Captain Holder has come a long way……
West Indies have a huge advantage in the first Test against Bangladesh and could take a big step towards a win in the second day’s play itself. They have already taken a 158-run lead on Day One and look set to extend it on Day Two, with Kraigg Brathwaite going strong. West Indies of late have been playing very competitive cricket, especially in Tests, which is soothing to see after years of struggle. Amidst all this, they have had their young captain Jason Holder stand like a rock and lead West Indies through the turmoil.
The world was left stunned when he was appointed West Indies’ ODI captain just before the ICC World Cup 2015, aged just 23. The Clive Lloyd-led selection panel had high hopes from Holder, who replaced the veteran Dwayne Bravo in the leadership role. As expected, results did not follow immediately, but after over three years of being appointed captain, Holder is finally stamping his authority in this team.
As a young captain, it is never going to be easy to lead some vastly experienced players. The likes of Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard, who are in and out of the limited-overs side or the likes of Darren Bravo or Denesh Ramdin, who feature in the Test side – It was never going to be easy to rally these people around especially from a player who was just making inroads into professional cricket, not just at the international level.
But Holder, finally, has a grip of this team and is not just able to produce positive results, but he too has been a key figure with the ball in hand and also occasionally with the bat. Primarily a bowler, who can bat, Holder showed great resilience when he scored 103 not out against England, coming in at no. 8, against the likes of James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Ben Stokes and Chris Jordan to save a match for West Indies in 2015. Two years later he scored 110 against Zimbabwe at Bulawayo and now has an average of over 30 in Tests. Not bad for someone, who bats at no. 7 or 8 for his country.
However, it has always been his bowling that has been under the scanner. He did not have great pace and if there was no swing on offer, he barely managed to trouble the batsmen. Despite the fact that he played in a few bowling friendly conditions like New Zealand, England and also Australia, where the wickets these days have become flatter than before, Holder struggled to find his rhythm. But he swung into action against Pakistan in the UAE, led from the front with a 5-wicket haul – his first in Tests – to help West Indies win and end the three-match series with some pride.
From there on, West Indies matured as a team. They were putting up fights in every series, but at the final hurdle, they would eventually succumb to defeats. A series win continued to elude West Indies – The fact that this is being written is a compliment to the West Indies team. From wins eluding them, now series wins elude them – A good beginning. However, Holder registered his first and only series win so far against Zimbabwe in 2017. He had a great chance to win another series against Sri Lanka recently, but the visitors fought back extremely well to level things.
Holder has now also helped West Indies qualify for the ICC World Cup 2019. If playing the qualifiers were a bit of an embarrassment for the two-time champions, not being able to participate in the next mega event would have been a new low for them. Holder led from the front with both bat and ball in that tournament, scoring 219 runs at 36.50 and picked up 15 wickets at 21.13 from eight matches. Now, he is also turning out to be a much improve captain in the Test arena, with his bowling and batting improving with every game as well.
From a player with a bright future to leading the West Indies – All at an age when many are still finding their feet – is commendable. West Indies are barely a mere shadow of their glorious past, but their performances lately have been heartening. They won a Test in UAE, in England and have also levelled a series at home against Sri Lanka. Now, they are on the cusp of decimating Bangladesh. West Indies certainly do seem to have the momentum with them and will hope that it lasts for a long time.