By Josh Farrell
West Indies Captain Jason Holder. Photo: Gareth Copley/Getty Images.
One of the major aspects of the series between England and the West Indies is the realisation from cricket fans how good Jason Holder is as an all-rounder. With a batting average of 32, and a bowling average of 26, the Windies captain has led his team at the coal face for the last 5 years.
Given the test captaincy at the remarkable age of 24, he has led a team that has struggled to compete, but he is beginning to build a side that can challenge throughout the world. Whilst obviously the COVID-19 situation means the preparation for the series was not ideal, both teams had to deal with it, so that cannot be used as an excuse for a sluggish start from England. Holder currently leads a team with an average age of 26.5, which may not come across as exceptionally young, but when compared to others it is surprising how young this side actually is. Australia’s Ashes series in England was tough and combative with the Aussies giving it everything. This side touring England was one of the more inexperienced sides we’ve seen. The combined age of Australia was 30, with the average number of tests played being 40, whilst the West Indies average is only 24. Holder is not gifted with a team blessed with great talent, with much of his batting line-up averaging between 26 and 38 runs. No batsmen in his team is consistently performing and allowing him to sit back and relax when in the field. Every match Holder is having to be creative with his team, be creative with his field placements to allow them to force a result.
Holder celebrates taking the wicket of England's Ben Stokes during the first test. Photo: Reuters
Holder fights with the ball and scraps for every wicket, whilst not gifted with out and out pace of other bowlers, he hones his craft and maximises his skillset by playing as much red ball cricket as he can. Instead of going to play in the IPL and earning massive amounts of money, Holder played country cricket with Northamptonshire to improve his skills. This clearly paid dividends in the first test with Holder taking 6/42 off 20 overs. He set the example for his team immediately regardless of how long between matches and a global pandemic, he performed from the get-go.
Holder has begun to build a side centred around discipline, bowling tight lines and being the best in the field they can be. Nasser Hussain exclaimed on the broadcast, “as ever this West Indies side was in control, they are so disciplined, they hate going for runs.” Holder knows his side is not blessed with the talent of other nations, so for them to compete they must be the best they can with the ball in hand and in the field. This was perfectly epitomised in the first innings of the third test when Joe Root was run out by Roston Chase, running quickly to his right and running out Root with a direct hit. Long gone is the West Indies of old where a big size 13 was used to stop the ball, they are a slick fielding unit that strive to get the best out of themselves, to support the big bustling fast bowlers like Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel.
Whilst Holder is finally getting the plaudits he deserves as a cricketer, he does not get the respect from the public for his outstanding captaincy in a time of great change for West Indies cricket and as many of us can agree, a strong West Indies makes for a much better game of cricket wherever they play.
Cover Photo: Test Match Special