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EPL cricket not working in England/Caribbean stud soccer

Sammy surprised by lack of EPL

187197By Andrew McGlashan From espncricketinfo

With his Test career now behind him, Darren Sammy is closer to becoming another of the globe-trotting Twenty20 stars appearing in a league near you. From the World T20, it was off to the IPL and then Glamorgan for the T20 Blast. He is now preparing for the Caribbean Premier League after a couple of matches back in West Indies maroon for the T20s against New Zealand.

He is, therefore, a player whose opinion on the shortest format should carry some weight and he admitted some surprise at the route English cricket has taken with T20 cricket – spreading the competition throughout the season. The move had solid reasoning behind it, to try and boost crowds at a family-friendly time largely on Friday nights, but Sammy cannot quite work out why an English Premier League has not taken off in the country that invented the game-changing format.

“While I have been here a lot of the guys have spoken about it. I just thought England invented T20 and I’d have thought you’d have an England Premier League,” he told ESPNcricinfo shortly before returning to the Caribbean. “If you look at the Big Bash, the IPL, and even the CPL they keep on improving

“A tournament like that should be played over a block of time. I’m not an organiser, but as a player that is how I would want it. All the other leagues, they’ve been able to attract world-class players. But you could sit and talk and come up with loads of different ideas. At the end of the day it’s about people buying into what is done in each country.”

It is not that English T20 is unable to attract big names – Glenn Maxwell, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Junaid Khan, Kevin Pietersen, Saeed Ajmal, Aaron Finch and Sammy himself are among those involved this season – but they are spread unevenly among the 18 counties, often along the lines of those with deeper pockets than others.

“If you look at the IPL, the prime model I suppose for T20, and look at the performances of the Indian players this year it has been tremendous,” Sammy said. “Maybe it’s the influence of having all that international experience in the dressing room.

“When you watch someone like a Dale Steyn bowling with the Indian bowlers, the feedback they get is priceless. Indian players look forward to rubbing shoulders with those internationals. And then you have the mentors like VVS Laxman with all their knowledge.”

The CPL, where Sammy will captain St Lucia Zouks – who will have Pietersen among their ranks for a period of the tournament – is still in the early days of its evolution, having built on the foundations laid by the now disgraced Allan Stanford. Sammy believes the franchise model in the Caribbean has overcome early skepticism and that the fans now embrace the concept.

“When it was Windward Islands, Barbados, Trinidad and the like, a Barbados versus Trinidad rivalry was always big and it took a while to match that in the CPL,” he said. “Change is not always welcome, but I think we’ve got through that and the response of the fans last year shows they are buying into what franchise cricket is about.

“Fans want to see good, competitive cricket and that’s what the CPL provided last year. It has been great to see full houses, every cricketer dreams of playing in front of large numbers.”

Sadly, big crowds have not been replicated in the West Indies-New Zealand series as the Test format continues to struggle to bring significant numbers through the gates except for when a few teams with large travelling support – England and, to a lesser extent, Australia – tour the Caribbean.

“All the formats have a part to play,” Sammy said, “but T20 – and the CPL – offers the fans a new experience. Hopefully we can build on that and some of them will start watching Test cricket. It’s important that West Indies perform well, too, which we haven’t done for a while.”

West Indies’ ambitions to turn around their Test fortunes – Sammy says they are aiming to rise into the top five of the rankings – brought an end to his time as captain then his retirement from the format. However, despite watching his team-mates in the ongoing series against New Zealand, he insisted he has no regrets.

“I wouldn’t say it’s been odd,” he said. “It’s a decision I made and I’m moving on. When I spoke to the selectors about the direction the Test team was heading it became clear to me. I was thinking about retiring anyway, I didn’t see myself going to South Africa [at the end of the year]. Once I heard about the plans it wasn’t difficult for me.

“I’ve been a big advocate that cricket is not about one person – I understood what they were saying. West Indies cricket comes first.”

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

IMAGE: Darren Sammy celebrates a wicket, Glamorgan v Kent, NatWest T20 Blast, Southern Division, Cardiff, June 13, 2014

Darren Sammy turned out for Glamorgan between IPL and CPL commitments © Getty Images

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Caribbean Stud

Carib StudBy Blake Thomsen From Medium

In the 1994 Caribbean Cup, unknown coach Keith Griffith devised the greatest game plan the world has ever seen

The annals of soccer history are filled with tactical masterpieces in which the winning teams executed brilliant game plans to devastating effect. Uruguay’s 2-1 win in the 1950 World Cup final over host Brazil comes to mind, as does Benfica’s 5-3 triumph over Real Madrid in the 1962 European Cup final. More recently, we’ve seen the Netherlands thrash Spain 5-1 in this World Cup, and Madrid embarrass Bayern Munich 4-0 away in the Champions League semifinals.

For the most clever tactical plan in soccer history, though, we must revisit a far more obscure competition. Enter the 1994 Shell Caribbean Cup.

“The coach planned [it] from the hotel in our team talk,” then Barbados goalkeeper Horace Stoute said by phone this week. “He told us to know the situation, that coming onto the end of the game, we could score on ourselves and go for the draw.”

Carib stud 1That’s not a typo. It’s pure genius. Stay with me.

In the qualifying stage for that tournament, Stoute and Barbados were set to meet Grenada in the final group-stage game, with progression to the tournament proper on the line. Entering the match, Barbados trailed Grenada by three points, with a goal differential that was three goals worse. This set up a seemingly clear task: Barbados needed to win the match by two goals, which would level them with Grenada on points and swing the goal difference tiebreaker in their favor after the net four-goal swing.

This type of scenario comes up all the time in tournaments. It’s very straightforward … that is, until the 1994 Caribbean Cup’s unique scoring rules are fully explained. In an attempt to spice things up, the organizers mandated that no group game could end in a tie. If a match was level after 90 minutes, it would be settled with sudden-death extra time.

This, in itself, wasn’t a completely horrible idea. But, well … just keep reading.

For some reason unbeknownst to anyone, goals scored in extra time were worth two goals. Thus, teams were rewarded more for needing extra time to get a win than for winning in regulation. What could possibly go wrong?

Everything. Everything could go wrong.

Fast forward to late in the tense affair. Barbados was clinging to a 2-0 lead, which would have been enough to put them through, but in the 83rd minute, Grenada scored and was in position to advance. For the next four minutes, Barbados desperately tried to get the goal that would put them back ahead by two, but Grenada’s bunkered defense proved impenetrable.

Around the 87th minute, Stoute and defender Terry Sealey began knocking the ball back in forth in their own penalty box, in what was initially perceived as an attempt to draw Grenada out of its defensive shell. Of course, Grenada only needed to hold on to the 2-1 scoreline to advance, so that didn’t make much sense.

Then … surely no … was Sealey shaping to shoot on his own net?

Oh yes, he most certainly was.

Soccer’s sweetest own goal.

Barbados needed one more traditional goal to earn the two-goal win needed to advance, but opted for a path of less resistance. Scoring on itself leveled the match at 2-2, which set up the possibility of an extra-time “double goal” winner to secure qualification via the tournament’s ridiculous rule.

The Barbados players were delighted with themselves. Manager Keith Griffith had called for the own-goal from the sidelines, and they had executed with aplomb.

“Well, obviously I was involved [in the scheme],” Stoute said. “But I wanted it to look like … We didn’t want it to look suspicious. We wanted it to look like a definite own goal, you know?”

Of course, there was no real way for it to look legitimate, as Grenada had no incentive to be anywhere near the Barbados goal. So, they just let it rip.

“Terry Sealey was passing the ball to me, and telling me, ‘Let it go in.’ And I said, ‘No, don’t make it look like an obvious own goal,’ Stoute said. “So that’s why I was passing it back to him, and he passed it back to me a couple of times, but then he just decided to just hit it in the goal.”

This wouldn’t be the most bizarre game ever played, though, if the fun just stopped there.

Within 30 seconds of the Barbados kickoff, a light bulb went off for Grenadian midfielder Cheney Jospeh, launching the most absurd passage of play in the history of soccer, if not all competitive sports.

Joseph realized that scoring on either goal would see Grenada through.

Joseph won the ball in midfield and—to the confusion of his teammates—broke toward his own goal, looking to score an own-goal to book a 3-2 loss and avoid a potentially fatal extra-time session. But once again, Griffith’s men were prepared perfectly. They had already set up half their players to defend Grenada’s goal while the other half were defending their own.

Thus we saw soccer’s first — and only — use of a 5-0-5 formation that had the sole purpose of defending both goals.

“What Grenada should have done was then go and get the ball and then go score on themselves [before we could get set up],” Stoute said, laughing heartily. “We had a short discussion before the game on what to do if Grenada suspected it. Our attackers would defend the Grenada goal, and our defense would maintain our defending, you know?”

This now was the ultimate dream scenario for grumpy old men who want to see more scoring in soccer, as over a frantic final three minutes, Grenada was trying to score on two nets at the same time. Meanwhile, Barbados still had plenty of work to do. Their aim was to keep the ball in the middle of the field at all costs, as Grenadian progress in either direction could prove disastrous. Of course, Barbados couldn’t have a goalie defend Grenada’s goal, so that one was slightly less fortified.

Most of Grenada’s players initially didn’t understand what was happening — even after Joseph’s initial own-goal effort — but Joseph and a few others quickly got the message across, and Grenada unified in its quest to score on its own, lesser-guarded net.

“It was a bit jittery, a bit jittery there,” Stoute recalls. “They came close to scoring in that short space of time when they realized they could score on themselves. They tried to get to their goal, but we defended and won the ball back.”

The whistle sounded soon after, and Barbados had somehow survived the historic period of play.

Stoute explained that the Grenadian players did not protest the result at the final whistle, despite the truly ridiculous circumstances. “They accepted it and moved onto extra time, because they had a chance to qualify if they scored an own goal too, right?” he said with a chuckle.

Even 20 years later, Stoute is still amazed at his coach’s ingenuity.

“I can’t see that tactic by the coach—I don’t know how he got it, you know? To really think of if it came down to that situation… But somehow he got it, and told us about it, and we did it.”

Barbados now needed a traditional goal in extra time to secure the famous win, and the drama ended quickly. Early in the period, striker Trevor Thorne got in behind the Grenada defense and scored to give Barbados a breathtaking — and totally absurd — 4-2 win and the spot in the Cup.

After all the craziness, Barbados scored a nice winner in extra time to advance.

Move aside, Mourinho, Ancelotti, van Gaal, Guardiola, and any others with claims as the world’s best tactician. Keith Griffith has outshined you all.

Some would claim what Griffith devised was outside the spirit of the game, and Grenada manager James Clarkson was, understandably, one of them. He delivered an all-timer of a post-match interview, in which—to his credit—he reserved more criticism for the tournament rules committee than for his very clever counterpart. “I feel cheated,” Clarkson said. “The person who came up with these rules must be a candidate for a madhouse.”

Clarkson’s explanation of the final moments is even funnier than his lamenting of the rule itself. “Our players did not even know which direction to attack: our goal or their goal,” he explained. “I have never seen this happen before. In football, you are supposed to score against the opponents to win, not for them.”

He had a point, but Keith Griffith realized it’s not always that simple.

For the record, Stoute doesn’t share Clarkson’s sentiments, emphasizing the importance of strategy and tactics, no matter how strange. “I think we played by the rules, despite that it was odd in the way we had to play. In the end, you wanted to win at all costs, you know?”

And win they did, successfully implementing one of the most absurd strategies the sporting world has ever seen. Sadly, no team has since been able to emulate Griffith’s tactical masterstroke because—in what should come as a surprise to literally no one—the two-point extra-time Golden Goal rule was abandoned after this tournament.

Its death was a major blow for sports fans everywhere, but thankfully, the genius of Keith Griffith and the impeccable execution of his players will live on forever, on a few grainy YouTube videos and now in this column.

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