Whycliffe “Dave” Cameron, the president of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), is predicting the regional side’s resurgence in the longest format of the game.
And he argues that that will lead to increased attendance to Test matches at venues in the Caribbean. West Indies, the toast of the game’s longest format decades ago, are presently among the world’s weakest Test teams.
Spectator turnout was dismal for the recent four-Test series versus India in the Caribbean, which the visitors won 2-0. Cameron cited the team’s performance as the main reason fans have stayed away from games hosted in the region.
He says he is hopeful that the WICB Professional Cricket League (PCL), entering its third season later this year, will help to improve the standard of the regional game.
“I can assure you, based on our PCL and where we are in terms of development in another year or so you, will see people coming back to watch Test cricket,” Cameron said during the drawn second Test versus India at Sabina Park in August.
Based on the latest ICC Test team ranking, West Indies are eighth, only ahead of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Pakistan are number one, while India are second. The WICB boss concedes that more needs to be done to make Test cricket more attractive to Caribbean patrons.
“The fans are there who are interested in what is going on, so it’s not like the game is dead; it’s how you get eyes coming into the ground versus those watching on social media or on television.
“As West Indies Cricket Board, we need to do a lot more in terms of entertaining people at the ground. A lot needs to be done. We need Wi-Fi [wireless Internet] at the [cricket] grounds; we need to cater for children in a better way. Test cricket is an entire day’s experience and people need to come to the cricket [and not worry] that their kid might drop off some chair,” Cameron said.
Wilford “Billy” Heaven, the Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) president, agrees that a successful West Indies team would be the major catalyst for increased spectator attendance.
“The first thing we have to improve significantly is the product offering; we have to start winning on a consistent basis. As well, there is need to promote and market the game much more. But generally I believe that if we improve on the quality of our game fans will turn out,” Heaven told the Jamaica Observer.
West Indies, the only team to twice lift the ICC World Twenty20 (T20) title, are a powerhouse in the game’s shortest format. Their most recent global T20 triumph came in the dramatic final against England in April in India.
The regional side is listed third in the most recent T20 International team ranking. New Zealand and India occupy the respective number one and two slots.
But while West Indies generally field their biggest stars in T20 cricket, due to varying reasons — including numerous public disputes with the board — a lot of those players have not represented the Test team in recent times.
“We must at all times have our best players on show… Also, there is urgent need to make cricket more of an experience to the fans than for them to see it as just a game. There needs to be more appeal to the fans, so more integration is necessary, for example, with entertainment and fun,” added the JCA president.
The showbiz nature of T20 cricket and the excitement that it brings make it a marketing dream.
From a regional perspective, the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) has shown the way in its four seasons of being staged. The franchise tournament, comprising numerous regional and international stars, has pulled large crowds into venues.