O’Donohoe says CPL making major impact on Caribbean region

Barbados Tridents players celebrate after capturing the 2014 CPL finals.

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) – Chief executive of the Caribbean Premier League, Damien O’Donohoe, believes the tournament’s impact on the region will be long-lasting, and says the third edition which bowls off next month will be a special one.

The league’s top official said because of the emergence of the CPL, more and more young Caribbean youth were turning to cricket, and this augured well for the growth of the game in the region.

“The CPL has brought a whole new audience. When I was looking at things in the Caribbean when we didn’t have the CPL, kids I used to see were playing basketball and were wearing jerseys with Lebron James on them,” O’Donohoe said.

“And I think now you are seeing kids wearing the Tridents jersey … with the names Pollard and Smith and I think that really shows you the true success. Forty per cent of your audience are women and children and based on that alone the success has been a massive success for me.”

The CPL is set to bowl off on June 20, with six franchises – Barbados Tridents, Guyana Amazon Warriors, Jamaica Tallawahs, St Lucia Zouks, St Kitts Patriots and Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel – contesting 33 matches for a spot in the semi-finals.

This year, the Patriots have replaced Antigua Hawksbills, and will play their matches at Warner Park, a venue that proved a successful one last season.

O’Donohoe said he was thrilled with the growth of the tournament, noting it had exceeded expectations.

“I’m really, really excited. The first two years have been a huge learning curve for all my team at the CPL,” he pointed out.

“When we first started, no one expected us to pull this off in year one but the people came out in their thousands, there was huge excitement, we played night games and as a result, people in the cricket world suddenly woke up and said ‘gee, we have to take a look at what they are doing in the Caribbean.’”

After a lukewarm reception to daytime games last year, organisers have returned to primarily night fixtures for the third edition, a move O’Donohoe believes will grab the attention of spectators in an even bigger way.

“The people did turn up but you can’t really create that same atmosphere during the day that you can at night,” he explained.

“That is why as a management team we made a decision that although it might cost us in terms of the TV revenue, we couldn’t mess with the special product that we have and that is why for this year we have brought back the night games and that is what I am really excited about.

“At the end of the day it is a night-time product and I don’t think you can mess with a product this huge.”

Significantly, the tournament will open at Kensington Oval here, with a repeat of last year’s final between title-holders Barbados Tridents and Guyana Amazon Warriors.

The grudge match will be one of four matches at the Oval within the space of eight days, and organisers are hoping they set the tone for the remainder of the tournament.

“Barbados has always been fantastic to us and has always welcomed the CPL with open arms. Especially with the fact that the heads of the ICC will be there [for a meeting], we thought there was no better place to start than Barbados,” O’Donohoe said.

The CPL winds up with the final at Queen’s Park Oval in Trinidad on July 26.