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Rally round the West Indies

Bevan Springer | 11/1/2012, 12:01 p.m.
Jamaica's Butch Stewart picks Almond in Barbados

NEW YORK (Nov. 1)--The power of the West Indies brand is impressive, especially when promoting travel to the Caribbean in regions whose nationals have vast knowledge of the prowess of West Indian cricket teams of past and present.

During a recent visit to Pakistan, I was trying to depart the country on a standby ticket, only to be told the flight was full and I needed to try another flight. I had to leave the sterile security of the terminal area and visit the airline's ticket office on the exterior, which was a rare occurrence for the average passenger.

The security officials observed my movements closely which drew the attention of one gentleman who eventually decided to pull me aside for an interrogation.

"Can we see your passport?" he asked. Before long, three or four personnel were now hovering over me to find out who this foreigner was walking in and out of the terminal building.

When they discovered I was from the West Indies (and this was before we won the T20 World Cup), they dropped their guard, rolled out the red carpet and started talking cricket, with one officer likening my accent to the legendary fast bowler turned cricket commentator Michael Holding from Jamaica.

While Michael would probably dig in a short delivery at the notion that he sounds like a Bajan, it was my green light to move unencumbered throughout the terminal.

Such is the power of the West Indies brand across the globe, a brand which we in the region tend to take for granted.

With the World Cup now under our belt, imagine the reception I received when I visited hosts Sri Lanka, who were defeated by the West Indies in the final earlier this month in Colombo.

Nope, there were no sour grapes. That is simply not the disposition of the gracious Sri Lankan people. Rather, like the Pakistanis, there was a reverence for all things West Indian, so much so that I was treated like I was a member of the winning team that just recently departed the island nation.

I was actually invited to play for a local club run by a cashier at a local supermarket. Be sure to call me when you are next in Sri Lanka so we can play, he said, after learning I played quite a bit of cricket in my youth.

As we embrace the Caribbean brand identity, let's remember there is also a West Indian brand that's very powerful. And let's thank our lads on the field who--based on their hard work and cricketing genius--contribute to tourism growth; and not to mention, make travel for people like me that much more enjoyable.