Unlike his top batsmen, West Indies cricket captain Jason Holder appears to be quite upbeat; he’s feeling pretty good about himself, it seems. Not without reason, it has to be said.
Tuesday’s Trinidad Express reports on Page 59 that he is “into bowlers’ top 10, third among all-rounders.” And twinned with the weekend’s espncricinfo match report on the Second Test was a story headlined “Big Jase shines bright for beleaguered West Indies.” Also featuring in the line-up of post-match articles was a third statistical piece headlined “Holder’s dream year with the ball.”
“Jason Holder’s 5 for 56 is the first five-wicket haul by a West Indies fast bowler in India since Kenny Benjamin’s five-for during the Mohali test in 1994,” the second piece notes. “The only other two overseas fast bowlers to have taken five-fors in the last two years are Josh Hazelwood and Ben Stokes.”
Additionally, readers are told this:
“11.87: Holder’s bowling average this year—the best for any fast bowler with a minimum of 30 wickets in a calendar year in the last 100 years. He has taken 33 wickets in six matches at that outstanding average.
“His average (during the calendar year) is the best for any bowler, pacer or spinner, in the last 50 years. The last time any bowler picked up 30 or more wickets at an average of under 15 was Shoaib Akhtar in 2003.”
“His 5 for 56 in Hyderabad,” says the first one, “meant his name will forever be mentioned in the same sentence as Malcolm Marshall and Michael Holding, the only West Indians with three successive five-wicket hauls in Test cricket.”
“I feel pretty good at the moment,” Holder admitted to the post-match interviewer, “Hard work does pay off. At the start of my Test career, it was pretty difficult. The wickets were a litter drier at that present time.
“I always had faith and I always had belief. I understood a lot more [about] what the game requires, and as I said before, I’ve got to build blocks and I’ve got to build pressure, and that’s my role in the team. To be a workhorse and keep my RPO at under three runs an over and just nibble around, and I was able to use that to my advantage.
“And I’ve been watching lots of clips and stuff.”
That’s a 112-word extract—with the first person singular used 13 times!
That is not necessarily a problem. But he’s not done:
“You’ve just got to understand the conditions. You’ve got to build pressure. I think field placing comes into it a lot. It’s something that I have to work on personally as a player. I think once I know my strengths and weaknesses, then obviously I can set fields, and understand my bowling and put the ball in the area that I want to put the ball.
“For example, a guy like Prithvi Shaw, it was a situation where he played a leg-side ball and tried to carve the ball to the off side, and I just made up in my mind that I was not going to give him room. If anything, I’d be nipping the ball back at his pads all the time.
“If he has to hit me on the leg side, so be it. My aim is not to let him score freely through the off side. It’s just an example of my thought process, and I try to be just as patient and consistent as I possibly can.”
Another 172 words—with “I,” “me” or “my” 17 more times. In 284 words, 30 instances of the first person. More than ten percent.
“The top five finish the series with a collective average of 17,” the match report reads, “and that’s the second-worst among all teams visiting India, behind the performance by Afghanistan, who were playing their first ever Test match.”
“I think our top order has really let us down in the recent past,” Holder commented. “They haven’t been getting the runs that we’ve been looking for. Anybody knows that. In any cricket, you’re asking your top five, six batters to get the bulk of the runs. It hasn’t been that way for us.
“We’ve been heavily reliant on our middle to lower half, which is not ideal in any circumstances. So it’s just a matter for the guys in the top five to put their hands up and come to the party.
“It’s not a matter of guys having technical deficiencies, per se, it’s just the processes at the particular time may not be the best one, and especially our younger players really need to understand that patience is the name of the game in Test cricket.
“You’ve got to build an innings; the greatest of players will always tell you that. It’s not an arena where you can just come and just beat the ball around and blast.”
Only one “I” and several first person plurals in those last 168 words. But do you get the sense of a skipper encouraging his team? How do you think Shimron Hetmyer felt as he listened? Or Kieran Powell and vice-captain Kraigg Brathwaite, who both made second innings ducks?
Do you think they were telling themselves, “I’m going to go out there and make amends next time, show the skipper what I’m made of?”
Whatever happened to not hitting a (bats)man when he down? And is the skipper not a believer in the basic leadership principle that you should praise in public but censure in private?
Maybe he should have a little talk with Kohli.
So I want to close by disagreeing with Holder about his role on the team. Ultimately, it’s not improving his RPO that matters to West Indians; maybe the current selectors and the WICB administrators don’t give a fig. I, however, think the ordinary West Indian supporter—if any still exist—wants to see his Test team improve on his 27 played, 6 won, 16 lost and 5 drawn record.
And modestly strive to make not just ‘I’ but all of WI better—on the field of play and beyond the boundary!
With as much help as he can get from the media.