Don't sell-out Windies - Garner
The cricketing world has a short memory. As Joel Garner recalls, it wasn't that long ago the likes of Australia and England relied upon West Indian tours to drag otherwise underwhelmed spectators through the turnstiles.
"When other teams weren't doing so well, and we were playing exciting cricket, we were relied upon so they could boost revenues," Garner said. "People forget how much money West Indies cricket has generated for the world when we were the team of choice for host countries."
Not surprisingly, Garner is unimpressed by calls for a two-tier Test system; calls that increased in volume and frequency after West Indies' dispiriting performance in the Brisbane Test. He believes cricket's stronger nations would be flouting history and acting out of self-interest if they voted to relegate the West Indians who, he insists, could rise again as a competitive force with appropriate funding.
"It's a selfish way to live your life," said Garner, who is currently serving as West Indies team manager on the tour of Australia. "You're basically saying, 'We're OK so to hell with you.' A four-team competition makes no sense. If we want eight competitive teams rather than just four, administrators need to look at new ways of sharing their revenue. West Indies needs rebranding, and it would be to the benefit of everybody if that happened.
"We are 16 islands that span 1,500 miles from Jamaica to Guyana with six million people where resources are scarce. We can get away with it up through the juniors, but if a player really wants to better himself, it is difficult when there are only six or eight first-class games a year. What we need is a professional league. We are not looking for handouts, just ways of looking at the way cricket's revenue is shared to improve the game in the Caribbean."
Sections of the Australian media have been vociferous in their condemnation of the West Indians since their arrival in Brisbane, supporting the case for their relegation from a proposed top tier of Test nations. Travis Dowlin, a Guyanese batsman with a cricketing resume spanning three Tests, was the latest to experience the blowtorch when an Adelaide television reporter asked whether the ICC should take action against West Indies for their poor form.
Tony Cozier, the veteran Bajan commentator and columnist, expressed his disappointment at the reaction of sections of the Australian media to West Indies' plight. "The abuse and scorn heaped on the team ... was undeserving," Cozier wrote. "Much of it was simply beyond the pale." Cozier went on to point out that, despite a difficult decade, West Indies had defeated England in a Test series this year and experienced a disjointed build up to the Brisbane Test, which they lost inside three days.
Garner concurs. "The West Indies team was invited to Australia in 1984 to bring people through the gates and there was no suggestion from our end that we wouldn't come," he said. "I think some people need to look at the bigger picture."
Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo