Credit to Stanford

Allen Stanford and his Superstars in 2008.

To many Americans he is just a crook.

But thousands of West Indians credit Allen Stanford with helping to revive the fortunes of West Indies cricket.

And, included among them is West Indies captain Darren Sammy.

In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation today, Sammy said Stanford played a huge role in regenerating cricket in the Caribbean and his legacy would have to reflect that.

“It was unfortunate what happened afterwards, but the impact he had on West Indies cricket can never be forgotten,” Sammy said.

Today marks exactly four years that the Stanford Superstars, which included Sammy, crushed England in the Stanford Super Series in Antigua – a match that earned the winning side US$20 million.

The series of matches which was part of a planned five-year contract between Allen Stanford and the England and Wales Cricket Board, caused considerable controversy, mainly in England, because of the huge amount of money at stake and also because of Stanford’s larger-than-life persona.

Memorably, Stanford turned up at Lord’s by helicopter and brought $20m in cash on to the stage to launch the tournament.

Stanford made considerable cash contributions to cricket boards across the Caribbean and also employed a number of some of the region’s past international stars in his cricketing enterprise.

Today Sammy reflected on what Stanford did for many cricketers in the islands, a lot of them unknown, and the response which his tournament generated among young people.

“His tournament in the Caribbean did wonders, and guys like [West Indies internationals] Kieron Pollard and Andre Fletcher came through it.

“At the time you could see all the young kids on the streets wanting to play cricket again. There was a whole new energy in our cricket,” Sammy said.

The West Indies captain said that while England’s preparation for the Stanford Super Series T20 extravaganza was widely questioned, Stanford Superstars were especially focused ahead of the match.

“We prepared well. We were in camp in Antigua for around a month and a half, training every day. Once that game came on November 1, we were ready as a team, and it showed in the way we played. Our players had never been exposed to such incentive, and that was a massive motivation. It was a life-changing moment for the 11 guys that played, and the rest of the squad and the management staff were rewarded as well,” Sammy said.

The first St. Lucian to play for and captain the regional side told the BBC all the players were paid by Stanford but he knew nothing of any of them reinvesting in Stanford’s companies.

‘I got paid’

“That I don’t know, I have never asked. I got paid and I did what I had to do and invested the money. I guess everybody did what they thought was good for them at the time,” he said.

Sammy said Stanford’s demise had left a financial void in West Indies cricket but insisted the future of the game in the Caribbean was healthy.

“We need to keep on winning and then you’ll see the fans back supporting us. We have never been short of talent in the Caribbean; it’s about nurturing it and developing it. We still have a lot to offer in all three formats. Hopefully we can continue to produce good cricketers that will influence and have an impact on the lives of the Caribbean people,” Sammy said.

Stanford first made his presence known in West Indies cricket in 2006 when he created and funded the first Stanford 20/20 tournament. The second tournament took place in early 2008 and was watched by a reported global audience of 300 million. Stanford also built his own cricket ground in Antigua.

Sammy said he bore no animosity toward Stanford.

“Obviously no-one would wish bad things on people. In life you all have choices. It’s just sad how it all ended. I didn’t foresee what happened and I don’t know the details. But I do know we as a team will never forget what he did for the Caribbean in terms of bringing back the interest in cricket,” the West Indies skipper stressed.

Three years ago Stanford was charged in connection with investment fraud estimated at $8 billion. He was convicted this year and sentenced to 110 years incarceration. (WG/BBC)

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