“Interesting times and unchartered glories lie ahead for the West Indian team if they act true to the words of their captain who will leave no stone unturned in pursuance of his dream for his nation”
Cricket is a team sport in principle but sometimes a single player’s presence or absence can have a huge impact on a team’s success. The statement comes out particularly true in the case of West Indian Captain Jason Holder, who was banned for the St. Lucia Test because of the rules regarding the slow over-rates in the second Test. One could replace the bowler in him or the batsman in him but how would one have replaced his tactical nous or leadership abilities which have been baptized by leading his nation in its darkest ever phase.
982 runs at an average of almost 40 coupled with 62 wickets at a very good average of 21.04 in 17 Tests in last two years. These are the numbers which have made Holder the best Test all-rounder going around in the world at the moment. So, when Holder was banned for the final Test, West Indies not only lost their inspirational leader but also their number one all-rounder – two gaping holes which, eventually, proved too deep to be filled.
Though the English had already lost the series in Antigua, they have fought back and have conquered St. Lucia and by doing so, they have ensured that they are not empty-handed when they head back to their home comforts. In what was a near-complete performance- their batsmen showed resolve to survive over a tricky pitch, their bowlers bowling with great relentlessness and the X-factor of Mark Wood’s pace- England trounced West Indies by 232 runs to make the series 2-1 in favor of the hosts.
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This has been a special series in many ways. One got to witness the famed hostility of the Caribbean bowlers, there was spine showed by West Indian batting line-up especially in the first two Tests and most importantly the vindication of the skipper’s claims since he rose up to the position of captain in 2015. Since his ascendency to the captainship, Holder has always maintained his position that, in these tough times, for West Indian Cricket, his primary focus was to develop a core group of players who can take the team forward in future. Now the skipper stands vindicated by his team’s special effort against the Englishmen.
West Indies now truly have a core set of players they can bank upon to come good when required and, besides a collective team effort, there have been some very good individual efforts throughout the series. Roston Chase’s eight-wicket haul and the hundred in the last inning, Kemar Roach’s relentlessness throughout the series (he is the highest wicket-taker of the series with 18 scalps from three Tests), Holder and Shane Dowrich’s epic partnership in the first Test and Darren Bravo’s stubborn fifty in Antigua- all serve as good signs that the next generation of West Indian players has finally arrived.
Holder has finally achieved a team he can lead and win with and therefore there is no wonder that he dreams about his side becoming the number one Test-playing side in the world. Though it is still a distant dream, it is possible if the West Indians bring forth their true potential which was simply lacking in St. Lucia in Holder’s absence. Holder’s USP lies in the nature of his character which is of a calm, calculative and cool-headed thinking captain and a very down-to-earth persona which allows him to act as the perfect glue which binds the whole team quite cohesively.
This cohesion gains even more important as it is crucial for a trickle-down effect of inspiration from the captain over his team. It is on this front that Kraig Brathwaite has been unable to impress. One can also relate it to his own performance (138 runs in 6 innings at an average of 27.60) which was way below his own high benchmarks. It is in this context that Holder has done a very good job – he has persisted with players who went through or are going through a lean patch and when you do it you always get rewarded for this perseverance through some special performance by the players whom you backed incessantly.
Holder’s credentials as the leader of this Caribbean pack got a further boost by the fact that this is the first series win against a Test nation other than Zimbabwe and Bangladesh since their win against New Zealand in 2012. Almost seven long years and now finally West Indies look primed for more and their Captain is at the forefront of this success. But an ever steady and calm Holder reflected upon the bigger and better goals that he aspires to achieve for his team and also mentioned that celebrating the victory won’t do any good, but consistent hard work will.
“We need to continue to build and not rest on our laurels. Our number one goal is to be the number one team in the world so there is a lot to improve on. We have got to keep improving in the three facets of the game and be clinical and lot more consistent. Our bowlers have done an outstanding job. It is up to our batsmen to contribute more,” said Holder after a thorough reflection of the cricket played by his team in the series.
Interesting times and unchartered glories lie ahead for the West Indian team if they act true to the words of their captain who will leave no stone unturned in pursuance of his dream for his nation. As mentioned by Holder himself, instead of contentment over the present, continued improvement for the future is the key to success for his team.