Let’s go back to October 2014. West Indies ODI team were touring India and midway through that series, they decided to abandon it. Dwayne Bravo, the then captain, consulted with his team and all this was due to the WICB wanting to reduce the players’ salaries. DJ Bravo as he is called, never played an ODI for the West Indies again as he was sacked of the captaincy. In comes Jason Holder, the new West Indian ODI captain. Holder was given the captaincy based on the advice of the great Clive Lloyd, who was at that time the chief selector of the WICB. Holder’s introduction into the job however, was a tough one. West Indies were defeated 2-0 in the 3 Test match series in South Africa which took place in December 2014 & January 2015. Despite a 2-1 T20 series win led by the popular Darren Sammy, the West Indies suffered a comprehensive 4-1 series defeat in the ODI series.
With that heavy series defeat in South Africa, the West Indies entered the 2015 World cup played in New Zealand and South Africa as underdogs. Their underdog status was obvious, especially being lowly ranked for quite some time as they reached only as far as the quarter-finals. They were defeated by the home team New Zealand by a mammoth 143 runs at Wellington Regional Stadium, with Martin Guptill slamming an unbeaten 237 not out. The World of course criticized the move by the WICB back then to appoint a young man who was not even a regular member of the West Indies playing 11, despite his talent as a developing all-rounder. Things only got worse moving on as he took over the Test captaincy reigns from Denesh Ramdin, after they suffered a 2-0 Test series whitewash against Australia in the Caribbean (June 2015). Holder’s first assignment as captain was not a pleasant one, as West Indies suffered a 2-0 Test series defeat in Sri Lanka and followed it up with losing 3-0 in the ODI series.
That series was followed by a 3 Test series tour to Australia (December 2015) where the Windies once again showed no fight nor spirit, failing with both bat and ball losing the series 2-0. If it wasn’t for rain in Sydney, it would’ve been 3-0. Thankfully it wasn’t. More “licks” came in the Caribbean against the Indians in July and August 2016, where they went down 2-0 in the 4 Test match series. Signs of a Test victory were looking bleak, and one had to wonder when would the World see a victory from this West Indies team in Test cricket?
September to November 2016, the West Indies toured the United Arab Emirates (neutral venue) to play Pakistan. Double whitewashes against Pakistan 3-0 in both T20 and ODI series looked all too familiar. The 3 Test match series followed and after losing the first two Test matches, another Test defeat was on the cards. Then came the third Test match in Sharjah. The West Indian skipper picked up his first five-wicket haul in the true form of the game with some brilliant bowling, 5 for 30. The target was 154 runs, and achieved by Kraigg Braithwaite’s and Shane Dowrich’s 60 not out each. At last, flawless victory!
That rare Test victory, especially overseas, was the stepping stone the West Indians somewhat needed. March to May 2017, the Pakistanis toured these islands, and despite the competitiveness, the visitors took the T20 series 3-1, ODI series 2-1 and the Test series 2-1. It could’ve been 1-1 in the Test series, if it wasn’t for Shannon Gabriel’s “slog” across the line to Yasir Shah’s leg-spin off the final ball of the penultimate over of the Test match. That Mother’s day in May 2017, I was totally lost for words watching in my living room. The fight however was shown on their tour to England in August and September 2017, where many predicted a 3-0 clean sweep loss. However, after the West Indies were embarrassed by an innings defeat in the day-night Test match at Edgbaston, they bounced back with centuries in both innings by Shai Hope at Leeds, Headingly. The first batsman to twin hundreds in a Test or first class match at the famous ground. West Indies lost the third Test at Lord’s, but proved they were not a team to be taken lightly.
Before a ball was bowled in the first Test in Barbados, the English media boldly predicted that this West Indian team would suffer a 3-0 whitewash. Imagine that? A whitewash in their own backyard?
In 2018 between June to August, their home Test series to Sri Lanka and Bangladesh showed clearly that the bowling attack was on the rise, led by Jason Holder. Having shared the Test series 1-1 with Sri Lanka, they dismantled Bangladesh 2-0 thanks to some grassy pitches prepared. This brought back good memories from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s with “chin-music” fierce West Indian bowling. Such a pleasure to watch in this part of the World. Ordinary performances later in 2018 to tours of India and Bangladesh humbled the West Indians, and one had to ponder if all the hard work done in the Caribbean simply dissipated?
Before a ball was bowled in the first Test in Barbados, the English media boldly predicted that this West Indian team would suffer a 3-0 whitewash. Imagine that? A whitewash in their own backyard? The West Indians were out on a mission to prove the World wrong, and rightfully so. England were battered in Barbados (381 run loss) and Antigua (10-wicket defeat). The Wisden trophy was regained after 10 long-awaited years! Observing the body language of the players on the field during the Test series, it was evident that Jason Holder had them in a relaxed mood. Whenever a wicket fell or a milestone achieved by a batsman, there was that typical Calypso Caribbean celebration. That’s what the World needs to see more of.
A West Indies team that is winning is a happy team, and we all know that winning is a habit. Holder rallied his troops brilliantly, and made several bowling changes that worked in his team’s favor whenever a wicket was needed. The team gelled brilliantly and the results were evident in terms of the margin of victories. One has to say Jason Holder has learnt how to use the Decision Review System (DRS) smartly, unlike his opposing captain Joe Root, who used it blindly and with little success I must say. In the past, Holder would’ve used the DRS more out of desperation rather than logic. The saying goes, desperate times called for desperate measures.
The selectors stuck with him in the last four years as captain in both Test and ODI formats, and it’s definitely paying off in the Test version at least. With the five One-day internationals on the way, let’s hope the Windies transfer their confidence into white-ball cricket. In the last two years, the West Indies have only won 11 of their last 40 ODI matches, with 17 ODI series going against them. One has to be optimistic with the likes of Chris Gayle a.k.a. “Universe Boss”, Darren Bravo and the debutant Nicholas Pooran in the ODI mix can boost the inconsistent batting that we have seen in recent times. Once the West Indies play to their true potential, no doubt they can upset the number one ranked side England. We shall see indeed!