test cricket audiences have decreased significantly over the past decade when the West Indies fortunes started to go on a downward trend.