Antigua-based billionaire Allen Stanford, who recently confirmed a US$100 million investment in five Twenty20 matches between West Indies and England, believes the shorter format, and not Test cricket, will help popularise and increase revenues for the game.
Stanford said Twenty20's short duration will interest youngsters. "I don't think Test cricket is going to draw them to the game in the droves that Twenty20 will. Twenty20 is a game that equates to soccer, it equates to basketball," Stanford told the Nation in an interview in London last week.
"It is a three-hour game and it is something that even the kids that may be marginally interested in cricket now, can say, 'well that's like soccer, that's like basketball, I want to get interested in that game and make as much money as a professional athlete playing cricket again. "
Stanford, who is already bankrolling the Stanford 20/20 in West Indies, felt only Twenty20 could bring in revenues that will help cricketers earn as much as their counterparts in other sports. "Test cricket is not going to be the revenue generator that Twenty20 can be. Twenty20 can generate revenue through television," Stanford said. "Test cricket is not going to generate revenue through television and that is what is going to allow you to pay your athletes these salaries that have to be commensurate based on their skill level with other sports and that is just the business side of it."
Stanford hoped his investment will help revive interest for the game in the West Indies. "We have two problems in the West Indies right now. Our cricket is down at the bottom and the reason it is down at the bottom, is that we have the best athletes in the world but they are going elsewhere."
He said the increased money to be earned will prompt youngsters to choose cricket over other sports in the Caribbean. "They are not interested in playing cricket. We have to have something to get them interested in playing cricket," Stanford said. "Cricket by now has to be paid like soccer, and basketball. All the American sports and international sports, are paying these huge amounts of money.
"We are not doing that in the Caribbean right now with our cricket. Our cricket in the Caribbean is back stuck in the 50s and 60s as an amateur-professional sport and it has got to be a professional business.
"It can't be an amateur professional sport. By taking the sport to another level, by bringing in money, the excitement, enthusiasm that only Twenty20 cricket brings and the way we do it in the Caribbean, [different from anywhere else in the world], we are hopeful to get these kids now going elsewhere back into the game of cricket and let us be world beaters again. So that's the reason [Stanford] Twenty20 for 20 [million dollars] is to benefit cricket in the West Indies if nothing else can."