West Indies cricket captain Jason Holder has been a magnificent example to his team mates in terms of leadership, attitude and in doing the work to improve his own game.
As an individual he has reaped rewards for supreme dedication by being classified as the top all-rounder in Test match cricket by the International Cricket Council (ICC).
At number four in the world, Mr Holder is the highest ranked West Indies bowler—skilfully delivering his medium pace from his six feet, seven inches height.
To their credit, Mr Holder’s fellow pace bowlers, Messrs Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel have also shown considerable improvement. All three were central to the series victory over England earlier this year.
Mr Holder is also the top-ranked West Indies Test match batsman at number 35, which speaks to the difficulties facing the West Indies team. Simply put, the specialist batsmen have not fulfilled the requirements.
As the situation now stands, Mr Holder—batting at number seven or eight in the order—is often batting and bowling on the same day of a five-day match.
That reality was much to the fore as India overwhelmed West Indies in the just-ended two-Test series in the Caribbean.
Caribbean cricket followers shouldn’t fool themselves. India—which in addition to their Test series triumph also easily won the limited overs segment of the tour—are far, far better than the West Indies, particularly in terms of batting. It’s not by accident, that India are rated number one in the ICC Test Match Rankings and West Indies eighth.
The statistical difference in batting is stark. Five of the top seven in the Indian batting order in the second Test at Sabina Park are averaging in excess of 40. No West Indies batsman averages 40 in Test cricket.
The long and short of it is that the work must be done to revive the art of batting in the West Indies.
It can’t happen overnight. As Mr Holder has said, there is no “quick fix”. He correctly points to the need for Cricket West Indies to pay close attention to the quality of the four-day competition.
It seems to this newspaper that crucial to any improvement in this area must be the quality of pitches in the regional competitions. To be fair, this newspaper has detected an effort over the last year or two to get away from the low, slow pitches which for too long frustrated batsmen, fast bowlers, and spectators, while flattering spin bowlers.
We believe that despite the poor performances by West Indies batsmen, the pitch produced for the recent second Test at Sabina Park should be a template for first class cricket in the Caribbean.
In our view, that was a good, fair pitch—tailor-made for entertaining cricket.
Beyond regional senior cricket, there is obvious need to significantly improve at the junior levels.
Caribbean cricket needs revival as a sport of mass participation. Also, coaching, officiating, and administration need drastic overhaul. All of which requires partnership of Cricket West Indies, the business community and regional governments.
A big plus for cricket is that it remains, without question, among the top recreational activities, encouraging young people to be disciplined and to practice critical thinking.
Cricket’s leaders should be pushing that “plus” to the hilt.
—Courtesy Jamaica Observer