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Best: Clive Lloyd puts GOAT mouth on Holder’s time as WI leader; will Pollard replace him?

Ahnhahn!

“If I were a selector,” said Sir Clive Lloyd last week, “obviously Kraigg (Brathwaite) would be slightly ahead of Jason (Holder) because of what he has done with the team they have there.”

“I’m sure Jason is not a guy,” he added, “who will say ‘I’ve got a bad deal or a raw deal.’”

Photo: West Indies cricket legend Sir Clive Lloyd.

The hard-hitting southpaw was, I think, pulling his punches. Frank Worrell, with his West Indies cricketing hero status and his nine-out-of-15 wins record is the WI captaincy GOAT. But none begrudge Lloyd, who won 36 of his 74 matches in charge, the title of ‘Most Successful’. 

And all listen when the former WI manager and chief selector speaks. 

Thus, his saying that Holder, whom he installed as Test captain some six years ago, is no longer a shoo-in for the role brings grist to my mill. For nearly two years now, I’ve been saying that Holder has outlived his usefulness in the position, despite stunning against-the-odds victories over England in Barbados in January 2019 and in England in 2017 and again last year. 

The last 1-2 series defeat in England only strengthened the conviction that keeping him at the helm is spinning top in mud. And the just completed Super50 Cup reinforced that view.

Were Holder the skipper of the Red Force, I submit, that abundantly talented team would probably still have finished atop the group standings in the Super50 Cup. And gone on to win the new Clive Lloyd trophy.

Photo: Barbados Pride captain Jason Holder prepares to bowl during the 2021 CG Insurance Super50 Cup in Antigua.
(Copyright CWI Media)

Had Kieron Pollard, however, been captain of the Barbados Pride, they certainly would not have been eliminated from the 2021 semi-finals.

A huge claim, I know. But I think it will stand scrutiny.

Here are Pollard’s aggregate figures: he scored 32 runs off 43 balls and took six wickets for 51 runs in nine overs. And his 5 for 17 destroyed Holder’s Pride. 

Red Force batsmen have scored three of the four centuries so far recorded in the tournament.

Here now are the Pride captain’s contributions to his team’s efforts this year: he bowled 44.4 overs, including three maidens, conceded 216 runs and took seven wickets. He scored 50 runs off 67 balls in five innings. 

And in not one of the five games did he produce anything like a match-saving—let alone match-winning—performance although he had plenty of opportunity so to do.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Red Force captain Kieron Pollard celebrates during the 2021 CG Insurance Super50 Cup in Antigua.
(Copyright CWI Media)

That’s hardly leadership; it is, indeed, the antithesis of leadership. I found it easy to believe that the ‘mental fatigue’ he cited as part of the reason for declining the subcontinent invitation was not imagined but real.

It is what we have seen with the WI Test team for quite some time now. More and more over time, he has become merely the man in front. 

I am well aware that leadership cannot be reduced to the statistical summary of batting and bowling contributions. In cricket as in life, the leader’s job is to lift his charges above themselves. 

Brian Lara scored 11,953 runs in his 131-Test career, equal to a sizeable 20% of the runs scored by the teams on which he played. But whereas those teams won 32 matches, the teams he led won only ten of 47. 

Still, moderate success and devastating failures be damned, who can forget March 1999, the masterful 213 and unbeaten 153 crafted in consecutive innings to almost single-handedly win two matches and come within a ‘kn’ of winning a series? 

Photo: West Indies cricket star Brian Lara sweeps for four runs against Australia at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain, Trinidad on 20 April, 2003.
Behind stumps are Australian wicket keeper Adam Gilchrist (left) and Mathew Hayden.
(Copyright AFP 2014/Robert Taylor)

Or 2003 when Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan led the way up to a world-record 418 in the fourth innings, Lara contributing the second highest WI aggregate in the match?

At Garry Sobers’ retirement, his 93-Tests 8,032-run aggregate was the highest of any West Indian. But that mountain of runs—supplemented by 235 wickets and 109 catches—had earned him only nine wins in the 39 matches when he captained WI. 

Remember Lord’s in 1966? WI facing defeat in the 2nd Test, struggling at 99 for 5 in the second innings. That was when Sobers’ rookie cousin David Holford joined him at the wicket, the pair putting on an unbroken 274 to earn a draw… 

Or the tense 1968 Queen’s Park Oval game when, following on 205 behind, WI were staring down the barrel of an England gun at 180 for 8. Defeat averted, #10 Wes Hall cracked up the world, telling Tony Cozier he had not been certain that Sobers had what was needed to survive!

Photo: West Indies cricket legend Sir Garry Sobers during his heyday.

Holder did twice steer WI to victory with a double-century in a massive late-order partnership with Shane Dowrich in Barbados in 2019 and a 6 for 42 haul in England in July last year. Watching him in New Zealand last year, however, it was hard not to get the impression that when the going gets tough, he wants out.

By the end of the England tour last year, I had already arrived at that conclusion. I have been publicly sharing my conviction since. So it was no surprise to see Sir Clive finally come around to the view that the Barbados Pride captain may not be up to the task of skippering the regional Test team.

As chief selector in 2015, he had hand-picked the all-rounder for the job. Last week, he conceded that Holder, who has won 11 of his 37 Tests as captain, has ‘had good moments and (…) bad moments’. 

But for the 6’4” former selector, saying in so many words that it’s now time for the Barbadian to pass the mantle on to someone else was a stretch. 

Not when he’s talking to a Barbadian on a Barbadian radio station.

Photo: West Indies stand-in captain Kraigg Brathwaite (left) and coach Phil Simmons show off the spoils of their 2021 Test series win away to Bangladesh.
(via CWI Media)

So diplomatically, Lloyd suggested that the selectors ‘have to sit down with the players and find out how they feel’.

Selectors consulting players about the Test captaincy? 

Hah! Dat and God face…!

Besides, Lloyd knows and Harper and company already know who the players do NOT want to be captain.

He knows the notion that the next WI Test captain will be a Trinidadian all-rounder called Kieron Pollard is an idea whose time has come.

But under the circumstances, whoever you are, whatever you are, GOAT, icon, knight, legend, are you going to admit to Bajans in Barbados that you have even entertained that preposterous thought?

Nah! Never!

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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