Joel Garner has warned against “writing the West Indies off too early” ahead of their upcoming Test series against England.
A three-match campaign starts with the first day/night Test ever staged in England, at Birmingham’s Edgbaston ground on Thursday.
England, fresh from a 3-1 win over South Africa in a four-Test home series, will start as huge favourites.
Not only have the West Indies lost their last six Test series, they have been beaten in 14 of their most recent Tests in England and drawn the other three.
But fast-bowling great Garner, now the West Indies team manager, said Monday: “It’s going to be some interesting times. I think people are writing the West Indies off too early and it could be at their own peril.”
And with a fast-bowling attack led by Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel, allied to a new work ethic being installed by Australian coach Stuart Law, Garner believes his side, who have played a day/night Test — a hard-fought defeat by Pakistan in Dubai in October — could yet upset the odds.
“Cricket is played in the middle at the end of the day,” Garner added at an event staged by series sponsors Investec in London on Monday. “I think the fellas have got talent.”
“It’s who makes the greatest adjustment in the day/night game. Games between England and the West Indies are competitive. I wouldn’t completely write them off.”
West Indies, however, have arrived in England without several star players including Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Marlon Samuels and Darren Sammy — the legacy of a bitter dispute with West Indies cricket officials and the fact that the Caribbean Premier League Twenty20 tournament is going on at home at the same time as the Test series.
– ‘Work with what we’ve got’ –
While Cricket West Indies, as the West Indies Cricket Board is now known, recently granted an ‘amnesty’ in a bid to get senior players back on board ahead of the 2019 World Cup in England, it has come too late to alter the squad for the Test series.
“We will welcome them back because they are our better players but at the present moment we are here to play cricket,” said the 64-year-old Garner. “We’ve got to work with what we’ve got. We still have fight.
“We can’t keep looking and saying ‘we’ll wait and see if the other players come back as well’.”
Garner, who stood for election as WICB president two years ago but lost to incumbent Whycliffe ‘Dave’ Cameron, said he felt relations between players and officials were improving.
“There’s a lot more communication going on between the players and the officials,” he said. “It can only get better.”
But the 64-year-old Garner accepted the timing of the CPL was far from ideal.
“That is the biggest challenge because that is where most of the money is being aimed at,” said Garner.
“I think you have to work around it and get the tours organised in such a way there’s no competition from the shorter version of the game.”
The giant Garner, who took 259 wickets in 58 Tests at an average of just 20.97, said he felt standards had slipped since the day when he was a key member of the West Indies side that dominated world cricket in the late 1970s and 1980s.
“If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail…Some of our players have become accustomed to the CPL way of doing things.
“Players are being encouraged to train harder and get fitter. We’ve always had players with ability, players with style and flair, but the lack of preparation at the top could have been part of the problem.”