Jason Holder survives trial by fire as West Indies captain
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Amid the many excitements and plot twists of the pool stage of the Cricket World Cup, a small but compelling drama has played out off-stage that may reach its climax during the quarterfinals.
Jason Holder’s personal battle to establish himself as the captain of a West Indies team dogged by selection controversies and a schism between players and their board has provided an important sub-text to his team’s difficult campaign.
Holder was appointed the West Indies’ youngest captain at 23 by board chairman Clive Lloyd after playing only 21 one-day internationals. Thrown in at the deep end, he has had to prove himself to many doubters outside the West Indies team and to his own players.
The background to his appointment was not propitious. Some senior players, notably opener Chris Gayle, were openly contemptuous of the selection of a West Indies’ World Cup squad which didn’t contain Keiron Pollard or Dwayne Bravo.
Holder was also asked to take over from Bravo, punished for his role in the team’s rebellion in India, and to lead a team which included three former captains, among the Darren Sammy and Denesh Ramdin.
There were questions from the outset over whether those players would accept Holder, bow to his authority, or whether they might push back against the leadership of an unproven captain, many years their junior.
And Holder’s tenure didn’t start well: he was in charge during their 4-1 loss in a five-match series in South Africa, though with recent upheavals that result wasn’t unexpected.
The West Indies’ World Cup campaign began with a loss to Ireland in a match in which they sometimes looked lethargic and ill-prepared. But they reached the quarterfinals, albeit at the last gasp and on net run rate and Holder played a large part in that achievement, both with his leadership and personal performance.
He made half centuries against India and South Africa and had returns of 3-48 against Zimbabwe and 4-27 against the United Arab Emirates.
It appeared to an outside observer that he had the unswerving support of his teammates. There was a minor incident with former Sammy in the final pool match against UAE but Holder dismissed it as horseplay and said they were the best of mates.
He said the captaincy had been challenging but rewarding.
“I’ll tell you what, I’ve learnt a few things not only about myself but the game in general,” Holder said. “It’s been good for me.
“It’s been a very good challenge, something that I was looking forward to from the time I was a youngster. But being thrown into it now has opened up my eyes in a lot of ways.”
Holder has received endorsement as captain from West Indies greats Brian Lara and Viv Richards. Lloyd hailed him as being at the vanguard of a new generation of West Indies cricketers, who will serve the Caribbean side for years to come.
There have been criticisms, some severe, but Holder said he carefully filtered all feedback.
“You would get criticism in anything you do,” he said. “I know some people are for it and some people are against it. That’s life.
“What I can’t do is dwell on it. I can’t let it get to me. I think what is important is I just focus on what is required of me and what is required of me is to lead this team and lead it to the best of my ability.”