The Caribbean Premier League (CPL) cricket season is upon us, and once again with so many of the world’s leading players on show, the action promises to be fast, exciting, and really enjoyable. Over the years, the tournament, which started with a bang, dropped off a little as far as the crowds were concerned, to the extent that the organisers asked for more money from the respective regional associations and have scheduled matches in Florida. In trying to win fans and supporters at the start, the owners billed the tournament as “cricket mixed with the colourful experience of the Caribbean” and as the “biggest party in sport”. The league, which started in 2013, was undoubtedly very popular in the first few years of its existence. The action was exciting and enjoyable, and it paraded Christopher Gayle, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo, Darren Sammy, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, and Samuel Badree, some of the biggest attractions in T20 cricket. The CPL was so popular that West Indies Cricket must have regretted, many times, its decision to hand what seemed a ‘gold mine’ to private investors from abroad for a small fee. Every year, it was like carnival time when the CPL came to town, not only with its big-hitting batsmen and dazzling fielders, but also with its pulsating music, flashing lights, dancing girls, and loads of giveaways. Last year, however, but for the final, was not so good, and hardly as exciting. Barring a few matches, the vast crowds were missing. The reason may well be that the people got tired of it because with all the big hits and spectacular fielding, the atmosphere was not ‘serious’ enough and the action was more or less one-dimensional. It may well be, however, that although it is called the “domestic T20 league in the West Indies”, it is not, and even though the ‘Jamaica Tallawahs’ are said to represent Jamaica, they really do not. The CPL, apart from the jumping and dancing, does not feel like a Caribbean or a West Indian event. While one understands the inclusion of four overseas international stars because the CPL is a ‘franchise’ and because there is a need to make money, the CPL does not feel like a Caribbean or a West Indian event simply because the teams are mostly ‘overseas’ players. To complicate matters, some of the teams were captained and managed by overseas people, and while one may understand the reason for this, it is distasteful. In 2013, the Jamaica Tallawahs squad of 15 players consisted of four internationals and 11 Jamaicans, with the 11 which took the field including seven Jamaicans. Last year, however, the Jamaica squad of 17 consisted of four internationals, seven other overseas players, and six Jamaicans, with the playing 11 for most of the tournament including only three Jamaicans – Andre McCarthy, Rovman Powell, and Krishmar Santokie. SIMILAR SITUATIONS And all the other teams showed a similar situation, with the Barbados Tridents playing matches with only one Barbadian in the 11, although that may be justified, with nine Barbadians touring England with Windies team. Throughout the series, it appeared, for example, that only three Jamaicans, including young fast bowler Oshane Thomas, could take the field at any one time. Remembering that the West Indies cricket team is unlike any other cricket team in the world, remembering that the West Indies first-class teams are separate countries with their own governments, and remembering that the national teams cannot, or should not, ever be classed as ‘franchises’, that situation cannot work in the West Indies. That is why, in my opinion, the CPL is gradually losing its appeal. The CPL is a moneymaking business pure and simple. It certainly cannot be the West Indies domestic T20 league, supposedly the league from which the West Indies T20 team is selected. How can the CPL sell the Jamaica Tallawahs, for example, as the Jamaican team when it is basically made up of foreigners, even if some of them are West Indians? How can the CPL sell the Jamaica Tallawahs as the Jamaica team, when the team is not selected by the Jamaica selectors, when it is not captained by one of their own, when the team is not controlled by Jamaica, when players like Nikita Miller and Damion Jacobs, regulars for their country, and a young, talented player like Fabian Allen, sit on the bench elsewhere, and when their stars, one like Chris Gayle, are in the position to rough them up while playing for another ‘franchise’? Do the promoters really expect to see a packed, receptive, and cheering Sabina Park when the team comes ‘home’ to play, especially if Jamaicans like Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Chadwick Walton, and Brandon King thump the ball for other teams into the adjoining premises regularly? That was why Gayle was booed at Sabina Park last year, although he was not the only Jamaican who was ‘sold’ off, or ‘bought off, and returned to play against Jamaica. The CPL has re-energised cricket in the West Indies, it is good fun, and it could be good fun for everybody. The way it operates now, however, it is not good fun. Money in the players’ pockets is good, but money is not all. The CPL needs to reflect the sentiments of Jamaicans, Barbadians, Guyanese, Trinidadians, etcetera, etcetera, and it also needs to respect their nationality, their likes and their dislikes, especially when it comes to cricket. Last year’s final was exciting, very exciting, what with its sea of red throughout the Brian Lara Stadium. Maybe, however, it was because the Trinbago Knight Riders were the home team, maybe it was because the match was played outside of Port of Spain, maybe it was because the team had five Trinidadians in it, and at the end, it was two Trinidadians batting, with one, Kevin Cooper, producing the fireworks. It is good to see that the Barbados Tridents will have a Barbadian captain this time around, and it is good to see that the Jamaica Tallawahs will be led by Andre Russell, even if only two of the Jamaican ‘home matches’ will be played at ‘home’ in Jamaica, with some playing in the USA, a foreign country.