PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – Fast bowling legend Joel Garner says the successful emergence of Twenty20 cricket has dulled the appetite of younger players for the longer version of the game, and has also contributed to a negative work ethic in the region.
Garner, currently serving as West Indies team manager, said the Caribbean was losing too many of its young cricketers and T20 cricket had only served to perpetuate the problem.
“When you look at our cricket, we’re challenging up to Under-19 [level]. When you look at every world competition, West Indies are there. Where we have the challenges is when we go away,” Garner said here. “I think everybody looks at the T20 cricket and they want to play the T20 format of the game instead of playing the longer version. And it’s a matter of choice – why work for five days when you can work for three hours.
“I think that’s the mentality and it’s something we have 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 West Indies’ Test fortunes have declined significantly over the last two decades, their stock in the shortest format has risen considerably.
Only last April, they became the first nation to won the T20 World Cup twice, when they beat England in dramatic final in Kolkata. They had beaten hosts Sri Lanka to win their first T20 title in 2012.
In contrast, they languish at number eight in the Test rankings, just a few ratings points above minnows Bangladesh.
The glitzy Caribbean Premier League has also emerged in recent years as a success, and has been filling stadia around the region while the first class tournament continues to be poorly attended.
Garner, a West Indies Cricket Board director and the president of the Barbados Cricket Association, said tough decisions needed to be taken.
“Drastic situations call for drastic measures and while T20 cricket is a money-spinner, a money-earner, I think if we want to be at the top of the world we have to do things a little bit different,” the 63-year-old said.
“[We have to] get used to playing the longer version of the game, get people to become more professional and I think if we can get them to become more professional, then performances will improve.”
The ongoing four-Test series against India has offered little hope of a resurgence with West Indies already trailing 0-2, following two heavy defeats in the first three Tests.
Successful Test debuts for Roston Chase, who scored an unbeaten hundred in his second Test, and for fast bowlers Alzarri Joseph and Miguel Cummins, have been encouraging but Garner said it would take much more to get West Indies back on top again.
“The key to West Indies fortunes is to get a team that is performing and a team that stays fit and a team that’s improving,” he pointed out.
“You have to start some place and if it is you’re starting with a new squad then it will take time, it takes a little bit of patience. The way to go about it is to encourage the fellas to work hard and improve with each performance.”
Increased games at the first class level would also be key to any revival, Garner noted.
“If you look at the amount of games the Indian fast bowlers would have played against the amount of games the West Indian fast bowlers would have played, there’s a vast difference,” he argued.
“So even though [India’s] bowlers may be new, they’ve got some experience. We’ve got fellas who are early 20s or who’ve been playing two, three years. The only thing we can do is keep working with them.”