COOLIDGE, Antigua – For one sensational week, the Stanford Super Series captured the imagination of the globe.
The historic event was a phenomenal success, showcasing the richest team prize for a single sporting match, extraordinary cricket talent, Caribbean culture and the uniqueness of the popular Stanford Cricket Ground.
It all culminated on a memorable Saturday night when the Stanford Superstars stunningly rolled over England to collect US$20 million, an unprecedented pay prize in any sports contest.
As amazing scenes unfolded, they were watched by a capacity crowd at the ground and millions of television viewers taking in the action on the major networks, including ESPN in the United States, Sky Sports in the United Kingdom, TEN Sports in India and Supersport in Sub-Sahara Africa.
The Stanford 20/20 for 20 match between the Stanford Superstars and England turned out to be a huge no-contest.
Ranked at No. 3 in the International Cricket Council’s ratings for One-Day Internationals, England were sent packing for a modest total of 99 and soundly trashed by ten wickets against a superbly prepared Stanford Superstars.
The outcome of the match will dramatically change the lives of the players. More significantly, it hinted to the world that this could be the first sign of the rebirth of Caribbean cricket, which was the goal of Sir Allen Stanford when he conceptualised the Stanford 20/20 tournament in 2005.
“Our cricket in the Caribbean is back. We will beat anybody in the world with this team,” Sir Allen said before handing over the winning cheque to the Stanford Superstars.
“Three years ago we started an experiment to get young kids who were going elsewhere – American basketball, soccer – back into cricket and to reward the best players in the Caribbean for their professional skills.
“We’re doing it. The results are here tonight. We are back. We’re going take the world again and this programme is working.”
Further evidence that the programme is bearing fruit was provided when 2008 Stanford 20/20 champions Trinidad and Tobago defeated English Twenty20 Cup winners Middlesex to lift the Champions Cup on the third night of the Stanford Super Series. The men from the Land of the Hummingbird also took England to the wire before losing by one run.
The crowning glory, however, was on the final night of the series. November 1, 2008 will long be remembered by the 17 Stanford Superstars.
It was the night that the 11 players on the field each carried home US$1 million and the six reserves pocketed US$1 million to divide among them.
Darren Sammy probably echoed the sentiments of his teammates when Stanford 20/20 legend Sir Vivian Richards made the announcement that he was the Man-of-the-match in the Stanford 20/20 for 20.
“The Stanford 20/20 tournament is a really good thing. It will change the face of cricket in the Caribbean and could change the lives of many cricketers,” Sammy said.
“It has changed the lives of 17 of us tonight. Words can’t express how I feel now.”
As the dust begins to settle on the first Stanford Super Series, it gives us a chance to reflect on the spectacle the event was.
It climaxed with a magnificent fireworks display that signalled the Stanford Superstars’ monumental triumph, and from beginning to end, it was an event that will not be forgotten for some time.
Those who came to the Stanford Cricket Ground on the six nights will forever speak of an experience that is difficult to find at any other cricket venue in the world.
One of the many UK visitors who enjoyed the experience was Kevin McDonald, a resident of Hampshire and a regular visitor to the Caribbean for England trips.
“I’ve never been to a ground like this in the Caribbean. This is something special. Sir Allen should be congratulated on putting on a magnificent show and long may it continue,” he said.
“Maybe it can go a stage further and even involve more teams from the UK. If you bring more teams from the UK, you bring more people. It is great for the tourism, the economy and for the development of cricket.
“Sir Allen has got it totally right. This is the future of the game. When you come to a 20/20 match, there is atmosphere, entertainment and most importantly, there is a result in one evening.”
Near full-houses turned out for the early matches of the Stanford Super Series and there was capacity crowd for the feature Stanford 20/20 for 20 game.
The English fans were especially attracted to the atmosphere – the music, the high energy among the fans, the jumping and waving, the bugle, the dancers, the celebrations and the mid-innings entertainment from some of the Caribbean’s leading artistes.
The half-time performers included local girls Claudette Peters and Tizzy, repeat road march king of Trinidad and Tobago Shurwayne Winchester, soca diva Destra, along with Barbadians Edwin Yearwood and Alison Hinds.
On the field of play, there were exceptional performances from Caribbean cricketers throughout the week. They included Stanford Superstars opening batsman Andre Fletcher’s six-hitting assault in his unbeaten 90 against Middlesex, captain Chris Gayle’s destructive undefeated 65 against England, Trinidad and Tobago fast bowler Ravi Rampaul’s lively stuff against Middlesex and the timely, dynamic batting contributions of his teammate Denesh Ramdin against Middlesex and England.
Beyond the boundary, there were outstanding levels of administration and organisation that were in keeping with world-class standards. Those watching from the outside would have been impressed with the event management, cricket operations, ticketing process, media management and the fantastic service provided by the volunteers.
It was a super, super week.