"You guys don't know the biggest news," Shakib Al Hasan was saying, ready to surprise us.
'What's that?' I asked curiously. The immediate answer was, "There is Shakib Al Hasan in Dominica!"
I was confused, Shakib quickly explained, "Listen, I have a lot of fans all over the Caribbean (laughs). There is a man in Dominica who has named his child after me — Shakib Al Hasan."
That was quite a bit of news. I was regretting why I didn't get this scoop in Dominica! I could have had the chance to meet the Shakib in Dominica and his father then.
Meanwhile, Shakib continued, "The boy was born during the time we played in Dominica back in 2009. He liked my playing so much that he named his boy after me (laughs). This time he came with his son to meet me. He took a photo of me and his son together. Probably, I have the most fans in Dominica."
This reminded me of those ODIs in Dominica in 2009. Shakib led Bangladesh to victory in both matches. With a world class display of batting, Shakib got half-centuries in both the matches. He even got the man of the match award for his brilliant 65 of just 61 balls in the second match.
Despite trying hard it was not possible to get the photo of Shakib with the Shakib of Dominica as well as his father's name and address. Shakib Al Hasan didn't have any of these. He said, "I didn't keep any of these things. I don't even know what he does, where he lives. They took pictures and left. But I felt so good."
Shakib always admires the colourful cricket of West Indies. Once upon a time, the fields of these islands were were occupied by the legends of the game. Although those days are long gone, the craze for cricket has not abated.
He believes that West Indies has already started the process of reviving their past glory in cricket through the introduction of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL). CPL from Shakib's point of view and the West Indies cricket, was the main topic of this conversation before he left for the United States after the T20I series. It was during this conversation, when Bangladesh's Test captain broke the 'biggest news' of Shakib from Dominica.
The franchise cricket had shaken up almost every cricket-playing nation and Cricket West Indies too took initiatives in this regard. They launched their franchise tournament, the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) in 2013. The six-team tournament has had a huge positive impact on Caribbean cricket. The West Indies have won the T20 World Cup in 2012 and then again in 2016. The West Indies are the only country to have won twice in the seven T20 World Cups held so far.
The biggest contribution of the CPL in Caribbean cricket is bringing up new talents. Cricketers like Nicholas Pooran, Brendon King, Rovman Powell, Kyle Myers and many others were introduced in the scene through CPL.
Shakib sees the success of the tournament more evident from these aspects.
"West Indies are always a good team in T20. The CPL has further enriched their resources for the 20-over format. Everyone might have thought before that there are only a handful of players who are good in T20s. But now they have got six teams, six captains and vice-captains through their franchise tournament. In addition to that, new players are emerging in every edition of this tournament. They are being able to realise the benefits of organising such a tournament," Shakib said.
In this case, Shakib also gave the example of youngsters like Pooran and Powell saying, "Probably Pooran debuted during my first season at the CPL. Now he is a captain. Powell has also become the captain of Jamaica. But when I play in that team, he is just like any other player. Players coming through CPL are the main strength of the West Indies T20 team."
Darren Ganga, former Windies cricketer and commentator, also reiterated Shakib. He said, "You may say everyone in the West Indies team and outside are products of CPL. The tournament is a dream come true for the T20 players. Since the inception of the CPL, the exchange of cricket knowledge, ability to perform on the international stage, communication and leadership among the young cricketers of the region has been increasing tremendously."
He also referred to Shimron Hetmyer while giving an example for this. "Pooran debuted in the CPL when he was just 17 years old. He is so far the youngest cricketer to play in this tournament. West Indies Under-19 captain Shimran Hetmeyer, who won the 2016 U-19 World Cup, has also debuted in the CPL later. Both of them have proved their worth in the T20 format," he said.
So far Shakib has played for two teams in the CPL - Jamaica Tallawahs and Barbados Trident (recently changed into Barbados Royals). He will play for Guyana Amazon Warriors in the next edition starting from 31 August. The news has already spread in Guyana. After coming here with the Bangladesh team, the people of Guyana told him, "This time you have to make us the champion."
Apart from these big achievements, the craze among the people in these islands for their local teams also draws Shakib in.
"The people of the West Indies enjoy the CPL very much. The people live on cricket when the tournament starts. I really enjoyed playing for both teams. The people of Guyana have already started talking about bringing the trophy to their island," Shakib said.
Besides agriculture, tourism is a major source of income in the Caribbean islands. The CPL has added a new dimension to the concept of 'sports tourism'. This tournament is also opening all new windows in trade and commerce. The big companies are increasing promotional activities using this thrilling format of T20 cricket. The survival of the franchises becomes tough in such tournaments if they are not commercially successful. And if there is no franchise, how will the tournament continue?
Shakib's observation is that the value of CPL is gradually going up due to a good 'business model'. "They are getting success in terms of business. Now the IPL franchise owners have come here as well as some franchises from the USA. Naturally, they are doing well in terms of business. The survival of these tournaments is difficult without a good business model."
Like Shakib, Mahmudullah also had the chance to soak in the CPL frenzy playing for Jamaica Tallawahs and St Kitts & Nevis Patriots. Bangladesh's T20 captain also appreciates the cricket environment in the Caribbean.
Speaking at a restaurant in Georgetown, Mahmudullah said, "I have enjoyed playing in CPL for two seasons. I also wanted to take part in the edition arranged amid the coronavirus pandemic. I even had offers. However, my family didn't want me to play this far during a pandemic. Therefore, I couldn't come."
Apart from the emergence of new players for West Indies and cricket frenzy among the people in these islands, what impresses Mahmudullah is the effort to keep the tournament being held every year at any cost.
He said, "Since the inception, the tournament has been taking place every year. The biggest thing is that the Cricket West Indies has been able to keep organising the tournament. They organised the last two editions even amid the outbreak of the coronavirus."
The conversation with Shakib and Mahmudullah reminds me that we too have a similar franchise tournament in Bangladesh, the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL). It is said to be the biggest franchise tournament after the Indian Premier League (IPL). Somehow, however, the terms like 'business model', regularity and emergence of new players do not go with BPL. Does anyone know why?