West Indies ICC World T20 winning captain Darren Sammy believes that the HERO Caribbean Premier League (CPL) is shaping to be the strongest tournament ever.
In an exclusive interview with www.cplt20.com, the St Lucia born all-rounder predicts that the success of the West Indies in lifting the ICC World T20, the arrival of world-class players of the calibre of AB de Villiers, Brendon McCullum and Shane Watson and the emerging talent across the Caribbean can elevate CPL to new levels across the Caribbean and in Fort Lauderdale this summer.
“The CPL is the biggest party in sport”, the 32-year-old said. “It’s not like any other tournament and when it comes to entertainment, there’s nothing like it. I have been lucky to have been a part of it for the last three years since its inception and CPL is renowned for its carnival atmosphere.
“But when you look across the squads and the recruitment across the board - with players like AB (de Villiers), Shakib (Al Hasan) and Brendon (McCullum) joining up this year – you know that it’s becoming a tournament that the top world players want to be a part of.”
Sammy, who led the West Indies to its second ICC World T20 title in India last month, hopes that the performances in recent weeks can inspire a new generation of players.
“It has been amazing to travel around the various islands over the past few weeks and see the joy on the kids’ faces. We always talk in the dressing-room about creating a new legacy for West Indies cricket and if a child dreams of becoming the next (Kieron) Pollard, (Dwayne) Bravo, (Chris) Gayle or (Andre) Russell, then we know that we’ll be on the right track. There’s a whole new level of interest locally which is great news.
“I got a phone call from an old school-friend of mine who said her son always dreamed of becoming a doctor, like his father. But since the West Indies team won (in India), he now wants to be a professional cricketer. Thousands of children across the Caribbean will now dream again about playing for the West Indies, like the older generations did in the past.
“It is a huge step in the right direction. If the CPL can continue to add to the excitement, and inspiring youngsters, then we know we’re going to be on to a winning formula.”
On the Zouks’ preparations for the forthcoming campaign, Sammy believes that the St Lucia based side can advance to the play-offs and will be aiming to clinch the title for the first time.
“I’m really pleased with the quality of players we have at the Zouks this year. We will have Johnson Charles and Fletch (Andre Fletcher) coming in at the top of the order. ‘Mr. Cricket’ Mike Hussey will add in a lot of international experience coming off winning the Big Bash last year, David Miller has been a strong performer for South Africa and in the all-round stakes Shane Watson has been in outstanding form of late.
“On the bowling front we are excited to have Morne Morkel and Fidel Edwards will add to our depth alongside some exciting local talent in Gidron Pope and Keddy Lesporis. I’m excited. After missing out to the (Jamaica) Tallawahs narrowly on net run rate last year, I think this could be the year when we reach the play-offs. And after that, who knows?”
Sammy is also excited about the opportunities that will see CPL make its inaugural foray into the mainland of USA when the Central Broward Stadium in Fort Lauderdale welcomes all six teams from 28-31 July.
“Prior to the 2012 ICC WT20 trophy, the West Indies played New Zealand twice in Fort Lauderdale and it was a brilliant experience at the time. There are lots of people of Caribbean descent who have never had the opportunity to see their team play, so it’s great that all six teams will be playing this year.
“It will be a huge honour to lead out the Zouks in the USA because there’s a massive Caribbean community around there. I know there has been huge interest in tickets already and will be a chance for people to experience the carnival atmosphere live.
“Hopefully we’ll have bumper crowds there for our back-to-back games when we battle against the Tallawahs. I think what CPL is doing, by bringing professional cricket to the USA, can help lift barriers and extend the carnival from the Caribbean.”