11 The Daily Telegraph Friday 3 July 2020 *** Sport Subject How Holder earned world No 1 all-rounder crown and is now on way to Caribbean greatness By Tim Wigmore off-the-field issues. It kind of blinded me as to what I was actually there to do.” Learning how to divorce his cricket from his captaincy has elevated Holder’s game. “First off, I’m always a cricketer and my personal performance must always dictate and gives me a stronger presence in terms of leadership. I’ve been able to put myself first a bit more in terms of preparation, get my work done and make sure that I give myself enough time to be with the team and make sure that they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing in order for all of us to hit that common goal. And I think I’ve been able to do that a lot better.” Test cricket is far too difficult a game for players to be preoccupied by their captaincy when they have bat or ball in hand. When Holder bats or bowls now, he is no longer accompanied by wider thoughts of what the team need to do. “I just put it down to hard work and having a clear mindset,” he says. “Before, I probably had too many things in my mind and was not able to process it all at once. But now, I’ve been able to simplify my game through experience of handling a few more scenarios.” His role in the West Indies attack is simple enough; along with Kemar Roach, he provides immaculate control, emboldening Shannon Gabriel and Alzarri Joseph to attack. “I’ve understood that to be successful at this level you’ve got to be able to stack deliveries up, and stack overs up, time after time after time,” he says. “And pressure is what gets you wickets. The great Glenn McGrath would always say if he’s bowling 20-odd dot balls consecutively then a wicket is around the corner.” Yet Holder’s threat is not only with his consistency, but in the way that he extracts every iota of assistance in the air and off the wicket. Since 2018, he has swung the ball more than any other Test bowler, and only Mustafizur Rahman has seamed it more. The wonder of Holder is that, unlike with most quick bowlers, there is no trade-off between movement and consistency. “You try to understand the time to attack, the time to make a change in your bowling, and just knowing really the timing that you need to be changing stuff. More or less everything has been built around consistency and just stacking deliveries and overs up.” Stacking up performances: it is a phrase that Holder is fond of using. And he is stacking them up with such consistency that, increasingly, he does not even need his leadership to be mounting a compelling case to be a Caribbean great. and Stokes. Add in his captaincy and calling Holder the Caribbean Imran Khan is still an exaggeration, but perhaps not by much. The only snag for Holder is that, despite the stirring victory over England last year, West Indies are still ranked eighth in the world. “It would mean a lot more for me if I could be the No1 all-rounder in the No1 team,” he says. “That holds a lot more substance than just holding the personal accolade.” On the West Indies tour of the UAE in late 2016, against Pakistan, Holder realised that he had begun to neglect his own performances, weighed down by the political disputes that were enmeshing Caribbean cricket, making him of less use to his side. “I got caught up with so many peripheral things – primarily England are about to face a West Indies Test captain whose leadership qualities are backed by bountiful wickets and runs A sk English cricket fans who is the No 1 Test all-rounder in the world and you would do well to find a few souls who would not say Ben Stokes. Ask a sample of global cricket fans and there would be some claims for Shakib Al Hasan and Ravindra Jadeja – but after his past year, Stokes would surely still win the people’s crown. And yet as international cricket resumes, the No1 Test all-rounder is none of these. Instead, it is Jason Holder, safely enthroned after a remarkable two years. The focus on Holder is almost invariably as the savvy and galvanising Test captain, a role he assumed aged 23. Somehow, along the way, the cricketer himself has been a little forgotten. Set aside, for a moment, Holder the Test captain. Instead, consider Holder purely as a Test cricketer. First, recall some of Holder’s moments since the start of 2018. Against Sri Lanka in Barbados two years ago, Holder hit 74, the highest score by anyone on either side, and recorded a match haul of nine for 60; West Indies still lost a low-scoring scrap. In the Caribbean last year, Holder’s 202 not out, replete with eight sixes, crushed England in the first Test; he then took four for 43 in the second to help clinch the series. Holder has also excelled against India, hitting 52 and taking five for 56, belying spin-friendly conditions to keep West Indies in the game, in Hyderabad in 2018, and then taking another five-fer against India in Jamaica last year. What is remarkable is not just the quality, but the range. Holder the batsman has plundered tiring attacks and accumulated sagely when his team are struggling; Holder the bowler has harassed batsmen in the Caribbean and used his nous to thrive on the subcontinent. Consider the raw numbers. In 11 Tests since 2018, Holder has taken 53 Test wickets at 14.22 apiece, averaging three runs less than anyone with 20 wickets in this time. For good measure, he is averaging 42.50 with the bat in the same period – more than Joe Root, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ross Taylor How the two key performers compare Jason Holder Ben Stokes Since the start of 2018 Tests 11 24 Batting average 42.50 37.83 680 runs at 1627 at Bowling average 53 wickets at 52 at 14.22 30.38 Their Test careers overall Tests 40 63 quickened after its sluggishness on day one and the ball swung more, whatever the techniques used offcamera to shine it; while Archer’s opening partner at Sussex, Ollie Robinson, hit the bat harder in his second spell than Stuart Broad in any of his. Another contest in this warm-up is for the title of England’s quirkiest opening batsman. Rory Burns had set the standard on day one, but the quirkiness lies more in his mannerisms than the technique itself. On the second day the bar was raised by Keaton Jennings and his lack of footwork, and by Dominic Sibley’s chest-on stance and grip – methods which appear to detract from, rather than enhance, their other virtues. So different, too, from James Bracey’s orthodoxy. Making a large target at 6ft 3in and chest-on, Sibley was caught down leg side – probably off a glove – against Archer’s bouncer. Sibley will surely start as England opening batsman this summer, but whether he ends it as such will depend a lot on his leaving the ball outside off stump and ducking the bouncers. Final preparations: Chris Woakes bowls to Dom Sibley during day two of England’s warm-up match at the Ageas Bowl Batting average 32.72 36.54 1898 runs at 4056 at shot of this season when Stokes went down the pitch to Bess, who dropped short and might have beaten Stokes if he had defended, and drove the off-break over extra cover. “I thought I did him, but he somehow hit it on the up for six,” Bess said. It was Parkinson’s most significant wicket in red-ball cricket so far when he had Stokes stumped. Parkinson’s first three overs had been nervous, going for 17 runs and including a no-ball, but he lulled or lured Stokes down the pitch and beat him with a leg-break which turned through the gate for Buttler to stump his opposite number as captain. This distinguished wicket alone must give Parkinson a chance of a Test debut at Old Trafford in one of this summer’s three Tests on his home ground – two against West Indies and one against Pakistan. Among the other features of the day, Jofra Archer and Mark Wood enjoyed the fact that the pitch had Bowling average 26.37 32.68 106 wickets at 147 at
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