Jamaica Tallawahs likely to play three home games in Florida

A fan with plenty of US flags AFP

Caribbean Premier League franchise Jamaica Tallawahs is expected to host three of its five designated home matches during the 2018 CPL season in Florida, according to an ESPNcricinfo source with knowledge of the situation. It follows an ESPNcricinfo report from August 2017 which indicated that the Tallawahs' Florida-based ownership group planned to make more of an effort to establish roots in their home state and away from the official Tallawahs base in Jamaica.

Worldwide Sports Management Group, who bought the Tallawahs from Texas-based businessmen Ron Parikh and Manish Patel, signed an agreement with Lauderhill's Central Broward Regional Park (CBRP) for exclusive rights to stage international cricket at the facility in 2017. As part of the agreement, they have guaranteed three international events per year.

Having three separate match dates for the Tallawahs would satisfy that and a source has told ESPNcricinfo that three dates have been blocked off at the CBRP in August for the Tallawahs to host matches. The CPL announced on Wednesday that the tournament for 2018 would be held between August 8 and September 16.

While it is not confirmed that the three Tallawahs matches would be the only games in Florida, that is likely to be the case after CPL 2017 organisers operated games in Florida at a financial loss for the second year in a row, according to multiple sources. In 2016 the CPL organised six games over four days in the USA, but cut the two weeknight matches in the 2017 return, opting to play four games scheduled as a pair of double-headers on Saturday and Sunday after both days sold out in 2016. In comparison, there were sparse crowds for the Thursday and Fright night matches, as well as the elevated cost of hiring temporary floodlights to support the permanent floodlight structures which were deemed inadequate.

However, organisers raised ticket prices by 50% for 2017 and attendance dropped sharply for the Saturday and Sunday double-headers. The official attendance for the first double header was 5200 - though the actual number was far less than that at its peak, with most ticket holders opting to attend only one of the two games - at the 10,000 capacity venue.

On Sunday, the attendance was estimated to be less than 2000 - the CPL did not provide an official number to ESPNcricinfo despite multiple requests - and the sight of a mostly empty stadium cast doubt on CPL matches as a financially viable proposition in the future. This was exacerbated by Trinbago Knight Riders' absence from the 2017 slate of games in Florida, with the franchise drawing by far the largest support for the games played in 2016 at the same venue due to the influx of Trinidadian expats travelling in from New York and Toronto.

Sources said that the CPL actually lost less money on the event in 2017 than in 2016, though. This was due in part to lower operational expenses by only renting out the stadium for two match days instead of four as was the case in 2016, and by also having earlier starting times to eliminate the need for using lights. The trade-off was that the matches were played at the height of the daily heat and humidity in south Florida, with many fans staying away due to lack of comfort accommodations at the stadium.

According to a source, the stadium also has reserved July 21 and 22 as dates for a possible series of T20Is between West Indies and Pakistan. However, that has not been confirmed pending an agreement between the two boards. They would be the first T20Is at the venue since a two-match series between India and West Indies in August 2016. A return T20I series between India and West Indies was being discussed for July 2017 but the lone T20I wound up being played in Jamaica instead, with sources telling ESPNcricinfo that not enough notice had been given to CBRP's ground officials in order to prepare a pitch in time.