Joel Garner, the former fast-bowling great who is now West Indies’ team manager, feels players from the region have promise but don’t work hard enough.
“We’ve always had promising players, we’ve always had attractive players, the problems we have is that, most of the players are identified, I don’t think they work hard enough, and they fall away,” Garner said, in a media interaction on Tuesday. “I think that if the players are prepared to work as hard as they need to work, they can get to the top of world cricket as well.”
When asked which areas the players might need to work harder on, he pointed to the lack of long innings and sizeable partnerships, which has been a problem for West Indies right through their ongoing Test series against India, apart from the final day of the drawn second Test in Jamaica.
“I think that the longer they spend in the middle, the easier the batting becomes,” he said. “And I think that is one area that I’d like to see improve, where you’d like to see the fellows batting long, not only batting long but batting effectively.
“If you look at it, partnerships are important in any cricket game. The reason we were able to save the game in Jamaica was we had batting partnerships virtually whole day. If you don’t get the partnerships, you won’t get the performances. It’s very important to take something away from the game in Jamaica, to look at how we prepare and how we can build on it.”
Garner said the lure of T20 may be hampering West Indies’ younger players coming through the junior ranks.
“I think that, when you look at our cricket, we are challenging maybe up to Under-19s,” he said. “If you look at every world competition, when you look at them, West Indies is there. Where we have the challenge is when we go away. I think everybody looks at the T20 cricket and they want to play the T20 format of the game as opposed to playing the longer version of the game, and, you know, it is a matter of choice. Why work for five days if you can work for three hours? I think that that’s the mentality and it’s something that we’ve got to try and change in terms of how our players look at the cricket and the type of cricket our players want to play.”
While Garner clarified that he wasn’t dissuading players from playing T20, he wanted revenues earned from T20 to be invested in the grassroots, and for the players to be able to play more first-class cricket. He compared the current situation, where domestic players play ten matches a year, to the situation of the best West Indies players of his era, who were all overseas professionals in county cricket.
“I don’t know about discouraging [players from taking part in T20],” he said. “As I said, T20 cricket is used to raise finances for everybody, and I think that if you look at it, that is where we should have been trying to say we can, you know, earn some income that we can reinvest in our junior cricketers and in our local cricket.
“We are fortunate that we can play ten games now as opposed to five. Are ten games enough in a year? When I played, I played 20-somebody or 40-somebody games in a year playing county cricket, and that is where the strength of the cricket is – the more you play, the more you get accustomed to it, the harder the cricket is, and the more professional you become.”
Asked about the proposal to split Test cricket into two tiers, Garner said such a move would keep Test cricket to “a chosen few”.
“I wish them luck if they want cricket to remain with the big three or the big four,” he said. “You have the two-tier system, I mean, you’ve got to start someplace, and the only way you can get into the two-tier system is by playing against the teams that are above you in the table. If you can’t play the teams above you on the table, how will you get in?
“So, to me, it begs the question, what purpose does it serve? Are you trying to preserve Test cricket or are you trying to keep it to a chosen few? I can’t answer it for you because you want to preserve Test cricket, the only way you can preserve Test cricket is to let people at the lower level play against teams above them to be able to compete and to be able to progress.”