Holder can be the new Super Cat
The leader of West Indies recent Test triumph is someone who can make a Clive Lloyd-like impression on Caribbean and world cricket
When West Indies win the odd Test match, jubilation spreads to all corners of the cricketing globe. When they clinch a series - like they did by the second Test against England in Antigua - visions of the heady days of Caribbean cricket are inevitable.
Jason Holder, who led West Indies to their recent triumph (he was banned for the third and final Test which the hosts lost, for maintaining a slow over-rate in the second Test) is now someone who could be what Clive Lloyd ended up being in the 1970s and 1980s. In a television interview with former paceman Ian Bishop, Holder said he is in constant touch with Lloyd, who was the one to pick him as captain when he was just 23.
Now, Lloyd (nicknamed Super Cat) cannot claim to enjoy a glowing stint as chief selector. He wasn't particularly pleased when Andre Russell told him in 2015 that he couldn't play Test cricket due to a bad knee. Lloyd was looking at Russell as a vital man to have in the Test side. He hit out at the all-rounder by saying that playing for West Indies didn't seem to be a priority for some players. In an April 2016 interview with ESPNCricinfo, Russell hit back at Lloyd: "A lot of times I get a contract to play cricket wherever, and I turn it down to play one-day and T20 cricket for West Indies."
Holder has no such frosty relationship with Lloyd, who seems to be a mentor for the West Indies captain - constant chats, lunches etc. Lloyd's current popularity or unpopularity notwithstanding, Holder couldn't have asked for a better man to show him the tricks of captaincy and leadership. As Lloyd's biographer Trevor McDonald once wrote: "Clive took the job seriously. He planned; he talked to his players; he showed them what was possible; he encouraged them to reach the limits of their potential. He taught them to win."
A lot of pundits believed that anyone could captain those powerful, pace-heavy West Indian teams in the Lloyd era, but the men who played under him will crush that theory. There would have to be a gel because the West Indies team comprise players from all over the Caribbean and as Michael Holding says in the film, Fire in Babylon, playing cricket is the only thing the Caribbean nations do together.
In Marshall Arts, deceased fast bowler Malcolm Marshall provided a fair idea about how significant Lloyd's leadership was: "I know many followers of the game will believe he was a lucky captain to have so many fast bowlers at his disposal, but he was wise enough to realise he needed more than luck to win crucial games. Clive's casual exterior concealed a remarkable ability to be aware of every ebb and flow in a day's play."
Holder revealed that Lloyd has passed on tips on how to go about moulding the present bunch and profits do seem to be accruing. Lloyd would also do well to urge Holder to follow his lead when it comes to dealing with the hard times. Sir Frank Worrell, so aptly described as the Nelson Mandela of cricket, told Lloyd very early in his Test career that one must not be hasty in taking decisions and the need to examine all consequences should never be ignored. As a player, Lloyd too had moments of despair. In 1973, he was summoned from Manchester where he lived, to be available for selection before the home series against Australia.
He was not picked in the first Test at Kingston and was named 12th man for the second game in Barbados. All-rounder Bernard Julien got injured while practising for the Test. Lloyd felt he would surely make the eleven and was interrupted while hitting a few balls on the Kensington Oval outfield by former captain and chairman of selectors Jeff Stollmeyer, who told him that Keith Boyce was called in as Julien's replacement and he would not be playing.
Lloyd smashed one ball which broke one of the windows of the dressing room, came in, wept and decided to walk away from West Indies cricket. A few moments later, he felt Clyde Walcott's comforting hand over his shoulder and the ex-great convinced him that he had plenty of good years ahead. Later, Wes Hall, who was to be his team's trusted manager in the 1980s, pointed out that he could get the West Indies captaincy soon - and he did. Lloyd went on to propel West Indies to the top, but the scene in the Barbados dressing room of 1973 was a turning point.
Holder also told Bishop in the interview that he has been speaking a lot to Brian Lara and Desmond Haynes. Like Lloyd, Lara too had his detractors, but he too was a part of West Indian dominance and was considered a fine leader of men.
Holder has been exchanging notes with the right kind of people because the most vital of tips are picked by speaking to people who have been there and done that. Although the entries in the win column need to increase post this series win over England, the West Indies captain's heart is in the right place and his players, just as Lloyd's troops, are not shying away from the hard yards. West Indies' cricket revival is a work in progress and Holder's kit of tools is being well utilised by a bunch of players who appear driven. Yet another evaporation of hope will be the unkindest cut of all.
mid-day's group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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