WEST Indies batsman Christopher Gayle believes the success of the highly-touted Caribbean Premier League (CPL) Twenty20 (T20) tournament is likely to guarantee a "bright future" for cricket in the region.
The CPL, founded by Ajmal Khan, chairman of the Barbados and New York-located merchant bank Verus International, was officially launched last month and is viewed by many to be the potential catalyst for a renaissance in West Indies cricket.
Based on claims made by Khan, the CPL's chief executive officer Dirk Hall and the WICB hierarchy, the region's tourism industry is set to receive a major boost via the inaugural staging of the competition, which is slated to run from July 29 to August 26.
At the recent 2013 CPL launch, the parties announced that substantial match fees will lure the finest local and international players. Retainer contracts for a wide pool of regional players were also promised.
The 33-year-old Gayle, one of six franchise or icon players picked from the West Indies, told the Sunday Observer that he is hoping for a smoothly-run tournament that will provide not only financial benefits, but plenty of thrilling action for spectators to savour.
"It (the CPL) is very important to be honest with you. Youngsters will be given opportunities. Cricketers can see it as a bright future and with the CPL they can be exposed out there for other competitions. That's the positive and the plus that the CPL comes with.
"I wish and hope things go smoothly and everybody can be happy at the end of the day and it will be a great tournament. We as West Indians like the excitement so hopefully it will be exciting and fans can come out and support or watch on television and be entertained.
"That will only benefit us as players and West Indies cricket as well," the left-handed batsman said during a recent charity presentation at his local club Lucas CC.
CPL T20 organisers also announced that Jamaica, Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, and St Lucia are the front-running territories from which franchise teams will be chosen.
The Observer understands that Gayle will be the icon player for the Jamaica franchise, while his compatriot Marlon Samuels is linked with Antigua & Barbuda.
Trinidad & Tobago spinner Sunil Narine is set to be the icon player for Guyana and his fellow countrymen, all-rounders Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard are expected to turn out for franchises in Barbados and in Trinidad, respectively.
West Indies captain Darren Sammy, who led the region to its first ICC T20 World Cup, is linked to his native St Lucia.
Between 2006 and 2008, the former billionaire Allen Stanford staged the now-defunct Stanford 20/20 in Antigua and that tournament was the toast of the Caribbean, while serving as the region's domestic 20-overs-a-side competition.
After the billionaire's fall from grace and subsequent imprisonment, the WICB funded the rebranded Caribbean T20, which started in 2010.
With the Verus-funded CPL replacing the CT20, Gayle is hopeful that the former will be a permanent fixture on the regional cricket calendar.
"(I am) sorry things broke down the way it did when we had the Stanford tournament. It was taking a really positive turn towards cricketers (and) opened a lot for cricketers to get opportunity to be exposed to international cricket. This is a new one and hopefully things can kick-off to positive start," Gayle said.