If you have been part of a new experiment, you feel special when it goes on to become a hit, more so when it changes the dynamics of the industry. That is how former West Indies captain and current manager, Richie Richardson, feels about T20 cricket.
He captained the Lashings World XI, which played the first trial T20 tie in England in 2000, and cannot believe how quickly the format has caught on.
“I actually played in the first T20 match in England ever. The England board was experimenting with T20, I captained Lashings which played Gloucestershire,” the former batsman says. “I just thought it was a great idea. It was fun, different. I like to try new things and just wanted to go there and have a go at it. We won against Gloucestershire. I remember Wasim Akram, Chris Harris, Rashid Latif and Stuart Williams played for us.”
Quickly realising the format’s potential, he floated the first T20 event in the Caribbean. “I started the T20 tournament in Antigua, getting teams from the UK and the Caribbean.”
Richardson is amazed at the way T20 cricket has spread. “It has transformed the game. It will also open up a new avenue to a different type of fan. It also attracts more sponsors.”
The West Indies team appear to have benefited the most from the growth of professional T20 leagues. There have been limited earning opportunities for professional cricketers in the Caribbean and the money available in events like the IPL and Big Bash has been an added incentive. And after a long time, West Indies are considered title favourites here.
“We have got some players who are doing well in the top T20 leagues. It is wonderful that our players get to go around the world and entertain people and do what they do best. It is great for them, great for the sport. We have benefitted from it. Hopefully, we can start a T20 league in the Caribbean as well and get the world to come and play.”