‘USA cricket market a threat to us’ – Former director Baldath Mahabir worried for future Cricket West Indies

Former Cricket West Indies (CWI) director Baldath Mahibir says the steady rise of the US cricket market is a threat to the long-term sustainability of cricket in the region.

The West Indies and the US will co-host the 2024 International Cricket Council Twenty/20 World Cup from June 1-29, with the US set to play host to 16 of the tournament’s 55 matches.

World cricket’s biggest rivalry, India will meet Pakistan in a group A match in New York on June 9. Group D powerhouse teams South Africa and Sri Lanka will also lock horns in New York on June 3.

“The USA have got 16 of the 55 games, and therein lies the threat to Caribbean cricket to me. The real threat to the sustainability of Caribbean cricket has started to show its hand here,” Mahibir told to the media.

“There are a lot of marquee clashes (to be played in the US). India are playing three games in New York and South Africa are playing three games in New York (as well). I see a real threat and CWI will be well-advised to look at that.

US Cricket hosted the inaugural Major League Cricket (MLC) T20 tournament last year, with former West Indies captains Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard and Nicholas Pooran all featuring.

“Yes, some people will come down to the Caribbean for the beaches and the other little things which go around our cricket. But if our product does not improve and the infrastructure continues to age, and we become less user-friendly than the one in the US and in North America in general, we face a real threat in the future.”

The Brian Lara Cricket Academy (BLCA) in Tarouba, Trinidad will host five matches, with the first being a group C clash between West Indies and New Zealand on June 12. BLCA will host four group C matches and the tournament’s second semi-final on June 27.

“Given the infrastructure in TT and the hotel stock, I do not think we can complain too much. (I am) a little bit disappointed, but it is what it is,” Mahibir said.

“We have one marquee (group) game in Trinidad which is the West Indies and New Zealand game, then the semi-final. The rest of the games will generate interest, but not great interest.”

West Indies, two-time T20 World Cup champions (2012 and 2016), will also face Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea (PNG) and newcomers Uganda in group C. The West Indies, who are coached by former skipper Daren Sammy, will open their campaign against PNG on June 2 in Guyana.

Mahibir said the seventh-ranked West Indies were drawn in a “good group.”

“We got New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Uganda and the ever-improving Afghanistan team which will be a challenge. It is a World Cup with the top teams so challenges will always be there.”

West Indies were knocked out of the group stages of the 2021 T20 World Cup, before falling to defeats to Ireland and Scotland as they faltered during the qualifying stage for the subsequent 2022 tournament. Under the leadership of captain Rovman Powell, the West Indies T20 team cut a rejuvenated look in 2023, as they won successive series against South Africa (2-1), India (3-2) and reigning T20 World Cup champions England (3-2).

“T20 cricket is the one format of the game where I think the West Indies have a real chance of doing well. The players like the format. We are playing at home and conditions will suit us. The team looks fairly good in the last few T20 outings we had recently – particularly against England.

“I think we have a good chance of getting into the second round. All things being equal – barring injuries – we have a good chance of doing well, with some innovative leadership and so on.”

After their clash with PNG, West Indies take on Uganda in their second group game in Guyana on June 8. The Caribbean team then finish the group phase with their toughest games on paper against the Kiwis and Afghanistan on June 12 and 17 respectively.

After the conclusion of the group stage, the top two teams in each group will advance to the Super Eight, which will be contested from June 19 to 24. The Super Eight phase will comprise two groups of four teams, with the top two teams in each group advancing to the semi-finals to be played in Guyana and the BLCA on June 26 and 27 respectively.

The 2024 T20 World Cup final will be played at Kensington Oval, Barbados on June 29.

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