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sportsmichaelholdingisonboardcplWest Indies fast bowling legend Michael Holding has had a complete about-turn on Twenty20 cricket.

Holding, now an international commentator, has been a vocal critic of the shortest form of the international game and has previously even refused to do commentary on it. Now he has thrown his weight behind the imminent Caribbean Premier League by agreeing to be the ambassador for its development programme. In a release today from CPL organisers, Holding said the CPL could help develop the next generation of cricketing talent in the region.

The lanky Jamaican, part of Clive Lloyd’s all-conquering West Indies side of the 1970s and 1980s, took 249 Test wickets in 60 matches as well as 142 wickets from 102 ODIs, and has long been known for his preference for the longer forms of the game, having been brought up and enjoyed success in both Tests and One-Day Internationals.

He was a member of the West Indies’ ICC Cricket World Cup-winning team in 1979.

Looking forward to the inaugural CPL, which will be staged across the Caribbean in July and August, Holding said in the media release that he was happy to back the new project because of its commitment to help identify and develop locally produced young players.

“The CPL is looking at a development programme which they will start rolling out in January 2014, I understand,” he said. “They will have about 60 young cricketers, 10 from each of the six franchise regions, who they will put on contract and create programmes to improve their cricket. That is what I am interested in.

“It is not easy to start with Twenty20 cricket and go into Test cricket and David Warner (of Australia) is the only person who has come even close but if we can develop some young cricketers in the Caribbean, even if a lot of them are tempted to play Twenty20 cricket, then maybe we can still find one or two who are quite happy and even capable of playing Test cricket too.”

With each of the six franchises based in Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia and Trinidad & Tobago required to have 11 out of their 15 players qualified to play for the West Indies and with four of those needed to be under the age of 23, there is plenty of incentive for those franchises to unearth local talent.

And, as Holding observed, the introduction of the CPL will also be a means of attracting young people in the region to play cricket as their sport of choice.

“I think cricket has lost a lot of young people in the Caribbean who are thinking ‘Why bother with cricket because unless you are playing for the West Indies then there is nothing there for you,'” he said.

“The advent of the CPL means West Indian youngsters can now think to themselves ‘Hey, I can make a reasonably good living from playing cricket.’

“Now there is something here in the Caribbean they can play in, they can make a reasonable living and they can go on and play cricket again.”

Holding also sees the value of the region’s best young players getting the chance to mix with some of the games greats, with six overseas icon players – Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting, Ross Taylor, Mohammad Hafeez, Herschelle Gibbs and Muttiah Muralitharan – already confirmed starters.Six top West Indies stars have also been confirmed as franchise players – Dwayne Bravo, Chris Gayle, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard, Darren Sammy and Marlon Samuels.

“If the youngsters rub shoulders with those guys they will certainly learn a lot about cricket, not just Twenty20 cricket but cricket in general,” he said.

“Youngsters will love to be able to be with those guys, be in the same squad with them, going to team meetings and listening to those people they will be playing with.”

Holding said if the CPL gets arrangements right then it could play a significant role in continuing the revival of West Indies cricket that has seen Sammy’s side win six Tests in a row and secure the ICC World Twenty20 title in Sri Lanka last October, the side’s first global trophy in eight years.

“If cricket becomes accessible again, if the structures are put in place around the islands and with the CPL coming in and giving youngsters the chance to get some money in their pockets by playing the game they love, (then) more people will want to play the game,” he said.

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