Big Bird looks back in anger
The waistline has expanded considerably, there are some grey strands in the closely cropped curls on his head, but the towering presence of Joel Garner is obviously impossible to miss.
The Big Bird was there at a press conference convened by the World Cup organisers at a Kingston hotel on Monday to share his thoughts on what made — and later unmade — the legacy of West Indian fast bowlers and other things.
Not as telling with words as his yorkers were, Garner seemed pained by the way the current crop of bowlers from his team approach the game and their lack of interest to learn from their predecessors and even team-mates.
“The work culture was different in our days. For us, cricket was not a 10 to 5 activity. It went on for hours beyond that and that is when I learnt what I did. Even after club games in Barbados, we would sit together and dissect the game, constantly seeking inputs from team-mates on what has been done and how they should have been done.”
The 54-year-old sounded sad when he said that he hardly saw the same fire in the bunch that shares the bowling burden for the West Indies these days. “For them, cricket is over after the day’s play is over. That can’t be the way.”
Garner also pointed out a flaw in the work ethics of the present generation. “You can only get better if you constantly strive to improve. There would be no one else around save the groundsmen and I would first bowl at three stumps, then two and finally one.”
He defended Michael Holding for constantly hitting out at the current lot, saying what Whispering Death tries to profess is nothing but true. “It’s all about practice. There has not been and will not be a better alternative.”
The nemesis of the best of batsmen during his playing days also thought that extra attention on fitness is doing these bowlers no good. “Why do you have to spend so much time at the gym? The first time I went there was to strengthen my shoulders after an injury. You run and run to build muscles; don’t pump iron!”
He dismissed the notion that bowlers nowadays get injured because there is an overdose of cricket. “We used to play over 40 county games after the international matches, nobody complained or broke down. So, I don’t think there is anything called excessive cricket.”
Garner singled out Ian Chappell as the batsman he found most challenging to bowl to. “There was nobody more competitive. He wouldn’t ever give you an inch. He would be the first one to sit with you over a beer after the day’s play and come back a different man the next day. He was fearless and loved challenges.”