Damien O’Donohoe, the chief executive of the Caribbean Premier League, believes there is space in the cricket calendar for the CPL and the new English T20 league, set to start in 2020, to co-exist and eventually benefit each other.
The 2016 CPL was staged from June 29 to August 7, which is likely to be the timeframe the ECB will try to exploit with the new T20 league that is causing much angst in the county game. The ECB is keen to make use of the school summer holidays, which run from mid-July through August, to try to attract a new, younger fan base to the sport.
But the fact that English cricket is only now looking to revamp its domestic T20 competition – and is still three years from having the new venture ready to launch – means other T20 leagues are well ahead in their development. While the ECB has managed to find a way of accommodating the IPL, allowing players who wish to compete to take part in the tournament, and in some cases actively encouraging participation in the Big Bash League, which has no impact on the English summer, the direct competition from the CPL could cause problems.
There may be an indication of the impact during the 2017 English season when the NatWest Blast returns to a block in later summer after three seasons of being played largely on Friday nights from mid-May until late July. In those three years, the CPL has forged its position as an attractive proposition for overseas cricketers. Staging the NatWest Blast at the same time might mean missing out on the West Indian T20 stars – some of the more attractive signings in the game – who will already be in action for their CPL teams.
“It probably will be a similar window but we work quite closely with the ECB and at the end of the day there will be room for both leagues,” O’Donohoe told ESPNcricinfo. “The ECB has their own challenges, and I really wouldn’t envy their job, but they are real professionals who will make it a success. What we’d love in time is that we get the English stars in the CPL and they get some of ours.”
But there is no denying that English cricket is playing catch-up with the format of the game they launched in 2003. “They have much bigger challenges in terms of the politics of the game than anybody else,” O’Donohoe said. “Of course, they created this form so they should be leaders in this space, but they are not. But they have huge plans…so there will be great things to come.”
Of more immediate interest to O’Donohoe is the continued growth of the CPL. He was speaking in London on Thursday when St Lucia Zouks became the last of the six sides to become a privately-owned franchise after its acquisition by Jignesh Pandya, the founder of the Rohan Group of companies, who currently serves as the Chairman of Global Sports Ventures and Royal Sports Club. Global Sports Ventures was recently announced as having signed a $70million deal with USACA.
The CPL staged six matches in the USA during the 2016 season and its plans for expansion in the country are well documented. O’Donohoe hopes that “in the not too distant future” there will be two franchises based in the US. He is also determined, though, that the CPL, which he believes stands second to the IPL among the various T20 leagues, needs to continue to play to its own strengths.
“When we speak to the guys at the Big Bash, which we do on a daily basis, they have a very different idea of what they are trying to do, trying to bring a whole new audience to the game. Some of their games get 80,000 people, which we could never do in the Caribbean, but from an international point of view we have 80 million TV viewers in India, are the first professional league to go into America and have our six franchises sold and hopefully in the not too distant future we can have two franchises in the US.
“Our single-biggest issue with the CPL has always been time zones and when we play our games. We have a huge international audience but if we play games during the day it doesn’t fit with our product, we are a local product and can’t fit it just for an international audience. The great thing about the east coast would be the time zone. Los Angeles would be fantastic so would San Francisco and Silicon Valley. We would love to go there in time, but the east coast will be our focus initially. New York would be No. 1 on our list. But we have a lot of work to do.”