Joel Garner, byname Big Bird or Big Joel, born December 16, 1952, was one of the West Indian fast bowlers who was the prime reason for the side’s dominance in Test and One-Day Internationals (ODIs). The Barbadian has played a total of 58 Tests and 98 ODIs for West Indies.
Garner made his debut against Pakistan in his home ground at Bridgetown on what was a very good batting track. He picked up a total of six wickets and also scored a crucial 43 with the bat. Against the same opposition a month later he made his ODI debut and picked up three for 27 in nine overs. In the cricketing circle,
In the 1979 World Cup final, Garner’s dream performance of five for 38 against the host nation England ensured West Indies of a second World Cup title. It was the last time a bowler took a five-wicket haul in the World Cup final.
Garner’s dominance in ODIs continued. Among all bowlers who have taken over 100 wickets, Garner averages the best with 18.84. Among bowlers who have bowled over 1,000 balls in ODIs, only Hamid Hassan of Afghanistan averages decimals better than Garner at 18.82 (one must remember that Garner seldom got to play minnows, and Hassan has played a mere 21 ODIs). With a career economy rate of 3.09, Garner also has the best economy rate among all bowlers who have bowled over 900 balls in international cricket.
Garner was equally effective in Test cricket. In 58 Tests, he took 259 wickets at a meagre average of 20.97, which makes him statistically one of the most effective cricketers of all time. Not surprisingly, he never picked up a ten-wicket haul. Few managed to do it, given the West Indian quartet preferred to share wickets.
They had several memorable battles on the cricket pitch, but in the early 1980s Garner played county cricket alongside Indian batting maestro Sunil Gavaskar for Somerset. They both were flatmates and it was quite a sight when they walked out together. Gavaskar was only five feet four inch.
In the 1983 World Cup final, Gavaskar was having a tough time batting against the mighty West Indians at a green top at Lord’s. He asked Garner, “How about a half-volley for your flatmate?” Garner smiled and replied; “No maan, this is the World Cup final.”
Garner remained involved in the sport after retirement and he later served as president of the Barbados Cricket Association. He was inducted into the International Cricket Council Cricket Hall of Fame in 2010.