Will Jason find his golden fleece
West Indies have laid a near wholesale investment on youth by its recent appointment of Jason Holder as captain of the Test cricket team. Holder's elevation follows his installation to captaincy of the one day international side for the World Cup Tournament held in Australia and New Zealand. Not much success attended our efforts in the World Cup, and many with limited vision were inclined to attribute this to the omission of a number of senior players. A fraction of those in opposition to the appointment chided that it might have been delayed until sometime after the World Cup, arguing the immaturity of Holder as their major concern. I have great difficulty in embracing this view. If anything, West Indies could have benefitted greatly from an earlier appointment, allowing Holder more experience in the post.
Evidence attaching to Holder's leadership performance in the ODI matches, and even in the Test matches, played under Denesh Ramdin; revealed him as exuding much of the element of maturity so far, so sadly lacking in recent incumbents to the post. As a bowler, the young Barbadian may have much further to go in arriving at his peak of potency. He is not a fearsome pace machine of the order of, say, Sir Wes Hall at the start of his Test career. At a maximum, we don't equate him with any hostility much above eighty miles per hour. Yet, what he misses in speed can be more than made up in accuracy, a refined and lethal penetration. This is encouraged by his apparent willingness to learn his art and to strengthen his physique.
The prototype suggestible for Holder's bowling ambitions is none other than the celebrated Jacques Kallis of South Africa. Such a choice underlines my view of Holder being loaded with potential to fashion himself as a batting all-rounder. In this light he can be seen as appropriate to filling the No. 4 spot in the batting order where he could exert much needed stabilizing influence – just as Kallis did for so long for the Springboks before retiring from the longer version of the game.
It is not merely because the young man has acquired a Test century to his name that he is urged to assume a more substantial batting profile. Questions of technique and temperament place him in far more credible substance for elevation in the order than is the case with his fast bowling colleague Jerome Taylor, who too, incidentally, has a Test century for West Indies at No. 8. Then, also, Holder disposes as much more plausible to acquit himself above the self destructing volatility of the genial and ebullient Darren Sammy – a man we all thought abdicated from full acceptance of an offer to embrace positive greatness.
Never do we give hint in the slightest that Jason Holder is to be heralded as a new incarnate Sir Gary Sobers. That is much too much to ask for even at the very best of times. And my concern here is in the batting. However, when I recall the abject manner of Marlon Samuels snuffing out his innings against Australia at Windsor Park earlier this year by swallowing a first invitation to hook, resulting in his dismissal, caught on the backward of square boundary, there remains much stiffening to be applied in the matter of mental focus and primary resolve necessary to sell West Indies as a truly viable commodity.
Samuel's suicide came at a time he was well entrenched in a substantial rebuilding partnership. That some people can have the gall to exonerate Samuels simply on grounds that he was the top scorer appalls me immensely. That's where I hope fervently for Holder to help in being of purgative effect in eradicating a hopeless stupidity in the West Indies approach to big cricket.
I don't think I hear anyone asserting the argument of immaturity against Steve Smith's assuming the mantle of captain for Australia. Admittedly, though, he takes over in wake of the catastrophe of losing of the Ashes series to England, but he has been in the team with a fair legacy of winning on the part of his predecessor. This, Jason Holder does not have in his background. He will have to chart his own course towards his destiny – a point not lost on Clive Lloyd whose playing experience under some indifferent leadership had to be suffered before taking over to become the most successful captain in Test history.
As chairman of selectors, Lloyd has had to engage heavily in defense of Holder's appointments and he is well aware of the divisive attitude of many within and outside of the team itself – a divisiveness entrenched sufficiently to have excluded Irving Shillingford from the West Indies side – until 1977, as many as eleven years after the Dominican should have received such elevation along with Lloyd himself! Lloyd is a strong advocate of fast bowling, seeing it is an invaluable force in attaining international dominance. Consequently, we can look to seeing a four-pronged pace attack – particularly if Holder moves up to help consolidate the batting.
Lloyd has ventured to advise specialist batsmen in the Test team, as well as aspiring recruits, to adopt a mental framework expressive in making individual scores of 150 as their routine contribution to an innings. This is laudable and most definitely to be encouraged. Not just in Test matches but in regional engagements, the process of this scoring should begin.
How palatable the scorecard summary of a match at Bourda played in 1970 between Guyana and Barbados would be to Jason Holder is open to conjecture: March 21st to 24th, Guyana 444 for 3 declared. Barbados 320 for 6 declared. Then, Guyana 285 for 4 declared, Barbados 139 for 3 wickets in the drawn affair. Centuries were scored by Roy Fredericks 121, Basil Butcher 203 not out in the first Guyana innings. Barbados featured Sobers with 116 not out. Lloyd chimed in with 100 not out for Guyana following his 72 not out in the first innings.
Another regional match in February, 1946, could also appeal to Holder as a student of cricket history from the standpoint of batting resilience. Barbados scored 246 and Trinidad 194 on the Queens Park Oval pitch. Barbados responded in their second innings with 619 for 3 declared (Walcott 314 not out and Worrell 255 not out after Barbados were 45 for 3). Trinidad then ended on 576 for 8 to draw the match, Over 1500 runs in the match.
All this obviously calls for both mental and physical stamina, two virtues in short supply these days. I heard Lloyd calling for players to carry home some of these virtues from a recent training camp. All well and good. Yet, an attainment to ambition of this kind inevitably rests on how well the adequate systems are put in place to harness young players in their home territories towards required excellence. Without this, Jason's golden fleece will elude him!