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If WI-shes were horses, Holder wouldn’t have to worry about hurricanes

Buoyed by the recent receipt of awards and bestowal on him of new accolades, Jason Holder may well believe that the home side he leads can match the visitors in the two-Test series which starts in Antigua today.

I honestly hope he does not.

Photo: West Indies captain Jason Holder celebrates after taking the wicket of India captain Virat Kohli during the Cricket World Cup at Old Trafford in Manchester, England on 27 June 2019.
(Copyright AP Photo/Jon Super)

Named West Indies Test Player of the Year as well as West Indies Player of the Year, the WI captain may permit himself to imagine that this will necessarily translate into improved team performances on the field of play.

I honestly hope he does not.

Considering the surprise 2-1 home win his men scored over Joe Root’s England in their only Test series so far this year, the man who led the WI to that triumph is not unlikely to allow himself to feel that lightning may strike twice in the same place in the same year.

I honestly hope he does not.

Given the presence of former captains Brian Lara and Ramnaresh Sarwan among the support staff at the recent week-long training camp at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground in Antigua, the ICC’s top-ranked all-rounder is perhaps expecting a measurable change in the mental approach of his batsmen over the next two weeks.

I honestly hope he does not.

Three reasons why Holder needs to moderate his expectations spring readily to mind. The first is that, at the same function which recognised Holder’s pre-eminence, Trinidad and Tobago’s Joel Wilson was named West Indies Umpire of the Year.

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If you watched the first Test between England and Australia earlier this month, that last sentence might just have sent multiple shudders all the way up and down your spine. The region’s best, that Test match at Edgbaston established beyond the shadow of a doubt, is far from being ready to cut it at the highest level.

It’s not cut-and-dry. But as in umpiring, perhaps, so in batting and bowling. Perhaps.

Secondly, Lara was promoted to the rank of captain of the West Indies team—prematurely in my view—in late 1997. Between his first Test in 1990 and the last of his 131 Tests in 2006, he scored 11,953 runs, including the 400-run innings with which he reclaimed the individual batting record from Matthew Hayden. Only a few million Sachin Tendulkar fans seriously disputed his right to be acclaimed as the world’s best batsman.

But does anyone need to be reminded of Lara’s unenviable captaincy record? In his own words: “moderate successes, devastating failures.” In figures, despite his personal contribution of 4,685 runs, it reads Played 47, Won 10, Lost 26, Drawn 11.

And for those who advance the counter-argument that Lara is not an all-rounder, here is the record of Garfield Sobers who scored 3,528 runs as WI captain between 1965 and 1972 and took 117 wickets: P 39, W 9, L 10, D 20.

It is true that, of his 29 Tests in charge, Holder has already won an impressive nine. But can we confidently conclude that the captain’s individual achievements with bat and/or ball are a reliable indicator of how his team will on the whole fare?

Photo: Iconic former West Indies cricketer Brian Lara.

As for what the win over England means, in England in 2017, Shai Hope and Kraigg Brathwaite amassed centuries to help West Indies recover from an innings and 209-run first Test walloping at the hands of Joe Root’s England and win the second Test by five wickets.

In the third Test, England reached 200 in neither innings—and won by nine wickets!

Thirdly, at first glance, those of us who watched the World Cup in England and Wales last month may have briefly wondered about the Express sports editor’s judgment. Is ‘Flaws in Windies’ mental approach’ still news? Even after the results and the performances in the recent T20Is and ODIs along with the repeatedly pathetic displays by the irremediably pathetic ‘A’ Team? You didn’t have to see the ball-by-ball; the scoreboard alone often told the story.

But then you notice the strap, which says: “… Lara sees …”

“What I’ve seen in the camp is intense practice,” says the ace left-hander with the appetite for multiple-century innings, “which is good.”

We, therefore, know that he has been watching what was happening in the nets at the SVRCG over the last week.

“Where I feel I can make an impact,” he adds, “is [in] their mental approach to the game.”

So we know that the problem apparently persists. And we know that even under the watchful eye of the ace left-hander with the aptitude for multiple-century innings and a competent—we hope!—sports psychologist, we can’t eliminate a persistent problem in a week or two.

Photo: West Indies captain Jason Holder (third from left) and his teammates await a fresh England batsman during their Test win in Barbados.

Or wish it out of existence!

Truth be told, since we’ve put Dave Cameron out on the dung heap where he belongs, I am once more an active West Indies supporter. So I’ll be on cloud nine if Holder and his men can find a way to get the better of Virat Kohli and his men.

In fact, if they can find a way to get a few of the top order out!

As of this moment, however, my feet are firmly on the ground. And I can feel Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami already cutting it away from under WI. And Ravi Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav putting the WI top order in a spin.

Maybe TV6’s Seigonie Mohammed will be reporting the first category four or five hurricane of the current season before the end of this Test.

I honestly hope she does not.

Stay tuned.

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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