WITH just 80 days still to go for the staging of Saint Lucia’s most-talked-about local cricket tournament, the SPL T20, preparation is shaping nicely for the second annual event. That’s the word from the CEO for the event, Hasan Eristhee, at a recent press briefing at the Bay Gardens Hotel located in Rodney Bay.
By all indications, fans are already waiting in anticipation for the first ball to be bowled on Friday 1 June at the Soufriere Mini Stadium and the organizers are confident that this year will be bigger and better. One of the keys to achieving this is through strong relationships with corporate Saint Lucia.
The organizers of the SPL T20 are delighted to announce that Piton Beer has renewed its sponsorship for this year’s tournament. The brand maintained a fantastic relationship with SPL T20 last year and is again hoping to contribute to the execution of a wonderful season. WLBL brand ICY has also pledged support.
The CEO said, “We are expecting the same eight teams like last year, including the defending champions, Avatar City Blasters led by Daren Sammy.
He added, “We are looking to make it bigger by bringing some practice games to the north of the island, where we have some difficulty with the lighting facility. Our open weekend will be at the Soufriere Mini Stadium and we are trying our best to have the Daren Sammy Stadium for the finals slated for Sunday 17 June. The goal is to spread the matches around.”
The draft will be held towards the end of March, where the teams will be selected and players retained. The Majority of the team will be retained (9 players) and the rest will be sent to draft for bidding.
In terms of overseas players, the teams will be given an option of one overseas player each. This will be limited and based on the salary.
The CEO does not expect a big-name player to come over, based on the salary, but he does expect persons at various levels. Some countries may be willing to give a player the exposure, but that will be left with the owners to decide.
Eristhee said, “Last year we had four teams owned, this year we trust we can up it a few notches where we can have two more teams owned, but our ultimate goal is to have all eight teams owned”.
The VOICE spoke to Saint Lucia Electricity Services (LUCELEC) Corporate Manager for Communication Roger Joseph and he said, “There are several reasons to support this SPL T20. We are very pleased; it is a local organization running a local semiprofessional league, providing opportunities for local players to expose their respective talents.
“We are seeing our young cricketers having an opportunity to promote their cricketing talents at the regional and international level and perhaps draw attention from scouts who may be watching. We see this tournament as a springboard for more of our Saint Lucian players getting into the T20 Franchises around the world, they do that and grow, their skills get better and they start to earn more money which work to the benefit of the country and the economy”, added Joseph.
He continued, “For LUCELEC, our focus has always been on the developmental level. We do a lot of school sports. We saw the SPL T20 in its development stages; saw the possibilities and we are happy to come onboard. In 2017 based on the success, we are able to support them again with EC $15,000 and hope the tournament can grow from strength to strength”.
The VOICE also caught up with Terry Finistere Communication Specialist Flow Saint Lucia and he said, “We were in discussion last year with the SPL team and due to the timing of the Blackheart tournament and being a major sponsor for Blackheart it was challenging getting involved, this year they have moved it to June. We got involved in discussion a lot earlier and we are really happy to be part of this league which is a great opportunity for our young cricketers coming up”.
“You have inter district and club cricket going on; something like this where you get to earn a livelihood as well as the big stage for your talent is good. Cricket unfortunately is not particularly well supported in Saint Lucia; you attend the two-day or Under-19 and 50-overs finals and you see a handful of spectators and when you see what SPL has done in terms of energizing the sport and bringing the excitement, organization and marketing is something we had to be part of and Flow is thrilled that the SPL team agreed to bring us in as title partners”.
What exactly will FLOW be bringing to the table? Finisterre said, “We do have a certain amount of cash sponsorship that is involved, but we are also lending our telecommunication expertise. We are Saint Lucia’s and the Caribbean’s leading Telecommunication provider; we have a broad range of assets that we are going to bring to bear not only for the SPL organizing team, but also for the SPT Franchise teams, as well as members of those teams. We are going to be creating packages and specials for those teams, mobile space, television and internet”.
“We are hoping the SPL can continue to grow from strength to strength. That it will in years to come be the sort of product we can showcase on Flow Sports as you know, apart from the English Premiere League, the IPL T20, International Track and Field and Test Cricket. We are hoping the SPL can give Saint Lucian cricketers an even bigger stage so that they can showcase their talent, these are some of the things we are looking at in the long-term”.
Nikisha Rabess, Marketing Officer at Bay Gardens Hotel says, “We support local. We are very dedicated to growing local talent and we are very happy to support this venture and look forward to good things from them and we wish the organizers every success in this year’s tournament”.
She also calls on the Saint Lucia sports fans to go out and support the matches at the various venues.
Meanwhile, Operation Manager for the Saint Lucia Cricket Association, Brian Calixte said, “It’s good to know SPL T20 is on for the second year running. From last year we saw players like Garvin Serieux come to the fore and we are hoping this year that more young players will be in the mix and that augurs well for cricket in general in Saint Lucia.”
In terms of crowd support at the various venues are you pleased with what you saw last year?
“Yes, it was a good catalyst for cricket support in Saint Lucia, all the venues the matches were played at you had huge crowds, and it will be good for the SLNCA to take a page out of the SPL book in taking cricket to the various communities”, noted Calixte.