It is, according to West Indies Cricket Board president Dave Cameron, "a revolutionary introduction into the West Indian cricketing landscape" that will "transform West Indies first-class, List A and international cricket".

The WICB's new, much trumpeted Professional Cricket League (PCL), a franchise system initiated with an investment of US$4.3m from an all but insolvent board, starts with matches between the six territories in Guyana, Trinidad and Jamaica on Friday. It runs through to March 23 on an expanded home-and-away schedule, breaking for the Nagico 50-overs tournament in January.

According to the WICB, the 90 participating players, chosen from outside the 15 internationals already on retainer contracts, are guaranteed a basic annual income of between US$15,600 and $36,000, rising to potentially $33,500 - $53,900 with match fees and prize money. There is a provision for those not contracted to be used on a match-by-match basis.

In other words, those at all levels finally become full-time professionals. The impact of such a makeover on the domestic game has been inevitably overshadowed by the continuing devastating repercussions from West Indies' premature abandonment of their tour of India last month.

As the feuding parties worked on settling the internal divisions that led to the Indian fiasco and Cameron and governments of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) wrote to the BCCI seeking its understanding in the face of the $42m compensation claim for consequent losses, no one got around to arranging even nominal promotion for the "revolutionary introduction" of the PCL.

It is an innovation that should have taken off like a spectacular rocket; come Friday, it'll be more like a damp squib.

It is 48 years since the inauguration of West Indies' first annual first-class tournament involving all six territories (for the Shell Shield); inter-territorial matches were previously arranged mainly on an ad hoc basis. Except for a brief home-and-away arrangement in 2005, the Shield and its various successors were restricted to a single round. Even with the eventual introduction of semi-finals and a final, the maximum was seven matches; it was the shortest season of all the Test countries.

Players, with a handful of exceptions, represented their home territory. They had to make do with cut-rate fees that eventually levelled out at $1000 a match. Only those in the Test team, or with contracts with English counties, could make a living out of the game.

The six WICB PCL franchises signed on a minimum of 15 players each as new full-time professionals six weeks ago - ten home-based, the other five from those placed in an overall draft. The WICB said the aim was to "achieve an equitable distribution of the available player talent". The expectation was that franchises would seek to boost their weak areas by recruiting from other teams. "Cross-fertilisation" was how it was described.

It hasn't turned that way. Rivalry between the insularly proud territories goes back a long way; it hasn't significantly changed. Only two players of the contracted 90 in the inaugural season were chosen by franchises other than their own.

Ramnaresh Sarwan, the 34-year-old veteran of 87 Tests, was snapped up by Trinidad and Tobago from Guyana; coach Gus Logie said he was contracted to bring experience to a young squad. Raymond Reifer, the promising left-handed Barbados allrounder, is with Guyana; coach Esuan Crandon's simple explanation was that his team was short of allrounders.

Leeward Islands have propped up the standings for the past five seasons. Coach Ridley Jacobs' explanation, when asked why he didn't seek help from elsewhere, was that Leewards were a combination of five islands and the expanded season would give a chance to more players.

West Indies' commitments to international cricket are always likely to conflict with the PCL. The tour of South Africa in December and January cuts across both the first-class season and the 50-overs tournament; the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand coincides with the last six rounds of the PCL.

The early termination of the India tour has given some players - Test captain Denesh Ramdin, Kraigg Brathwaite, Jason Holder, Kemar Roach and Leon Johnson - the unexpected chance of early PCL matches this time.

This is likely to be the exception. Otherwise, as a thoroughly professional set-up for eager, emerging players, the PCL might just "transform West Indies first-class, List A and international cricket".

Tony Cozier has written about and commentated on cricket in the Caribbean for 50 years