Saving face


LEEDS, England, – Despite the criticisms and below-par performances of the West Indies side, captain Jason Holder has vowed to stay the course and be part of the revival of West Indies cricket.

Holder told the media today that playing Tests for West Indies was a childhood dream and leading the revival of the side was a duty from which he was unwilling to side-step anytime soon.

Pressure on Holder and his side has increased following the day/night first Test against England which they lost by an innings and 209 runs inside three days at Edgbaston in Birmingham.

As they prepared for the second Test, starting tomorrow at Headingley, the lanky all-rounder urged his side to stick together in the face of the derisive comments from former West Indies players, fans and just about anyone with an opinion to share.

“We were under the pump for three days and it wasn’t the best showing for us,” said Holder.

“It’s important we rally together and stay together. Through hard times we have to stay together and this is a difficult time for this group.”

Holder said he strongly believed in the players in his side and that they would improve in the Test arena and form a force with which to be reckoned in the future.

The squad presently on tour of England is quite inexperienced at the international level – with the most senior player being Kemar Roach at age 29 with 38 matches and 124 wickets.

The 25-year-old Holder has won admiration from observers of the game around the world for his level-headedness following his ascension to the post of captain two years ago on a strong recommendation from legendary West Indies captain Clive Lloyd, the former chairman of selectors, and one of the game’s greatest visionaries.

“It’s not easy, but I’m enjoying every moment of (leading this side),” said Holder on the eve of his 25th Test. “I enjoy being captain of the Windies team and representing the people of the Caribbean.

“It was a childhood dream for me to play Tests for Windies. I’ve always loved watching Windies playing cricket on tv when I was growing up and I’ve always wanted to be here.”

He added: “I could have given up and shied away from the responsibility, but that’s not within me as a person. Everyone in the dressing room is motivated and working hard to make Windies cricket better.

“We’ve had some success in the recent past and we believe we are capable of doing great things. That’s why I’m happy to lead this team.”

Holder said the addition of performance specialist Steve Sylvester to the team management unit has helped the players to keep a positive frame of mind in the dressing room.

“We’ve got guys to open up their minds a bit more to change,” he said. “Steve has been a great addition to the group and we are hoping to work more with him in the coming weeks on this tour. It’s a work in progress as we look to build a formidable team.”

He said: “We haven’t had the best results over the last few years, but I enjoy (leading this team). 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, but we’re trying to learn as fast as we possibly can under the circumstances we’re faced with.”

For Holder and his side, Headingley is as good a place as any to start to show that learning is starting to take root. But the ground has not been a happy hunting arena for them recently. In 2007, they were beaten by an innings and 283 runs and in 2000 they lost by an innings and 39 runs, including being bowled out for 61 in their second innings. That match lasted two days.

Meanwhile, head coach Stuart Law expressed disappointment with Windies bowling legend Curtly Ambrose who was among those uttering scathing criticism of the team following the lop-sided first Test loss to England.

Ambrose, who expressed skepticism regarding the team’s chances ahead of the tour, branded the performance “pathetic” and “embarrassing”.  Law took Ambrose to task for not being more supportive of the inexperienced unit.

“Curtly not long ago was a coach with this team, so for him to make those criticisms is disappointing. We have to understand why it is there.

“We are not performing as well as we want. It would have been nice if he had come into the dressing room to talk to the guys and express his displeasure to us. That would have been awesome but that didn’t happen. What can we do? We have to get our noses down, our backsides up and play better,” Law said.

Fast bowler Shannon Gabriel could return to the side following an injury lay-off and there may also be a place for leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo. Alzarri Joseph, who was expensive and disappointed in the first Test, and Miguel Cummins, could be the two casualties from the first Test. Despite the poor batting of the first Test, there are few options and changes seem not to be on the cards. Middle-order batsman Shimron Hetmyer is unlikely to be asked to open in place of the Kieran Powell who continues to struggle since his return to the side from a self-imposed exile.

Source: (CMC/Cricbuzz)

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