When you hear the name Allan Stanford, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? If that question were to be asked of 10 Caribbean cricket fans, it would likely end in a split decision. Five persons will highlight the positives he brought to the region’s game, while the other five will speak about how disastrously it all crashed in the end.
Here, we will examine the highs, lows, and the in-between from this era and its legacy on the region’s cricket.
Allan Stanford invested millions into an innovative and lucrative T-20 tournament to revitalize interest in the region’s game. He built his stadium in Antigua that was called the Sticky Wicket Ground, right next to the Airport.
The tournament consisted of 19 teams and gave the needed exposure to a lot of the young, raw talent in the region. The players were able to develop their game by being exposed to professional coaching and fitness regimes. The players also received an enormous payday because the winning team won one million US Dollars which was life-changing for players underpaid by their local boards and clubs.
The tournament did achieve its goal of bringing excitement to the game of cricket in the region. There was a carnival-like atmosphere with loud music blaring in a packed stadium. In the inaugural final, Guyana needed 14 runs from the final over. The equation was down to 6 runs from two balls, then Narasingh Deonarine smashed a six over midwicket to bring the house down.
In just one shot, it brought a reward of one million dollars. The Trinidad and Tobago, as runners up, brought home a cool half a million dollars while the man of the match in the final won $100,000.
In the 2007 edition, the Trinidadian team was able to claim victory after the disappointment from the previous year. Many feel that Stanford’s investment was the catalyst that allowed the West Indies to dominate T20 cricket, with the team winning two subsequent World Cups. It also put the players in an excellent position to be drafted into lucrative tournaments right around the world.
Stanford built his stadium, but he was let down by the pitch curator. The pitches were too slow and uneven, which produced low totals and discouraged big hitting. The average total of the team batting first was 136 and for the team batting second 134.
In 2008, Stanford came up with a preposterous idea of having a 20-million-dollar game in an agreement with the ECB. It would put the English national team against the Stanford All-Stars, which consisted of West Indian players. The winner takes all match was a dream come true for the players, but it undoubtedly led to him coming under the scrutiny of the US authorities. The question in most people’s minds was, where was Stanford getting all this money?
The Stanford Superstars played as if their lives depended on it, and in the field, they bowled out England for 99 runs. Thereafter, Gayle and Fletcher hammered the English bowling to romp home in a ten-wicket victory.
Imagine the prize for one match being 20 million dollars-that will never happen again. Another bad moment from this game was Stanford himself. The cameras always seemed to point to him at various points in the game as the center of attention.
However, during this game, he allegedly flirted with a few of the English players’ women. He encouraged Matt Prior’s wife, Emily, to sit on his lap with Kevin Peterson’s wife sitting nearby blushing. Stanford had to call the England team hotel the next day and apologize to Petersen and Prior. The British press had a field day, and it further put a negative spin on Stanford.
Allen Stanford, at this point in 2008, was sitting on top of the world, and he felt invisible. Little did he know that he was going to experience a swift turn of events that would lead to disaster. Without his knowledge, the police were investigating his business empire.
In 2009, Stanford was indicted as the mastermind of the second-largest Ponzi scheme in history. The two-decade scam centered on the sale of certificates of deposit. He would misuse the money of thousands of clients to fund his risky investments and a self-gratifying lifestyle, including the sponsorship of the cricket tournaments.
Subsequently, the tournament had to be canceled, and the ECB had to rip up their deal with Stanford. In March 2012, the former Houston banker was given a 110-year sentence on fraud, conspiracy, and obstruction charges after the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) shut down his global empire. He was convicted on 13 of 14 criminal charges against him.
Sadly, to this day, Stanford feels he is an innocent man and did not defraud his investors of nearly 7 billion dollars. Prosecutors wanted the sentence to be 230 years because of the lack of contrition.
In a January 2016 article, the BBC reported that up to that point, “only around $292m has been recovered, with $73m returned to Stanford’s estimated 28,000 investors. Many are elderly and more than 170 have died since the scandal broke in 2009.”
The story of Allan Stanford could be a future Hollywood movie with its heights and the steep fall out of grace. In terms of the West Indies, his investment certainly uplifted the region’s game and gave young talented players the shot in the arm they needed.
However, many feel ashamed and embarrassed by its abrupt end and what Mr. Stanford is accused of doing. Therefore, some will cherish the legacy of the short-lived Stanford era, while others will want to forget about it, but the truth lies somewhere in between.
BBC investigation quote: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-35283297,
Readers Bureau, Contributor
Edited by Jesus Chan
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