$100 million cash boost for West Indies


London : Billionaire Allen Stanford is to invest $100 mllion in West Indies cricket over the next three years. The Texas businessman, who lives in Antigua, is determined to bring cricket in the region into the 21st century.

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"We are stuck in the 1950s and 60s. We can't allow ourselves to stay stuck forever," he told BBC.

Part of the investment will fund the second Stanford 20/20 tournament, which will feature Cuba for the first time as one of 21 competing Caribbean nations.

Funding will be provided to each team to enable them to prepare for the tournament, along with Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, who are expected to make their debut in 2009.

The Stanford 20/20 will take place from January 25 to February 24 next year, with the winning team collecting a million dollars from a total prize fund of $2.9 mllion.

"I have committed my resources and I believe that within the next three years we will have a world champion West Indies team again.

"The Stanford 20/20 and the professional league we are creating are going to be the instrument that brings about that success, the catalyst that takes us back to the glory days of West Indies cricket," Stanford commented.

He admitted that he hoped to make a profit on his investment in time, but insisted: "As you can tell from these plans, we are in this for the long haul."

Stanford added: "I have said over and over that this region has the best cricket players in the world. We just need to harness this talent, steer these players in the right direction, reward their efforts and raise the standard of professionalism all around.

"Only then will we see the success that we have been hoping for. Let's partner together and make it happen."

Last year Stanford handed over $28 million, which funded the first 20/20 tournament, won by Guyana.

Plans for a $5 million winner-takes-all match between a Stanford Super Star XI and South Africa came to nothing because of a scheduling conflict with the West Indies tour to Pakistan.

This time, he has already has several Caribbean governments on board to support his proposals for developing cricket at the grassroots and establishing a professional league.

"We want them to buy into this proposal and grasp our vision for West Indies cricket," said former West Indies fast bowler Wes Hall. "I feel we have accomplished this and the future of cricket is bright."