“Once Jason Holder recovered from his injury to play the second match, the Windies looked like a totally different unit as compared to the one that played the first match”
The Windies went into the first Test match of the series, at Rajkot, sans their regular skipper Jason Holder; an ankle sprain had forced him to sit out of the match. What followed afterwards was a complete humiliation as the visitors were battered, bruised and left searching for answers by the hosts, with the match ending in a span of just three days.
A loss margin of an innings and 272 runs summed up how thoroughly they had been outplayed in the match. Their bowling unit appeared to be toothless and batting unit spineless. Yes, they were not as experienced as a unit as that of India, but such a meek surrender is never acceptable. They appeared to be totally lifeless. The heart and soul appeared to be missing somewhere.
However, once Jason Holder recovered from his injury to play the second match, the Windies looked like a totally different unit as compared to the one that played the first match. Yes, the top and middle order still kept collapsing, the bowlers still found it hard to trouble the Indian batsmen, the match still ended in a span of just three days, but a battle was always waged from one end by Holder, whenever everyone was starting to lose hope.
He led from the front throughout the match. The moment it seemed like all the chips were down, he surprised everyone with a piece of brilliance, either with the bat or with the ball. They were staring down the barrel in the first innings once again, with the scoreboard reading 182/6. Roston Chase was batting brilliantly at one end but he was falling short of partners. Another wicket and he would have lost his patience. But Holder walked out to bat with the assurance that they were not going to surrender this time.
They already had tormented India once with a century stand back at home. Their efforts had helped the Windies in salvaging a draw out of the jaws of defeat. Everybody doubted their chances of repeating their act again, for the Indian side is a different team at home. But the duo proved them wrong.
Holder kept playing the supporting act to Chase as he had done in his two previous century stands with him. He looked solid with his defense and played some elegant drives at the same time. By the time he departed, on a score of 52 runs, he had already propelled his team to a respectable total of 296/7, courtesy a third century stand with Chase.
They were eventually bowled out for 311 runs, a much better batting effort than what unfolded in the first match of the series. However, it still didn’t seem enough to put the Indian batting unit under pressure, that too, on a flat batting track. But the Windies needed to believe in themselves.
Their world seemed like crashing down once again when the young Prithvi Shaw along with a jittery KL Rahul had got India off to a quick-fire start. The hosts had 61 runs on the board in the ninth over. The visitors looked to be totally down and out once again. But their leader charged them up by dismissing Rahul . Holder set him up well by bowling a series of out-swingers and in-swingers in tandem until a delivery nipped back from an impeccable middle and off stump line, thus creating doubts in Rahul’s mind about whether to play it or leave it. Rahul eventually ended up playing it on to his stumps and the Windies had their first wicket.
Suddenly, a burst of positive energy could be seen in the entire Windies bowling unit. Each and every one of them seemed to be at their best. The following period saw Jomel Warrican and Shanon Gabriel sending Shaw and Cheteshwar Pujara back to the pavilion. But Virat Kohli, the man who mattered, was still out there scoring runs at will and protecting his wicket like a knight protecting his castle.
Hardly any bowler troubled him as he was inching closer towards his fifty. Suddenly, out of nowhere, his Windies counterpart trapped him lbw in front of the stumps with a delivery that nipped back in quickly from middle and off stump line. Kohli was caught plumb in front of the stumps and the unthinkable had happened as he departed for a classy knock of 45 runs, a score which any team would take happily from Kohli on any day.
They had India under pressure on 162/4. But the attack fizzled out once again as the other bowlers failed to deal with Rishabh Pant’s counter-attack. India went to stumps on Day 2 trailing the visitors by just 3 runs. Ajinkya Rahane and Pant, with individual fifties to their names, ensured that they didn’t lose any more wickets as Holder didn’t find enough support from other bowlers, despite bowling well.
As Day 3 began, the momentum was completely with India. But Holder turned the tides in Windies’ favour by dismissing Rahane and Ravindra Jadeja in the same over, early in the morning. He showed supreme swing bowling skills as he had Rahane caught at gully by inviting him to cut a widish out-swinger. And then he trapped Jadeja lbw with a superb in-swinger two deliveries later.
His opening burst inspired Gabriel to come good as he dismissed Pant soon after. India had thus lost three quick wickets and the Windies were back in the match once again. Kuldeep Yadav and Ravichandran Ashwin stayed at the crease for 49 deliveries, scoring 12 runs.
Kuldeep had played a couple of impressive drives against Gabriel but Holder proved to be too good for him, a delivery pitched at good length from round the stumps did just enough to square Kuldeep up and knock his off-stump out of the ground.
He was Holder’s 5th victim in the innings, thus helping him to register the fifth five-wicket haul of his Test career, four of which have come in this year only.
With India gaining a lead of 56 runs, the third innings turned out to be a disappointing affair for the Windies again as they got bowled out for just 127 runs, leaving India to chase down just 72 runs.
Holder could not repeat his heroics in this innings having being dismissed for just 18 runs. But he gave all he had in him in this match.
The onus was on their top and middle order this time to back up their skipper’s spirited performance earlier in the match. They failed to do so once again and that summed up how dependent they are on Holder in all departments of the game.
The 25-year old has 33 wickets to his name this year with a bowling average of 12.39 being the second best for a pace bowler in a calendar year in the last 100 years. He also has 336 runs to his name in 6 matches this year at an average of 37.88, which is pretty impressive for a lower order batsman. These numbers sum up why he is the fourth best Test all-rounder in ICC Test rankings and he is only getting better day by day.
Till the conclusion of India’s tour of West Indies back in 2016, Holder had batting and bowling averages of 27.12 and 48.09 respectively. Since then, the numbers read 32.51 and 25.10 respectively. That suggests the massive improvement he has undergone as a player since then and he is only expected to become better in the coming time ahead.
There is no doubt about how integral his role as an all-rounder is to West Indies’ success but it is high time now that his teammates stepped up.