Big Bird bats for new Windies crop

Bridgetown, Barbados — Joel Garner is not one to add to the pressures on the current young West Indies side by harking back to the glory days of West Indies cricket.

Certainly he would be entitled to, having been one of the Four Horsemen in the apocalyptic pace attack that made the West Indies the best and most feared cricketing nation from the late 1970’s through to the 1995 series, when Australia finally unseated them at Sabina Park.

But there are more than enough people in the Caribbean happy to look back. That has been the problem. Garner, now president of the Barbados Cricket Association and Director of the West Indies Cricket Board, has chosen to look forward and although progress has been slow - the Windies recently climbed one rung on the ICC world rankings to seventh - at least the freefall has been arrested.

“I think where our system failed is that we weren’t really investing a lot of time in developing cricket,” Garner said yesterday.“Over the last five or six years we’ve made a conscious decision that we’ve got to start, that we’ve got to develop from the bottom again.

“And that is where most of the time is spent, at school and club level and introducing young cricketers to the game. That is where we’ve made a difference.”

These days the West Indies are more likely to win a Test through the guile of their spinners than the explosive pace of their fast bowlers, although every now and then Fidel Edwards tickles the memory with a searing 150-plus kph delivery.

But he is pretty much the lone wolf. Gone are the days when the pack would rip opposing batting orders to shreds.

“I try not to put too much pressure on them,” replied Garner, when asked for his opinion of the West Indies current generation of fast bowlers.  The hardest thing is for them to train hard, practice hard and give of their best.”

With respect, the hardest thing for them, indeed for the entire West Indies side, must be simply to walk on to Kensington Oval and feel the weight of the history a once-great cricketing superpower.

It’s said that you could put together a team capable of beating the world just from the names - Barbadians all - that adorn the various grandstands at the Oval and indeed it’s an exercise worth conducting.

Start off in the Greenidge-Haynes Stand, hop across to the Sir Garfield Sobers Pavillion, wriggle over to the 3W’s, the Worrell-Weeks-Walcott Stand, from there push off on the long run from the Garner end, return fire from the Marshall end and then finish off with a cooling drink in the Hunte suites at the back of the Hall-Griffith Stand.

They are some of the greatest names in cricketing history, all crammed, interestingly into barely 180 degrees of this fabled Oval. Seemingly, someone had the foresight to leave the other half of the arc unnamed for future greats. One suspects that someone might have been the BCA president. Certainly Garner is an unabashed optimist when it comes to West Indies cricket.

“It’s no secret that we have been through some hard and trying times and it has brought some hurt to those who love it,” he admitted.

“I was (West Indies) Team Manager the last time we were Down Under not so long ago (2009-10). We played some good cricket but we were still the losers at the end of the day. But what we are seeing from the fellas is that the fighting spirit is coming back.”

In his welcoming speech yesterday to Australian captain Michael Clarke before Test eve press conference, Garner ran through some of the famous highlights at Kensington Oval, including his own run-in with Australian batsman Wayne Phillips there in 1984.

“An innings of rare quality,” he said of Phillips’ brilliant 120. “He got a few runs off me as well put me over the stands a few times.”

What Garner failed to mention was that he got Phillips back. He dismissed him in that innings and then four more times, for 5, 22, 12 and 2 in the remaining two Tests as the West Indies crushed the Australian uprising.

The moral of the story - in West Indies cricket, there’s always a payback just around the corner. Australia beware!

Taken from:

Fri, 04/06/2012 - 02:59