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Mind games: Why Holder’s Windies need men to lead them—on and off the field

If I didn’t so hate the taste of hair, I would recklessly have cocked a snook at Joel Garner and damblayed my much lamented, disastrous, so-far-off-the-mark post-First Test wager.

At Lord’s, I was certain, Jason Holder’s West Indies were going once more to be blown out of the water. In three days.

Photo: West Indies captain Jason Holder celebrates after dismissing Pakistan batsman Younis Khan during a Test match at the Windsor Park Stadium in Roseau, Dominica on 11 May 2017.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Mark Ralston)

I was wrong; we lost in two and a half! And were it not for the talented Kemar Roach and the gifted Shai Hope, who has shown that he has character too, we might well have lost in two.

The truth is that, after the cutarse at Edgbaston and the debacle of 19 wickets lost in a single day, Headingley came as a revelation to me. But,  I was quite certain, it was atypical, freakish, a fluke, a one-shot, a once-in-a-lifetime event, an aberration, an abnormality, an anomaly, a deviation from the norm, a bolt from the blue—well, the maroon—or any of the other half-dozen options the thesaurus provides.

So winning the bet about another blowout would have given me not the slightest bit of satisfaction. The reason? This team, I now know, deserves better. And neither the current captain nor the current President of Cricket Windies can give them what they should be getting.

I say “the current President of Cricket Windies” but I really want to say “the current President of the West Indies Cricket Board of Control.” That takes us back two iterations but it is the correct designation, stripping away the merely cosmetic changes that have occurred since that hated but accurate name was changed.

Photo: West Indies Cricket Board president Dave Cameron.
(Copyright CaribbeanNewsService)

In “Kerry Packer,” composed, in case you’re not certain, some 40 years ago, the Mighty Sparrow tells us the whole sorry story. He talks to us ostensibly about cricket but it’s not cricket he’s discussing at all; it is Massa and his mind games.

“They have fame,” he scoffs, imitating Massa, “but they want money like me and Gerry so they won’t play again in this country.”

I say “imitating Massa” but the appellation, I hope you understand clearly, reflects not the colour of the skin but the state of the mind…

“A West Indian cricketer must always be broke,” Sparrow sings. “Is then they does bowl fast and make pretty stroke.”

If your brain works like mine, you may be thinking that the more things change, the more they remain the same…

“We don’t need Andy Roberts, Croft and Garner,”  Birdie mocks, “when we have superstar Vanburn Holder.”

The names have changed, the reality has remained the same…

Photo: Brothers Dwayne (right) and Darren Bravo have barely played together for the West Indies Test team. Darren’s temporary ban has now been lifted but Dwayne is not about to “unretire.”

There, I think, we can leave the POTUS—the last letter doesn’t stand for “States.” And the U stands for ‘unadulterated.

Now, hear the US skipper in the post-Third Test interview, responding to a question about whether the team needs “the more experienced players.”

“I think we have the best of the lot right now. Darren [Bravo] has done well for us in the recent past. Apart from Darren, I don’t think there’s anyone else who interested in playing Test cricket, these so-called big names. I think Chris [Gayle] has hinted he would like to play and we’d love to have a guy like Chris. I’m really happy with this squad and I enjoy leading this squad. I wouldn’t trade.”

Happy getting your ass cut over and over just so long as you’re the big man in charge, the HNIC, is that it, Jason? See the parallel?

“…we have the best of the lot right now,” says Holder. Here’s the supporting evidence from cricinfo:

6.60 Batting average of number three in this series so far from ten outings – the scores reading 8, 25, 12, 3, 1, 8, 0, 0, 8 and 1. Only in one other series batsmen averaged less than 6.60 in a series (minimum ten innings) – 4.40 in the Ashes in England in 1888.

Photo: West Indies batsman Shai Hope (right) hits a boundary during the second ODI match against India at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain, Trinidad, on 25 June 2017.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Jewel Samad)

In a piece meant to bring some measure of cheer to Holder and President Cameron and all of us poor beaten colonials, Rob Johnson has this to say: Kyle Hope at number three averaged just 6.83 and wicket-keeper Shane Dowrich scored just 24 runs in the series, in addition to a number of drops behind the stumps. Roston Chase, who had scored three Test hundreds in ten matches before this series, averaged just 13.33 here.

I shall spare you the experience of reading his assessment of Alzarri Joseph and Miguel Cummins; it’ll put any West Indian masochist in Seventh Heaven and on Cloud Nine at one and the same time.

Back to cricinfo:

29 Innings since Kieran Powell scored a half-century in Tests. The last time he did so was when he scored twin hundreds in Dhaka in 2012 and in the 29 innings since he has scored only 613 runs at 21.89 with a highest of 49. 84 runs in this Test is his highest match aggregate since November 2012.

Mr Johnson adds the plus that the opener, “without a Test half-century since November 2012, showed some promise in his two innings at Lord’s.”

Woweeee! Doesn’t that make us all feel sooooo much better?

Photo: West Indies batsman Kieran Powell drives through the offside during a Test match against Pakistan at the Sabina Park in Kingston, Jamaica, on 24 April 2017. 
(Copyright AFP 2017/Jewel Samad)

One more stat from cricinfo:

123 by West Indies is their second lowest first innings total in a Test match after opting to bat first. The only lower total came way back in 1931 at the MCG when they were bowled out for 99.

The operative words there are “after opting to bat first.” In other words, when we put ourselves in the shit.

The second-last word goes to Mr Johnson who is, not to put too fine a point on it, not too impressed with Holder’s captaincy.

Holder’s captaincy is still a work in progress, too. He made a significant error on the second day here, failing to have three slips in place to Ben Stokes straight after the prolonged rain break. Stokes edged his second ball and despite the diving effort of Kyle Hope at second slip, the chance went begging. England’s all-rounder scored another 36 runs and Windies’ chance of a first-innings lead had gone. 

It followed other tactical missteps from Holder, including failing to bowl Bishoo in England’s long second innings at Headingley and getting his field wrong to Stuart Broad in England’s first innings at Lord’s which allowed Broad to make a crucial 39, another potentially match-deciding contribution.

Given time working with Stuart Law, a savvy and smart coach, you would think that Holder should improve in that regard, though. 

Photo: West Indies coach Stuart Law.
(Copyright Cricket.com.au)

Somebody needs to tell Mr Johnson that this is the West Indies; the law in these parts—with precious few exceptions—is not what is written in the statute books or elsewhere but what you can get away with.

And the only Law that really matters is not Stuart but Murphy’s: If something can go wrong, it will.

Did we not make Holder our captain? And elect—and re-elect!—Cameron?

AboutEarl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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82 comments

  1. Penny thinks Lewis can be WI Warner in tests, he is keeping his options open

    But yet somebody told Holder to say with confidence outside England test squad no other WI player wants to play tests ha smh
    http://es.pn/2x6vAnr

    “The question seems not whether Lewis’ talents will be seen throughout the world in the coming years, but if this will be confined to T20, with some one-day internationals throw in, or will extend to Tests too. Penney is convinced that Lewis can replicate David Warner’s journey from T20 into a successful Test cricketer: “He would flourish because he has a sound technique.”

    Lewis is elusive on Test cricket. “I won’t say I don’t want to play. Actually, if I do get the opportunity I would be interested but you know how things go sometimes. So let’s wait for the right moment to see what happens.”

  2. Holder’s ranting not even worth a comment

  3. Actually, as far as I know, media rights contracts and even contracts for bilateral games, stress that the parties should play their best teams. While the exact meaning has been questioned i.e. best or best available etc, the idea is always to have on the field your best players and you can be penalised for that.

  4. The skipper cannot make the team…but He is the skipper……lmao…big joke….

  5. This is not a true West Indies team because all the best player’s are left out for some silly reason or no explanation, no wander why we cannot win all the games.

  6. He knows he is mediocre and therefore he could only lead a mediocre side. He cannot deal with star players. Braithwaite is the same

  7. Is it any wonder we at #8 , with ridiculous utterances like that we aren’t going to get any higher, lick under 3 days as usual well done

  8. They represent the West Indies without a doubt.

  9. This ‘bajan’ team get bad licks inside 3 days from England, were ALLOWED to win a match in order for the series to SEEM to be between two equally matched teams so as to raise interest in the series in the British people then beaten badly once more. It’s the first time in my life that I have all but abandoned a West Indies cricket team. I don’t listen to match commentary, I don’t follow any West Indies cricket matches and I foresee it being that way for a long tome yet or until the chief selector is no longer a no-talent, no account former wicket keeper who should not have been allowed on any test cricket team, much like Daren Sammy.

  10. Worst captain ever not suppose to even b n d team but because he bajan he dear

  11. The skipper doesn’t deserve to be on the team

  12. Excellent analysis,mediocrity and failure is rewarded,sure that Kyle Hope will be retained

  13. Mr Liburd who can argue against that? The problem arises when you have to argue who is better. The young man who is trying under difficult situations to improve his game or the old guy whose only evidence is he can swing a bat in T20.
    How do you make those judgments? Do you consider for example Kieron Pollard as a test batsman who can put down his head and bat through the day in difficult circumstances like Shai Hope did finally?

    • Right. There would need to be some barometer we can use to gauge. I agree with that.
      We would need to see those boys in conditions much closer to a Test match.
      But we should be sensitive in our scheduling. Because the idea is to try and arrive at the best time and not to start a pissing contest.

    • Then we go back to the cricket board. On that subject I still do not understand how all the invectives are only with the West Indies Cricket Board when it is the regional boards who have those jokers where they are.

    • Pollard has a higher avg in the regional 4 day than almost every player in the current team. By the logic being used David Warner would never have played test cricket. And the biases are evident in phrases like ‘swing his bat’. T20 has proven a long time ago that the players at the top are those who play good cricket shots.

    • I don’t understand. What do you mean from other countries? I am saying that if the Australians used our logic Warner would not be playing tests.

    • And you are comparing Pollard to Shai Hope. How many players on the current team could stand next to Hope?

    • He doesn’t have to be better than Shai Hope..he has to be better than Kyle, better than Dowrich, better than Blackwood. Check his 4 day avg against theirs for yourself.

    • I am not comparing anybody. I asked Lasana how do you compare them. How do you choose between the two of them and he said there needs to be a barometer

    • If we use your comparison we would never have had the privilege of seeing Lawrence Rowe and Richie Richardson, both of whom failed miserably at the start of their careers.

    • There is a difference between having a genuinely talented player who fails and choosing players who are just available. Sarwan for example, Hooper, Marlon Samuels..players who you stick with because they are genuine talents who are under performing. In my view this current crop does not fit that profile.

    • That may be so. I won’t argue that but we did stick with Samuels and remember it wasn’t that long ago analysts were saying Shai not living up to his potential. He could only bat in Barbados. You never know whether a guy is failing because he’s not a genuine talent or if it’s psychological.

    • So we are getting closer to seeing eye to eye lol. I haven’t heard anyone talk about the players I identified in that way. Even Holder has never been described as having lots of potential or as being a genuine talent. I think the real issue though is that I don’t think that the logic either of us is applying is in actuality the logic of the board. and therein lies the real problem.

    • We may just have agreed on something. lol

    • Former NZ captain Stephen Fleming spoke about this player transition between t20s & test recently quite eruditely Choy Aping Bruce Aanensen Akins Olatunji Vidale Shawn Charles Santokie Nagulendran Davis Melville Kirwin Weston

      http://www.thecricketmonthly.com/story/1112785/-learn-to-be-aggressive-and-then-i-will-teach-you-defence

      “You hold a view that kids should be taught T20 first and then the longer formats.

      Participation in sport is the key. The greatest vehicle we have at the moment is T20. Where families and children go to the games, that inspires the next generation. They see heroes play that form of the game. Give them the opportunity to participate in it and love it. The longer formats of the game, one-day games, playing all weekends, is now hard work for parents and children. To keep that traditional model starts stifling young athletes. Just embrace that form. All the skills that are on show in T20 will allow a player to become a great Test player.

    • “Question – Will it, though?
      Fleming – Yep. So you turn it around and say, “Hey, learn to be aggressive, learn to play under pressure, be efficient under scoreboard pressure, and then I will teach you defence.” Whereas right now you are taught defence. Because you think you have got to stay in. And then players learn how to be free. It has changed, 100% changed. My job as a coach will be to teach you defence.

      It’s easier to learn defence than to learn attack. You have got some natural tendencies. And if you come out and you can whack the ball and play good when you are young, it is almost coached out of you. “No, you are slogging over there. Learn defence.” You are encouraged to use it on the rare occasion. Whereas kids love hitting the ball. They love exploring how good they can be. All they hear is, “Don’t play these shots.” To deny them is to deny them the reason they want to participate. They want to experience what it’s like to run down and hit the ball as hard as they can. What’s wrong with that? The joy in the playing. And then, when you are getting out cheaply, let’s learn defence. So you start adding defence to that game.

      Question – But there are more examples of Test cricketers doing well in T20 and not the other way round.
      Fleming – Its only because they have never explored how good they can be at an early age. They were taught Test cricket first, and that’s why they had an easy tradition. Kane Williamson, for example, is a Test player, but he is good enough to play T20. If he had been exposed to more T20, he would have embraced Test cricket the same way.

      David Warner is the greatest example. He is my disciple. He is a guy who has grown up playing aggressively and now added defence. And he is one of the most prolific players in the world. And attractive to watch. And a great role model for the next generation. And will help participation.”

    • West Indian batsmen have never had a problem with aggression. Defense has historically been our problem. We are natural stroke players who go for our shots whether the ball is swinging or not.

    • “After the 2009 Stanford series was cancelled, the West Indies board did not organise a replacement; T&T qualified for the inaugural Champions League, held in October 2009 in India, by dint of their performances a full 20 months earlier. Competing against sides that had played more T20, boasted overseas players and came from celebrated domestic systems, T&T were considered rank outsiders.

      Ganga did not share this belief. While his classical batting was not naturally suited to the format, Ganga emerged as West Indies’ first great T20 thinker. “He understood how to build a T20 team, he was ahead of his time,” says Ian Bishop, the former West Indies Test player from Trinidad.

      According to Ganga, Stanford gave T&T a “competitive advantage. We were a lot more comfortable playing in pressure situations.” They married this confidence with intense preparation. “We were meticulous. We analysed what other teams were achieving in T20 cricket from the point of view of dot balls, where they were after six overs, how they approached the middle overs, and where they scored in the death overs. We used that information to suit our style of play.”

      In India, T&T unveiled to the world their radically different approach to T20: embracing boundary-hitting at the expense of all else, even if it meant playing out more dot balls. The day this new approach emerged in all its destructive glory was October 16, 2009. T&T were 91 for 5 and needed 80 from seven overs against New South Wales, a position of hopelessness against an attack with four current Test bowlers. Out walked Kieron Pollard and unleashed a seminal innings of 54 not out from 18 balls.

      Ganga also innovated in the field, using Badree as a legspinner who would routinely bowl all the way through the Powerplay, a role that remains unique in T20 history. The decision had its roots in club cricket, where Badree thrived with the new ball in T20; Ganga had earlier captained him in college cricket too.

      T&T is, not coincidentally, the Caribbean territory where windball cricket – played with a ball smaller and lighter than a regular cricket ball – is most popular. For instance, Norman’s Windball League has grown from 12 teams in 2004 to 47 today, and is played over a five-month season on concrete surfaces for a total prize money of 90,000 TT dollars (US$13,400).”

    • “A windball is made from soft plastic, but has a seam. As games are only 12 overs a side in windball cricket, batsmen “pelt everything” according to Norman Mungroo, founder of the league, and bowlers “need a lot of different tricks”. International players continue to play, including Pollard, Lendl Simmons and the Bravo brothers. So does Sunil Narine, who opens the batting and bowling in windball, which he originally started playing with his dad. “I had a love for it,” Narine says. “It helped with my grip and my variations as well. You have different balls that you bowl in windball cricket and I just tried them in hardball and they worked out for me, so I just continued developing them.”

      Transferring his success into T20 club matches, Narine gained T&T selection in T20 before establishing himself in other formats. After only four T20s, he was picked for the 2011 Champions League. There he unveiled his beguiling knuckleball – leaving even MS Dhoni hapless, as he took 3 for 8 against Chennai Super Kings. A $700,000 IPL contract soon followed, and he was on the path to T20 greatness.”

    • http://www.thecricketmonthly.com/story/1119424/kings-again?appsrc=cricinfo

      Sports Journalism 101 – Timely article considering TKRs win and this thread

      “Part II: The Trinidad & Tobago connection
      In T20’s first years, no area in the world has been a more fertile source of talent than Trinidad & Tobago. Even as it has struggled in 50-overs and first-class cricket, a who’s who of T20 royalty has emerged from its population of 1.3 million.

      For all the pain of Deonarine’s million-dollar six, it was in the 2006 Stanford tournament that T&T glimpsed their future. In 2008, they won the second Stanford event, and then beat Middlesex in the Stanford Trans-Atlantic T20 Champions Cup, earning $400,000.”

  14. In sport, I think we have a moral obligation to pick the best players available.
    After all the time and effort that athletes take to hone their craft, it is inexcusable to pick a clearly inferior player.
    If two players are at close to the same level, I’m fine with choosing the younger player. But otherwise the better guy should be selected every time once they are willing to put in the effort. That’s my opinion on it.

  15. For all the talk about the so called senior cricketers, we didn’t win squat with them anyway so why go backwards.

  16. The attitudes are about personal issues people have with athletes in the region. We talk about transfer prices in the major European leagues in awe but regional athletes must play for pride. Absolute rubbish.

  17. Look around the world

    AB De Villers stopped playing test cricket for 18 months

    Bangladesh star Sakib after the team has drawn major home series vs England & Australia – just asked for a break from test cricket for 6 months

    Senior NZ bowler Mitchell McClenegan asked to be released from his national contract so he can play T20 leagues freely & be available to play for NZ when he doesn’t have commitments

    McCullum retired from all international cricket at the top of his game to play t20 leagues

    Eoin Morgan gave up on his dream to be a test cricketer and is solely a one day cricketer & is in t20 leagues worldwide

    Makings stopped playing test cricket since 2010

    Shoaib Malik retired from test cricket after scoring a double century

  18. There is a also a continued false perception out there that Holder & the touring squad in England is somehow “committed” to Windies in test while seniors who are off in T20 leagues are not – usual Crap

    The lot in England are committed cause they don’t have a choice none of T20 leagues worldwide wants them ha

    Look at world t20 hero Carlos Braithwaite after his heroics, IPL & Big bash & PSL came calling & he did not sign a WICB contract this year

    Nobody ain’t saying he not committed. Which is funny cause years ago when Gayle, pollard, bravo did same they were lambasted as mercenaries

    Playing for West Indies makes you loose money. Holder is no longer picked by Kolkata Knight ever since he became WI captain cause IPL knows CWI would never give him a NOC. So holder is sacrificing himself for board just like Sammy did for years – he better hope one day they don’t turn on him like Sammy

  19. I think he’s saying the only one with the temperament, the patience to play test cricket is Darren. The problem is, does the Board have the patience to stick with some of these young guys who continue to fail?

  20. A LOT OF GREAT BATSMEN FOUND IT DIFFICULT IN ENGLISH CONDITIONS, NOTEABLE DOUG WALTERS, AND MANY OTHERS. PLEASE DON’T WRITE OF CHASE AS YET,GIVE HIM SOME MORE CHANCE, DON’T CHASE JONATHAN

  21. Ha I’ve been cursing about this all weekend- will argue in morning

  22. Kyle Hope and Powell “pulled stones” in this series and the last series vs Pakistan…after averaging 100 vs Pakistan, it was “back down to earth” for Chase…

  23. I have been having these conversations with lots of people recently. There is this unspoken aggression toward the so called T20 specialists.” The consensus seems to be ( and I have been looking for statements from the players to support this) the same position Holder is presenting ; the senior players don’t want to play. We seem not to care about stats at all. The top players in the world play ALL THREE formats. Furthermore many of the players who play T20 around the world play at a much higher level that our regional tournament. I know enough about the game to know a test and T20 are not the same but what do you expect is you pick a side from players who play in a four day tournaments where games sometimes end in 2 days.

    • Holder’s point is, discussing who should be there means nothing if they don’t wish to play test cricket. There are a number of reasons why they would choose not to, but the main counter to those would be national pride, however as a regional entity this is difficult to inspire. In the 70s there was a very strong post-colonial chip that drove the top players.

      What in today’s reality could motivate a global superstar, accustomed to playing before 70,000, to toil in the sun for 5 days in an empty stadium? For a losing team? For less money too BTW. It’s difficult and unfair to compare our boys to the bigger nations who don’t have half of those issues to contend with.

      • Earl Best

        And I don’t think it’s a given at all that the best West Indies team is a losing team; I thought I had made the point in the piece that Headingley made that clear.

        But with these “big idiots” in charge of cricket, who’s going to make the sacrifice to play for country? And why should they have to make a sacrifice?

        The Australians are near the top of world cricket. Do you think their players are prepared to play for country? Well, then, you should start reading the newspapers, my friend!

    • Gayle’s back won’t last 5 days. I think Ramdin and Darren are the only two legitimate options to strengthen this team. And that’s IF they even accept a recall.

    • Show me the interviews where these guys say they don’t want to play and that is my point.

    • My point about aggression to the T20 players wasn’t about Holder but ‘fans’in general.

    • Akins bro a person’s actions speak more loudly than their words. These guys know that blaming management gives them the easier out than being perceived as selfish by fans. Mind you the board shoulders a lot of blame too, but the guys who truly wish to represent the test team have and will. The others will continue to cite politics, injury or personal issues.

      Pick sense from nonsense, that’s all I’m saying.

      • Earl Best

        The point you miss, I think, Ryan, is that under prevailing circumstances, not playing for the West Indies is the right decision. It’s rubbish to suggest, swallowing Board propaganda, that the players are being selfish; they are being SENSIBLE!

        It’s okay for John F Kennedy to say “Ask not what your country can do for you….” And for people like Cameron and co. to insist that you must “…ask what you can do for your country.” If any one of them was a lil ketch-ass black boy from St James or Santa Cruz with cricket his only serious earning option, he would have been singing an entirely different tune!

    • Ryan these things are not happening in a vacuum. A lot of these senior guys have been around for more than 10 years. And it is unfair to dismiss the role of the board. We talk about Cameron but as far back as Gordon a lot of folly went on. How can you say ‘truly represent’? The conditions under which someone is asked to do a job is as important as the job to be done in my view. Even Lara retired early. And another part of the issue has been the mandatory participation in the regional tournament.

    • So a lot of players have been pushed out or asked to make a choice which was not the way to build a team.

    • Lara was pushed to do so. He could not go through the embarrassment of not being selected for the upcoming tour after the world cup. Wicb bowled, lara nicked and he walked

    • Ryan was that the agree to disagree like lol?

    • Dunno if this helps but this was an interview I did with Dwayne Bravo three years ago:
      ““In order to become a household name in cricket and to earn worldwide recognition, you have to play Test cricket,” said Bravo. “That is where I got my start… Things like my maiden Test 100 in Australia; and six for 55 in England and six for 84 in Australia.

      “Tests are the highest level for cricketers.”

      There were more statistics at the tip of his tongue.

      “I am just 14 Test wickets from 100,” he said, “and I know I could do better with the bat…”

    • Ryan De Gannes my friend you are not making a baseless insinuation there & some general points that are not factual

      I encourage you to do some basic research on the players positions

    • Holder is toeing a line. People forget that we had this same problem with Sammy when Hunte was there. Sammy only found his voice when Cameron came.

    • Lasana Liburd Bravo changed his mind on this after India walkout & being left out of 2015 World Cup squad

      But that interview at time did kill the dumb narrative of the time that he didn’t want to play tests

      WICB and their nonsense had no legitimate reasons for not picking him in format from 2010-2015 before he retired

      Especially when thanks to Ramnarine’s work as WIPA head, playing test cricket for Windies from 2005-2014 (India walk out tour) was the highest paid format if you played for Windies