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You Had To Be There To See Trinidad Rise!
by John Aaron
Mar 08, 2008
“West Indian cricket fans are some of the luckiest fans in the world,” so exclaimed a cricket enthusiast in Antigua for the recently concluded Stanford 20/20 multi-million dollar tournament. He was visiting from New York and enjoying the Stanford 20/20 semi-final that featured Guyana and Jamaica.

The atmosphere was electrified with excitement, as the plush billiards-table like top ground, anchored on one end by the elegant Sticky Wicket Restaurant, Bar and Pavilion, the grand stand at another end, and the common-folks’ grassy mounds at the other two ends. In between the blanket-only seating areas were two giant replay screens that kept the fans engaged in every delivery, every appeal, every stroke made by the batsmen at center stage.

The visiting New Yorker was correct – West Indian cricket fans are indeed lucky to have had the opportunity to see some of the Caribbean best current and future star bowlers and batsmen display their talents in a very intimate setting – the Stanford Cricket Stadium. A unique cricketing corner snuggled between the tourist jets and Caribbean commuter aircraft at the Vere C. Bird International Airport, the beautiful sunsets, Atlantic Ocean breezes, beaches, and the flora of the Caribbean isle of Antigua that boasts 365 beaches, one for each day of the year.

The fans are doubly lucky for the generosity of the Texas billionaire Sir Allen Stanford, in providing a much needed morale and financial boost for West Indies cricket. Stanford’s infusion of hard currency excites the average fan as much as it excites the players and cricket boards of the tournament’s participating countries.

With a US$1,000,000.00 first-prize and a US$500,000.00 second-prize, along with a US$100,000.00 Man-of-the-Match and a US$25,000.00 Play-of-the-Day awards, the zeros behind the whole numbers made the fans and players rise in many ways. However, behind the players and the average grown fans were the children who all got excited by the Stanford 20/20 marketing blitz for the month-long series of games played under floodlights at the beautiful facility.

I have never seen six-year old boys and girls so animated by a sport being played by grown-ups four times their age. The excitement sparkled in their eyes as much as the temporary multi-colored tattoos on their arms and cheeks that asked “Who Will Rise?” The Stanford Cricket Stadium was transformed into one big family picnic, complete with top-notch live entertainment. The subliminal message to the children was clearly that you can enjoy the sport, possibly earn a living, and all while representing your particular country.

Sir Allen Stanford has already answered the question asked by his marketing company. In response to “Who Will Rise?” The Texan has already risen to the occasion by pumping an enormous amount of money into a sport that has hit hard times, both financially and socially.

“Who Will Rise?” Trinidad & Tobago answered the question with a resounding “We Will!” nine-wicket victory over a hapless Jamaica XI in the lackluster and disappointing final, following the exciting semi-final featuring Jamaica and Guyana, the previous day.

Trinidad & Tobago behind the mesmerizing spin bowling performance of Dave Mohammed emerged the million-dollar winner in a Final that promised much, but delivered little, on the part of the Jamaicans. According to Sir Everton Weekes, in an invited comment on his departure at the Vere C. Bird International Airport, “…the performance was very poor.” Two words that resonated among the many Caribbean fans and those who had trekked from North America, drawn to the magic that is Stanford 20/20 cricket.

Sir Everton Weekes’ devastating two words “very poor” were obviously directed at the performance of the Jamaica XI led by West Indies Test all-rounder and Captain Chris Gayle, and certainly not T&T’s Dave Mohammed and the exciting young opening batsman William Perkins.

Mohammed’s capturing of four wickets for 21 runs from his allotted four overs, earned him the US$100,000.00 Man-of-the-Match award, but his performance was almost equally matched by Perkins’ unbeaten 50 off of 33 balls, and including seven 4’s and one six. He was aided by Lendl Simmons’ 26 from 18 balls, and including four 4’s and the winning six over long-on to complete the victory.

Clearly Jamaica’s modest total of 91 all out in 16.4 overs was not enough for the disciplined and determined Trinidad & Tobago XI – a team that exhibited gamesmanship and a camaraderie unlike any other team in the tournament.

Trinidad & Tobago would eventually race to 94 for 1 in 9.2 overs and in the process secure the Stanford US$1Million jackpot. Requiring a mere 4.5 runs per over, Trinidad & Tobago had lost wicketkeeper opener Denesh Ramdin early when he edged Jerome Taylor (1-19) and into the very secure gloves of wicketkeeper Carlton Baugh, who took an easy catch at 14 for one.

Ramdin’s departure saw Lendl Simmons joining the explosive William Perkins at the crease, the duo put on an unbeaten 74 run second wicket partnership. They kept the run rate above 10 per over, with Perkins, the former Under-19 graduate of the New York Junior Cricket Development Program and the New Jersey Ashok Patel’s Cricket Academy, aggressively dictating the pace and where the deliveries of the more experienced pacer Daren Powell and spinner Marlon Samuels delivers were dispatched.

It was the red, white and black boys’ second attempt at the top prize, having narrowly lost to Guyana in the inaugural tournament in 2006. In addition to the US$1,000,000.00 first prize, the T&T Cricket Board received US$200, 00.00 for its development program.

After Jamaica’s back was put against the wall at 48 for three in the ninth over, a dramatic collapse saw the star-studded team add only 33 runs for the loss of their remaining seven wickets.

Tournament sponsor Sir Allen Stanford, was clearly disappointed in the performance of Jamaica in the final, by his comments when presenting the runner-up check to Chris Gayle, he said, “Jamaica, I have seen you play better.” However, Trinidad & Tobago had answered the call and had risen to the top in magnificent fashion.

Was it that Trinidad & Tobago won, or Jamaica lost? Well judging from the previous day’s encounter with Guyana, Jamaica was expected to attack T&T with the same venom, pace, and everything including the kitchen sink, as that delivered upon Guyana – none more dramatic than the snapping of Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s off stump in two by Daren Powell.

The performances of Jamaica and Guyana in the one-run deciding semi-final, was dubbed by many as the “real” final, for its excitement and fan approval. It had all the ingredients of a spectacular affair, with Lennox Cush’s historic tournament hat-trick at the epic center of the exhilarating match.

Many argued that a repeat of the 2006 final – Guyana vs. Trinidad & Tobago would have made a more exciting and fitting finale to the tournament, as both teams would have risen to the occasion. However, T&T would not be denied its second chance at the golden ring, adorned with gem-like performances by Mohammed and Perkins, and not unlike the real brilliant gold tournament rings awarded each player of the championship T&T team, with several embedded diamonds and worth over US$5,000.00 each.

Trinidad’s Dave Mohammed was adjudged Man-of-the-Match for his remarkable and mesmerizing 4 for 20 performance, while being ably supported by medium pacer Ryad Emrit, who flirted with a hat-trick, ending up with 3 for 18 off of his allotted four overs.

Dwayne Bravo collected the US$25,000.00 Play-of-the-Day award for his brilliant throw that resulted in the run out of Jamaica’s David Bernard.

The Trinidad & Tobago players along with their management staff of Coach David Williams, Manager Omar Khan, and Fitness Trainer Gerald Garcia must be complimented for the cohesiveness of a well-disciplined squad who were focused on rising to the top, when it mattered most.

The Stanford tournament theme was, “When Night Falls, Cricket Rises!” Well the final curtain came down on the 2008 Stanford 20/20 tournament amidst a wash of scintillating fireworks, with Trinidad & Tobago rising to the top in a dazzling display of stardom.

Words don’t do justice in describing the atmosphere of Stanford 20/20 cricket. It is like none other in the world.

You had to be there to see Trinidad & Tobago rise!
 
More Views by John Aaron
  Stanford 20/20 for 20 - A Super Duper Victory and Beyond
  What now, New York? When winning the toss is not enough.
  You Had To Be There To See Trinidad Rise!
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