All set for cricket’s richest match

When I told the esteemed cricket writer, Peter Roebuck, that I was leaving the India versus Australia Test series to follow the Stanford Super Series, he gave me the kind of look umpire Rudi Koertzen gives Monty Panesar when the excitable spinner over appeals for an LBW decision where the ball has yet again pitched a foot outside leg stump.

“Stanford represents everything cricket shouldn’t be” said Roebuck, clearly a cricket aficionado of the old school. I used to agree with him. But if you can’t beat them, join them.

The biggest single event of the Twenty20 revolution is upon us with the winner-takes-all 20 million dollar exhibition match being played this Saturday, the 1st of November. It is the highest prize money of any sporting event ever.

Sir Allen Stanford’s enormous investment in the game in the Caribean has not yet started to show in the performance of the West Indies team but I am assured by the locals here that his cash splashing antics have breathed fresh air into the sport and are keeping the game alive across the islands.

Antigua is extraordinarily beautiful and extremely laidback. The sea is Topaz blue and the island’s population of 60 000 people (just over half the capacity of Eden Gardens or the MCG) are so relaxed they look as if they might fall over. The beautiful Stanford ground seats only 6000 spectators, mostly under palm trees. Sir Allen mingled with the crowd, hugging children and smiling for photographs. It is an unusual setting for the most mouth watering, heart racing, nail biting three-hour reality show.

The warm-up games got underway on Saturday night with the Stanford Super Stars comfortably beating Trinidad and Tobago, the winners of the most recent regional Stanford Twenty20 tournament. A very slow pitch ensured a low scoring encounter, a trait which is not usually relished in the shortest form of the game.

I couldn’t help but notice that the first five high catches turned out be dropped catches as they were all spilled in the outfield under lights. What fun it will be if something similar happens on Saturday.

This article appeared on Cricket365 in October 2008, ahead of the Stanfor Twenty20 for 20 clash in Antigua.

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