Joel Garner, 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. Suvajit Mustafi lists out 16 interesting facts about the gigantic fast bowler.

1. Early grooming

Barbados has produced some greatest cricketers. To Garner’s advantage, he had legendary fast bowlers Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith as coaches. Garner once said: ”At school we had Seymour Nurse and Everton Weekes as the main coaches, and sometimes Manny Martindale. We knew they were great players and we all wanted to get as far as they’d done. It was Charlie who made me change my action. I used to deliver with a round arm, double swing which he said would not do at all. In a few months I was doing it the correct way.”

2. Wes Hall, his role-model

In an interview with The Hindu, Garner said that Hall, his first captain after he finished school, was his inspiration and role model.

3. Promising debut

Garner made his debut against Pakistan in his home ground at Bridgetown on what was a very good batting track. In a high scoring draw, Garner picked up a total of six wickets and also scored a crucial 43 with the bat. A month later, against the same opposition, he made his ODI debut and picked up three for 27 in nine overs.

4. Best bowling figures in World Cup final

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. Even 35 years later his bowling figures remain the best in the tournament finals.

5. Menace in ODI cricket

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.

6. Impeccable Test record but no 10 wickets haul

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.

7. The tallest cricketer

At 6’8” Garner was recorded to be the tallest international cricketer of the era. Later, Bruce Reid, half an inch taller than Garner, usurped the “record”. The record is currently held by Mohammed Irfan, who is 7’1”.

8. ‘Big Bird’

In the cricketing circle, Garner was known as ‘Big Bird’. He is named after the Doctor Bird, the national bird of Jamaica. The bird is a Caribbean species, distinguishable by its stilt-like legs.

9. ‘Maan, those student chicks were friendly’

In the compilation ‘My Favourite Cricketer’, Derek Pringle fondly recalls, “Our [Garner’s and Pringle’s] friendship began 28 years ago when I was at Cambridge and I took him and a few of his Somerset team-mates to a party the night before we played them at Fenner’s. Joel must have had a good time as he reminds me of it even now: ‘Man those student chicks were friendly.’”

10. How Garner grew this big!

Once in Barbados, Garner took Pringle for lunch at a kiosk in Oistins. He insisted that it was the best food on the island. The cooking was done by the dinner lady from his old school. Garner told Pringle, “I been eating this since I was six. How else you think I get his big.”

11. Master plan from captain Garner

When captaining Barbados in 1986, Garner had revealed his “master plan” to Pringle. The Englishman recalls Garner saying, “It’s quite simple. Me and Macko [Malcolm Marshall] open the bowling and nip out the top order. We have a rest and the other bowlers come on and keep it tight. Then me and Macko come on and blast out the tail. We have a bat, get a hundred lead and bowl them out again.”

12. Mike Brearley’s confession

Garner was known for his devastating yorkers. Former England captain, Mike Brearley had once stated, “The trouble is that Garner’s hand delivers over the top of the sightscreen, which makes him impossible to sight early. When you have one ball getting up chest height and another coming in at your toenails, it’s jolly difficult to survive, especially when you’re looking for quick runs as we were.”

13. ‘No maan, this is the World Cup final’

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.”

14. Rift with Peter Roebuck

In 1986, Somerset captain Peter Roebuck, who later became a celebrated cricket writer, had a fallout with Joel Garner, Ian Botham, and Viv Richards. Roebuck backed a club committee decision to release Richards and Garner. Botham, who was close to Caribbean cricketers was furious and reportedly pinned the word ‘Judas’ to Roebuck’s place in the change room before walking out on the side.

15. ‘Is everything else in proportion?’

It is reported that once Garner and friends were having a drink in an Australian hotel. At a nearby table a group of young ladies were celebrating some occasion. Eventually one of the girls came over and asked him “You are Joel Garner, aren’t you?” “Yes, Ma’am,” Joel replied. “We’ve noticed how tall you are and what big hands, big feet, long arms and legs you’ve got; what we’re dying to know is, is everything else in proportion?” “Garner replied, “Lady, if I were built in proportion I’d be eight foot ten!” (Some sources suggest different heights, but you get the basic drift).

16. Team Manager

In 2010, Garner was named interim manager of the West Indies for the tour of Sri Lanka.

(Suvajit Mustafi consumes cricket for lunch, fiction for dinner and munches numerous other snacks throughout the day. Yes, a jack of several trades, all Suvajit dreamt of was being India’s World Cup winning skipper but ended up being a sports writer, author, screenwriter, director, copywriter, graphic designer, sports marketer, strategist, entrepreneur,  philosopher and traveller. Donning so many hats, it’s cricket which gives him the ultimate high and where he finds solace. He can be followed at @RibsGully [Twitter] and rivu7 [Facebook].)