THE immigration officer at Grantley Adams International seemed bemused when I told him I was flying to Grenada to cover "the cricket".
"And what cricket is that?," he asked. A casual, rather than avid, fan, he still knew whenever I came across him in the past where I'd be heading to report on some West Indies tour. Now he genuinely had no incline that the West Indies were starting a series of ODIs, Twenty20s and Tests against Zimbabwe at the National Stadium in St.George's the next day.
His equivalent on arrival at Grenada's Maurice Bishop International was at least aware of the matches to follow at the imposing venue just outside the capital; it was just that he didn't know how many and on which days.
The Bajan and Grenadian might have been too focused on the general elections in their islands during the week to bother with cricket although I doubt it. Reds Pereira tells me that he found similar comments at Arnos Vale when he got in for the Windward Islands' regional four-day and Super50 matches against Trinidad and Tobago – and the official there had no such distractions.
It is a scenario that now recurs repeatedly throughout the islands (they no longer have to wonder when major cricket is to be staged in Guyana since the West Indies Cricket Board has scheduled none since 2011 in retaliation to the government's establishment of its Interim Management Committee over the divided Guyana Cricket Board).
Along with the discouraging results of the West Indies team, the squabbling involving board and players and the involvement of governments (not just in Guyana), such apathy is in direct relation to the WICB's basic neglect of its own home programme.
It has invested heavily in its website, streaming live coverage on this year's regional matches for the first time; ESPN International has again covered the Caribbean Twenty20 ball-by-ball. But the average fan in the Caribbean doesn't have access to the internet and cable television.
In a wider sense, the WICB's advertising, in press, radio and other more visible areas, are essential but minimal if not non-existent. The promotion of any product, especially those perceived as substandard, requires the support of skilful marketing.
Without it, the WICB gives the impression that it accepts the judgment that its cricket is inferior and that to devise and pay for a campaign to boost tournaments under its jurisdiction is an unnecessary burden.
So the ordinary followers, like the immigration officers in Barbados, Grenada and St.Vincent, are left in the dark over when and where matches are scheduled.
Even with internet access, they are clueless as to the new names in teams weakened by the absence of their best players away with the West Indies in Australia or in the Bangladesh Premier League. Or, more precisely this season, haven't a clue who are Tendal Chatara, Keegan Meth, Regis Chakabva, Natsal M'shangue and the other anonymous Zimbabweans who haven't played ODIs or Tests in just over a year.
Any reputable public relations outfit would be capable of devising catchy ways of enhancing the regional game's image. Attention on whether Jamaica can take the four-day championship for a sixth successive time and concentration on the up-and-coming young players such as Shannon Gabriel, Ronsford Beaton, Nkrumah Bonner and Jonathan Carter (what the jingoists might term "Generation Next") are just two that spring to mind.
The Zimbabwean series would be given context as a chance for the West Indies to compensate for their 5-0 ODI drubbing in Australia.
Professionals trained in such things will have a hundred and one suggestions.
Once potential sponsors note the WICB's attitude to its own cricket, it is unsurprising that they cannot be influenced into putting their money behind it. Instead of the well-known names (Shell, Sandals, Carib, Busta, Red Stripe, Harrison's Line) once attached to them, they are now simply the Regional Four-Day, the Super50 and the Caribbean Twenty20.
There are several examples of the WICB's lax approach to marketing. The latest is typical.
Fittingly, it commissioned (I hasten to point out from Cozier Publishing, of which I am a director) a magazine celebrating the West Indies' triumph in the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka last September and October.
Imran Khan, the WICB's corporate communications officer, was the managing editor and a high-quality, 60-page edition, filled with match reports, feature articles, messages and over 100 action colour photos came out in December. It is an ideal souvenir of a highpoint of West Indies cricket, of which there have been so few.
All well and good – except that it has not been advertised anywhere, not even on the WICB website, and is not available from most leading bookshops and airport outlets throughout the Caribbean.
A quantity was distributed, free, by WICB media manager Philip Spooner (the magazine's co-editor) in the media centre at the National Stadium during the first ODI and, I understand, also to the media at other regional matches.
This would be a treasured souvenir for all those who yearn to rejoice at a rare West Indian success, not least in North America where the game is avidly followed. Suitably priced, it could earn welcome income for the board. It is another opportunity lost.
Contrast all this with the launch of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) at the Sandy Lane Golf Club earlier this month before an assembly of the rich and the cricketing famous.
All the razzmatazz of Kadooment-costumed maidens, fireworks, drum rolls, hyperbolic speeches and the like might have been a bit over the top for some yet it demanded attention.
It followed the examples of several similar ventures through the years contesting pieces of the cricketing pie– World Series Cricket, the Stanford Twenty20, the Indian Premier League, the Big Bash.
They would probably have stood on their own, for each, like the CPL, offered something new and exciting. And, of course, Ajmal Khan and Verus International has the kind of cash that Kerry Packer, the now incarcerated Allen Stanford, Lalit Modi and others could offered and the WICB clearly couldn't. But they all recognised that their tournaments needed such boosts to further fascinate the public.
The WICB can take note.