Pioneer Richie hopes big

Little did Richie Richardson visualise that an experimental Twenty20 game -- in which he captained Lashings World XI against Gloucestershire -- back in early 2000 in England would grow on to become such a rage.

The T20, especially post the inaugural World T20 in 2007, has grown exponentially in its popularity leading to the mushrooming of private T20 leagues in almost all countries. The former West Indian captain, now its manager, feels special that the venture he was part of has developed into a global phenomenon now.

“I actually played in the first T20 match in England ever,” disclosed Richardson when he was casually drawn into a discussion about the shortest format. “It was a time when the England and Wales Cricket Board was experimenting with T20. I captained the Lashings team which played Gloucestershire,” he remarked.

It was, the right-hander said, a fun-filled experience. “I just thought it was a great idea. It was fun, it was different. I like to try new things and just wanted to go there and have a go at it. We won the first match against Gloucestershire. I remember, Wasim Akram, Chris Harris, Rashid Latif, Stuart Williams were playing for us.”

The former Test great was the pioneer of the T20 format in the Caribbean. “I started the T20 tournament in Antigua, getting teams from the UK and the Caribbean. Allen Stanford was one of my sponsors, he saw the idea and after that took over.”  While Richardson had sensed that the newest version was here to stay, he had little idea it would catch on so fast. “Certainly, T20 has transformed the game and added a new dimension to the sport. What it will do as well is, it will open up a new avenue to a different type of fan.

Also, it attracts more sponsors. I welcome T20 cricket and it is here to stay.”
The birth of numerous professional leagues like the Indian Premier League, the Big Bash in Australia among others, has benefited the West Indian players the most. “We have got some top players who are doing well in the top T20 leagues. It is wonderful that our players get to go around the world and entertain people and do what they do best. It is great for them and great for the sport. We have benefitted from it, hopefully we can start the T20 league in the Caribbean as well and get the world to come and play in our place.”

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