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Legend Garner backs Windies to spring surprise
LONDON—Team manager, Joel Garner, has warned pundits to write off West Indies “at their own peril” as the Caribbean side gear up for the opening Test of the three-match series against England. Garner said he believed the pivotal issue will be adjustment, especially with the first Test in Edgbaston being played under lights.
“Not many people are giving us a lot of hope,” said the legendary former speedster, a member of the dominant Windies side of the 1970s and 80s.
“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 have arrived with a youthful side missing several of its leading stars like Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels and Darren Bravo.
However, they have made a strong start to the series with several eye-catching performances in the three three-day first class games against County opposition in recent weeks.
Four batsmen got hundreds—three in one innings – against Derbyshire in a day/night affair in an encouraging warm-up for the first Test, prompting Garner to reiterate his warning.
“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,” he stressed.
“Cricket is played in the middle at the end of the day and it’s who makes the fastest adjustment.”
West Indies have not enjoyed a series win in three years, the last coming when they beat minnows Bangladesh in a two-match rubber in the Caribbean.
They have since lost 15 of their last 23 Tests and won just three, remaining stationed at number eight in the ICC Test rankings.
Optimism has abounded of recent, however, with the Caribbean side competing strongly with Pakistan in a home-and-away series, and Garner argued this was because of new sense of professionalism being instilled in the unit.
“Players are being encouraged to train harder and get fitter,” Garner explained.
“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.” Meanwhile, Head coach Stuart Law has praised the character of the Test captain Jason Holder and says he could be an effective leader over the next decade for the regional side.
“It is a lot of responsibility, and he does it with fantastic integrity,” Law said here.
“He’s a young man, but very intelligent and high quality. He’s doing everything to make sure he captains this side not just this series but for 10 or 15 years.”
Holder was named Test captain two years ago, just a year after he was given charge of the one-day team, and has come in for widespread praise for his maturity despite the side’s losing slide.
Under his watch, West Indies have won just two of their 15 Tests but have shown signs of development and professionalism.
They stunned Pakistan last November in the United Arab Emirates to win the final Test despite losing the three-Test series and also took a Test off the Pakistanis on the recent home tour as they again went down 2-1.
The tour of England represents one of the toughest challenges of Holder’s captaincy, especially with the youthful side—inexperienced in English conditions—already being written off by pundits.
But Law said such was Holder’s character that such criticism only served to motivate him.
“He takes it with a pinch of salt, the things said about him and this team and uses it to drive him and them forward,” said Law, who took over the side last March.
“He’s got experience. He’s done it at this level, and I’m looking forward to how he performs.”
The Windies take on England in the day/night opening Test starting Thursday at Edgbaston. (CMC)