CABINET’S green light for the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) T20 tournament to take place in TT in August-September raises questions.
Is it an act of optimism on the part of the Government? Or will it end up being a sticky wicket?
The economic situation is dire globally, and this country has to adopt a cautious approach. Spending $6 million – the proposed budget may have been adjusted – can be questioned. There will be no gate receipts, though one imagines broadcast rights are substantial. The CPL attracts millions of viewers, as well as sponsorship, from around the world.
Minister of Sport Shamfa Cudjoe sees clear value in it.
“It is only right that our tourism entities in TT get ready to sell, sell, sell TT,” she said, making the announcement on Thursday. We are to pivot ourselves as “a place of choice for sport tourism and all other types of tourism that we have been marketing for the previous years.”
But heavy rain is restricting play. It’s hard to say what “tourism” will look like in the post-covid19 era. Borders are closed, airlines are bankrupt. “Sport tourism” may well be a thing of the past for some time to come, since sporting arenas are shuttered.
The long-term picture might be very different – but that does not make the promotional boost any less tenuous.
Then there are all the questions about covid19 itself.
It is not just a matter of ensuring the 250-plus players and team officials are properly screened, quarantined and contained. It is also a matter of shifting global dynamics. And it is about local capacity in the event anything goes awry. The current data suggests we are in a good position now, but the international experience shows just how fragile gains are.
So there are questions about the possible health risks and the country’s capacity to handle them.
There is also likely to be grumbling about having foreign cricketers brought into the country and put up at the Hilton Trinidad – while TT nationals are kept out of their homeland by closed borders.
The Cabinet’s decision also comes on the cusp of a general election, when major policy decisions should ideally be deferred. This is a convention that has nothing to do with projections of victory or defeat.
Yet, as writers like CLR James have noted, the symbolic importance of cricket to us as a people is such that the CPL may well be a soothing balm after weeks of turmoil. As the scenes in Southampton, where England and West Indies players took a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, this week reminded us, cricket remains a powerful symbol and a great unifier.
That might be just what we need after August 10.