West Indies have proven pedigree to beat “top sides”- Holder
By Akeem Greene
Rankings, current form and history have been stacked against West Indies in their quest for Test series wins in England, but captain Jason Holder strongly believes his team has shown before they are more than capable of “beating the best.”
The visitors hold the Wisden Trophy after their 2-1 win at home in 2019, and West Indies believe they can repeat the feat in 1988 – the last West Indies team to win a series in England.
Notably, since 1995, West Indies have only won two Tests against England in England.
England have developed a fortress at home in the recent past with Sri Lanka in 2014 being the last team to get the better of them over a full series.
“If you look at this West Indies Test team over the last three years, we have won series, we have won Test matches and we have beaten top sides in the world,” Holder stated on the eve of the first Test at the Ageas Bowl.
“This team is really ready for this occasion, they have proven in the past we can win against top sides and we can beat top sides in series so it is all to play for in this series.”
England are ranked four spots above West Indies who are eight on the Test rankings, but it was similar when they toured the Caribbean in 2019, where they lost the prized Trophy for the first time since 2009.
“Cricket has to be played on the day and what I would say England are probably favourites in their home conditions, they are a very strong side and their track record has proven. We got our work cut out if we are going to beat England.”
“They are not going to roll over and die; they are going to come at us very hard and those guys want to win as badly as we do so I really expect a keen contest and it is a matter for us to dethrone England in their own backyard which is not going to be easy for us.”
He further noted England’s attack, compliments of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes, has a wealth of experience, but is confident the current form of his fellow pacemen makes them equally lethal and it’s for the batsmen to support.
“If we can get the runs on the board and it does not have to come only from the top order. We are paying a lot of emphasis on the top order and yes they have not probably lived up to expectations but it is still a team sport and we just got to put runs on the board.”
“It is just a matter for us to put the runs on the board and make our bowlers have something to work with.”
Leading from the front
For the last two years, Holder has consistently improved with the bat; in 2019 he played five Tests and averaged 49.14 and had a career-best of 202* against England, which has encouraged the thought of him moving up the order, especially with the absence of regular number six, Shimron Hetmyer.
“It is on the radar for me personally. I have had some success and been pretty consistent where I have been batting and no doubt at some stage I will definitely come up the order, it is just a matter of when.”
Apart from his improved efforts with the bat, his contributions with the ball are also stupendous, having took 53 wickets at 14.22 in his last 11 Tests.
“Before captaincy I am player, my performances standout. I must perform my role for the team [and] only then can I look to lead the guys. With bat in hand, I got to make runs, with the ball in hand I got to take wickets and in the field, I got to help the guys hold unto chances and that is the bottom line of it all.”
“I don’t think it is a case where I should be getting caught up with anything else, leadership will come into effect after that and when I do perform well with the bat, it sends added confidence through the dressing room.”
Questioned by News Room Sport on the possible combination for tomorrow, he indicated they have options but conditions will determine the final decision.
“We are still tinkering around a few combinations; the beauty about our squad is that we had people like Raymon Reifer come back into the squad and do really well, Rahkeem Cornwall has obviously been outstanding, Jermaine Blackwood had outstanding First-Class season scoring the most runs so it is a good headache to have per say when it comes to selection.”
He added, “Once you have selection headaches it means you have guys pushing the barrier to be selected…so I like to wait until the last minute and give myself to see conditions and how they change overnight so tomorrow morning we will make the final decision.”
Off-spinner Moeen Ali, who is not in England’s squad, has played two Tests at Southampton, but has the most wickets at the venue- 17 wickets. Holder did indicate as England’s three-day practice match went on the pitches got a bit slower, which hints at the possible inclusion of Rahkeem Cornwall.
“Rahkeem is a weapon for us, a massive weapon for us. If the conditions dictate that he should get the nod, I am sure he will get the nod, but I will leave it down to tomorrow to make the final call.”
First ball daily is 11:00h (06:00h Eastern Caribbean).
England squad for first Test: Ben Stokes (capt), James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Dominic Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Joe Denly, Ollie Pope, Dom Sibley, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.
West Indies Test Squad: Jason Holder (captain), Jermaine Blackwood, Nkrumah Bonner, Kraigg Brathwaite, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Roston Chase, Rahkeem Cornwall, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Chemar Holder, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Raymon Reifer, Kemar Roach.