How Holder's increasing influence is getting the West Indies back to winning ways

By July 13, 2020

I have to admit that when Jason Holder was appointed captain of the West Indies Test team in September 2015, I was sceptical. At 23, having made his Test debut just over a year earlier, in June 2014, he was so young – the second youngest Test captain for the West Indies, and too inexperienced to be leading a side that had picked up a terrible habit of losing Test matches and losing them badly.

Between 2011 and 2016, the West Indies played 52 Tests in 20 series. They won only 13 of those matches, lost 27 and managed 12 draws. Those victories saw five series wins and 13 losses. Things were grim and in my opinion, was too much for a youngster who while talented, was still learning the game.

However, over the ensuing five years, many things have changed. In Holder’s first 11 Tests as captain, the West Indies lost eight and drew three of them. In his last 22 including Sunday’s win against England, Holder’s team has won 11 Test matches, lost nine and drawn two.

This latest win pulls him ahead of Brian Lara and into a tie with Richie Richardson as West Indies captains with the most Test wins. Only Clive Lloyd with 36 wins in 74 Tests and Sir Vivian Richards with 27 wins in 50 Tests have more. Richardson’s 11 wins came in 24 matches.

During that time the soft-spoken captain has seen his stocks rise. In July 2014, Holder was 91st in the ICC Test rankings, a year later he had risen to 45 in the rankings. By July 2017, he had climbed to 36 in the rankings and ninth in 2019.

As of today, Holder is the number-two ranked Test bowler in the world.

His batting has also had a significant impact on the fortunes of the side he leads.

Holder scored his maiden Test century against England in April 2015 and since then scored two more centuries and eight fifties averaging a healthy 32.49, considering how low he bats. This fact, along with his improved bowling has seen him become the number one Test all-rounder in the world.

With Holder in the team, the West Indies bowling attack averages a wicket every 32.79 runs. Without him, they take a wicket for every 40.38 runs scored. His impact with the bat is also significant. With him in the team, the West Indies scored an average of 26.34 runs for every wicket they lose. Without him, that number drops to 19.35.

In essence, without Holder, the West Indies bowling team concedes 75.9 more runs per inning while making 69.9 fewer runs per inning. What this math is telling you is that the West Indies are 145 runs worse off when he does not play, especially since he was given the captaincy.

This statistic takes on even greater significance when you consider that since January 1, 2017, the West Indies have won 80 per cent of Test matches (8 of 10 played) in which they have restricted the opposing team to a first-innings score of fewer than 250 runs.

During that same period, the West Indies have won 69 per cent of Test matches or 9 of 13 when they score 250 runs or more in their first innings.

The Test match that concluded on Sunday supports these figures as Holder’s match-changing 6 for 42 restricted England to 204. The West Indies replied with 318 even though Holder’s contribution with the bat was just five runs, it was his bowling that put the West Indies in a position of strength on Day 2, a position they did not relinquish for the duration of the match.

Without him, things can be much different. Since he was appointed, Holder has missed five Tests. The West Indies lost all five.

In August 2017, when England clobbered the West Indies by an innings and 209 runs at Edgbaston, the already beleaguered captain was under even greater pressure to relinquish the captaincy to someone with more experience; someone who the very fickle Caribbean public would find more tolerable.

It was a particularly difficult time for the young Barbadian.

“It’s not easy. We haven’t had the best results over the last few years but I enjoy it,” he said in an interview then revealing the steel that lies beneath the much softer façade the world sees.

“I don’t shy away from it and I don’t think I’d ever give it up. There might be a situation where people want to move on from me but I can’t control that.

“The one thing I can control is trying to get the best out of each and every individual in the dressing room and I try my best to do that. One thing I’ve said to myself is that when I leave here just leave some kind of mark on it. So far, the guys have been quite receptive and helped me out tremendously. It is a young group; we’re trying to learn as fast as we possibly can under the circumstances we’re faced with.”

It’s instructive that since then Holder has led the West Indies in five more Tests against England. He has won four.

The evidence is there, the West Indies are better with Holder in the team and at its helm. And, as he continues to improve in all areas, I suspect his impact on the team will be even greater.

For years, West Indies fans have been divided over when the team will finally turn that never-ending corner and return to winning ways, or at the very least, winning more consistently. What I do know for certain, is that with Holder leading this team, that corner might be finally be turned sooner rather than later.

*Statistics provided by Zaheer Clarke.

 

 

 

 

Leighton Levy

Leighton Levy is a journalist with 28 years’ experience covering crime, entertainment, and sports. He joined the staff at SportsMax.TV as a content editor two years ago and is enjoying the experience of developing sports content and new ideas. At SportsMax.tv he is pursuing his true passion - sports.

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