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W/Cup addict comments: Captaincy under the microscope; see Jason Holder squirm

It’s Brutus’ dilemma:

If Jason Holder is removed as West Indies short-format captain, there is a good chance that he will go nowhere in the One-day game.

If Jason Holder continues as West Indies short-format captain, there is a good chance that WI will go nowhere in the One-day game.

Photo: West Indies captain Jason Holder.

Holder is now captain of all formats, the leadership of the T20I side taken away from Carlos Brathwaite and piled on top of his Test and ODI responsibilities. There is as much justification for that move as there is for making Chris Gayle vice-captain of the World Cup team.

For almost 20 years towards the end of the last century, WI were on top of the world, virtually invincible in Test series after Test series and twice World Cup champions. Twenty years into the 21st century, we actually scraped into the current World Cup through the back door as it were and we rejoice when we win a Test match.

We have come a long way down. Planning and pro-action are needed to start the long climb back up.

But planning and pro-action have never been a West Indian strong point, except on the field under Frank Worrell and Clive Lloyd. In the realm of cricket administration, we seem to have long been immunised against it. Everything is short-horizon, now-for-now, vie-ky-vie.

Which is why the 39-year-old ex-captain Gayle and not the 22-year-old Shimron Hetmyer is the vice-captain of the current team; we shall deal with the next World Cup when we come to that bridge.

Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are all currently engaged in an ongoing search for the right man to lead their ODI side. Have a look at the final round robin standings on July 6. They’ll have a story to tell.

Photo: West Indies captain Jason Holder.
(Copyright Yahoo)

A few of the other teams also have all-formats captains. New Zealand’s Kane Williamson is very likely to move up a few notches in everyone’s estimation if, as I am confident they will, his team does claim the one semi-finals place for which the seven “group of death” teams are vying.

By mid-July, when this World Cup is over, South Africa’s Faf du Plessis and Pakistan’s Safaraz Ahmed are unlikely to have enhanced their ODI leadership reputations; it would be no surprise if one or both are replaced.

And how it woulda look if Australia take away the captaincy and hand it back to a caught-red-handed-criminal as soon as he get outta jail? But for the damage done to his reputation by his involvement in the ball-tampering business in South Africa, hard-as-nails Steve Smith would certainly still be at the helm of Australia’s Test team.

And if Finchie’s win-at-all-costs Aussies lose, he might be handed the ODI reins as well.

England are very clear on what they want. Strong on strategy, Joe Root leads England’s five-day troops while Eoin Morgan, master tactician and co-mastermind of the English resurgence as an ODI force, is at the helm in the One-day games.

Interestingly, when Morgan was forced to withdraw yesterday, despite all his undisputed Test cricket nous, it was not Root but Jos Buttler who took over the reins.

Photo: England batsmen Jos Buttler and Joe Root keep the scoreboard ticking.

Unchallenged as India’s leader in all three formats, Virat Kohli is the complete package, the finished item, the gold standard.

He allows us to see why the alchemy which the WI Board is attempting is doomed—I’m not afraid to stick my neck out—to fail.

Our best long-term interests would be served, I submit, by allowing Holder to focus his leadership energies on the Test arena; he is both comfortable and competent therein. But making him the all-formats captain is merely wishful thinking, forcing him to bite off more than he can comfortably chew.

Sorry. You just can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

“You can see the plan here,” said Nasser Hussain yesterday, as a Jonny Bairstow mishit uppercut landed just short of the fielder on the third-man boundary. This was the second over of the innings. Carlos Brathwaite eventually caught Bairstow down at third man off an uppercut. In over #15 with the score on 100.

In the short format, captains have to outwit rather than outwait; he who hesitates does lorse.

Yesterday too, more than once Holder set a sort of short-backward-square-leg for Root. Nary a ball went near him—or looked like going. In fact, Root never sent a ball in the air near any of Holder’s fieldsmen, including the slip who was occasionally put in place—with a modest 217 on the tins.

Photo: West Indies bowler Carlos Brathwaite (left) reacts after being hit for four by England batsman Joe Root (right) during their Cricket World Cup match at the Hampshire Bowl in Southampton, England on Friday 14 June 2019.
(Copyright AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

It’s not very effective captaincy, based only on what happened last week or in the last match or on the last tour but taking little or no account of the evidence of the last over or the one before that.

When, for instance, having not bowled since over #6, Oshane Thomas was recalled to bowl over #20, he was taken for 13 runs. Holder hauled him out of the attack. Now that’s defensible—if the algebra dictated it but not if the skipper had done it merely because he had conceded 13 runs!

Kohli’s did not take Pandya off after he leaked 19 in the last over of the first powerplay; he never recalled Kedar Jadhav either after one over that went for 14 runs in the second powerplay.

Remember who batted at number three for England yesterday? Remember how Australia kept pushing Khawaja down the order in the game against India? These are captains responding to the situation at hand, flexible, with their fingers on the pulse and their brains switched on.

Go back and look at the West Indies batting order in every match so far. See if the announced order has ever changed. This is a captain completely without the skill-set required for success in this format at this level.

Formula One might be stimulating but one formula simply will not work!

Photo: West Indies captain Jason Holder (right) congratulates Australia fast bowler Mitchell Starc after the 2019 Cricket World Cup contest.

Frank Worrell, the first black man to be appointed full-time captain of the West Indies and acknowledged as the region’s best-ever captain though not the most successful, designed the template:

(1) I told them what I thought they should do and left it up to them and (2) Leave well alone.

Had Sir Frank made it to the ODI era, he might have told them what to do and then left it up to them.

But I am confident that precept number 2 would have gone unadjusted.

So when I think back to the completely inexplicable, calamitous 37-for-4-foot-on-the-throat bowling change, I am equally confident that, on that piece of evidence alone, Holder should be history as a short-format captain.

So Catch 22: how do we get rid of Holder and not dismember him?

About Earl 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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