By George Alleyne
While statistics show that Cricket West Indies is growing as a home for professional regional players, the Barbados government wants to link this and other sports as not only an avenue to direct employment, but a boost for tourism.
The growth of Caribbean cricket and a desire to widen sport professionalism and at this same time enhancing attractiveness of this region to visitors were discussed during the recent CWI / West Indies Players Association (WIPA) awards ceremony in Barbados.
At this function last week where West Indies middle-order batsman Shai Hope copped the most individual awards, taking home Cricketer-of-the-Year, Test Cricketer-of-the-Year and One-Day International Cricketer-of-the-Year, CWI President Dave Cameron announced that Caribbean cricket is becoming one of the world’s top employers in the game.
He reported that a Federation of International Cricketers Associations (FICA) study pointed to a rise of the professional game in the region to rank among the top spots worldwide.
According to him, information gleaned from this study showed that the West Indies now has 177 professional cricketers, Australia 183, England just over 500 and India, just under 700.
Reflecting that four years ago there just over 25 professionals in the region.
“No longer can we use the excuse that we do not have a pool of talent in the region to compete in world cricket,” he said, adding, “what we have to do is to continue to upscale our cricketers, our management, our coaching staff and the administrative staff in order to produce world class players.”
Cameron said that this solid base for the game exists within financially ‘challenging times’ for the Caribbean cricket administrators, “but we have ensured that there will be no cutting back on any of our development programmes to ensure that we can deliver on our mandate which is to build our brand and to make us very proud again of West Indies cricket.”
“The sky is the limit and Cricket West Indies will support you all the way,” he told players.
Guest speaker at the event was Barbados’ Minister within the Ministry of Economic affairs, Marsha Caddle who said that Cameron’s report on the game’s development complements her government’s vision for sport.
“Cricket and sport also represent a way for us to signal to young people that there is something else they can do with their talent.”
She said that the entire region faces a challenge of “how we diversify our brand and how we marry the things that make us Barbadian and make us West Indian”.
The economist spoke of the new Barbados’ administration’s vision of using games to promote commerce in the Caribbean bread and butter industry, tourism.
“Cricket and sport is a big part of how we do that and so we have said as a new government that there are some things that we have to do differently when it comes to how we invest and the types of things in which we invest, where we invest at one stage of people’s lives,” she said.
Caddle said, “tourism, for example, has to be able to benefit more greatly from what is happening with cricket. We feel that as a region, we have not been able to marry sufficiently the tourism sector, what we offer, with cricket and other sporting activities.”
“Certainly, the aim of this government is to grow the tourism product and showcase sport as an economically productive sector and to use it to increase the tourism revenue that we are able to seek in the region.”
A combination of the growth of professional cricket with a vision for integrating sports into tourism should spell success for a region already known for both.