Toronto Sun:- It was a massive financial undertaking for the Mercuri Group.
And even though the crowds for the six-nation inaugural Global T20 League fell below expectations, the Indian-based media and talent management company won’t be throwing in the towel.
Mercuri poured in $10 million US to get this project off the ground and Ashit Patel, one of the directors of the firm based in Mumbai, said he has had no regrets in staging the tournament in a country where cricket flies well under the sports radar.
He cracked a smile when asked why his company chose Canada.
“It was a moment of craziness,’’ he admitted.
Patel agreed that King City may not have been the ideal location, as it’s an hour’s drive from Toronto, but it was the best available location at short notice.
The other reason for low attendance was that it coincided with soccer’s World Cup. Even though both finals were played on Sunday, the cricket showdown between West Indies B and Vancouver Knights started at 3 p.m. and that allowed some 6,000 fans enough time to travel to King City to watch Vancouver pull off a seven-wicket win.
Patel added he will be scouring other cities in the GTA, such as Brampton and Mississauga, where there’s a huge cricket fraternity.
“The blueprint is to have the league played across the country,” he said. “The eventual plan though is to get the United States involved, where we can have matches played in Miami and New York.”
The Mercuri Group signed a 25-year deal with Cricket Canada to manage and run the league with the aim of one day giving the best T20 leagues around the world a run for their money and at the same time help Canada produce some first-class cricketers.
“That’s definitely our intention,’’ said Patel. “Canada has played in four World Cups and we would like to see the country back on the world stage. I am sure the local players will benefit from playing with and against world-class players by participating in this league.’’
Mercuri and Cricket Canada’s decision to get this league off the ground this year, instead of waiting until 2019, couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. The International Cricket Council, the governing body of the sport, is on the verge of clamping down on world-class players playing in domestic T20 leagues, such as the Global tournament, run by associate member countries. That’s understandable as the growth of T20 leagues has mushroomed around the world since the birth and runaway success of the Indian Premier League 11 years ago.
ICC is talking about sanctioning just three leagues a year organized by associate members.
The IPL pays its marquee players roughly $1 million US for eight weeks of action, with the leading earner being England all-rounder Ben Stokes, who signed with Rajasthan Royals for a whopping $1.95 million. Mercuri inked 10 world-class players for $100,000 each for three weeks of action.
Australian David Warner, who was involved in the ball-tampering scandal three months ago in South Africa, and West Indies international Dwayne Bravo have indicated they would like to return to Canada next year.
“I love to play in at least three tournaments during the year outside of my international commitments, and Canada would rate high on my list for next year,” said Warner, who donned pads for Winnipeg Hawks. Warner has now moved to the Caribbean, where he has signed up for St. Lucia Stars in the six-team Caribbean Premier League that also attracts leading players.
It appears several of the international stars have indicated they would like to return to Canada and Jason Holder, director of the Global League, says he will shortly start talks with them.
“The conversations I’ve had with some have proved fruitful,’’ said Holder. “We want to continue to attract the best talent in the world, continue to prepare and present Canada as the best option for T20 cricket in this part of the world,” he said.
Mercuri’s Patel added he has been contacted by travel agents in India willing to put together packages for fans to travel to Toronto for cricket and “see sights such as Niagara Falls.”
One of the highlights of this inaugural competition was the performance of the Canadians players.
Toronto’s Nitish Kumar and Nikhil Dutta were tremendous with bat and ball for Toronto Nationals, while Toronto resident Saad Bin Zafar stole the show for Vancouver in the final. The 31-year-old claimed two wickets for 26 runs and then smashed 79 off 48 balls with eight fours and three sixes to lead Vancouver to 148 for three in reply to West Indies B total of 145. The team captained by West Indies icon Chris Gayle collected $500,000 for the victory.