By Zaheer E. Clarke
Published April 27, 2015
On my way to work, mom called, “Dad’s sick”, she muttered hesitantly. Without hesitation, I u-turned the car on the highway, 25 miles away and headed home. West Indies were staggering at 189 runs for 6 wickets, still 249 runs away from victory, and over 50 overs away from a draw. Jason Holder picked up his bat, twisted and turned his hips, and headed out to the middle.
Unbeknownst to my mom, what I feared based on her detailed descriptions, and what I eventually saw when I got home, surmised that my dad was having a stroke, also known as a brain attack. Similarly, Jason Holder must have wondered or feared his colleagues had a brain attack (stroke) based on their rash shots that saw West Indies stumble and limp to this predicament.
I placed my dad in my car, buckled my seatbelt, and with composed driving ranging between 90-125 mph (145-200 kph), I wailed through the traffic like an ambulance to the hospital, which was 30 miles away. In a similar manner, Jason Holder placed West Indies on his back, buckled down, and with composed batting like Brian Lara’s 153 at Bridgetown in 1999, attempted to bring the infirm West Indies through the maze and to close of play.
In the last 15 years, West Indies haven’t had many moments to savour or which produced a saviour. Since January 1, 2000 to date, West Indies have played 130 Test matches against the top-7 teams, winning just 15 matches, and losing 75. However, on this day Holder presented a savoury batting display that was the perfect salve to the recurring heart attacks and strokes West Indian fans have suffered through the years.
During the World Cup, when Holder batted intelligently and with poise, averaging over 50, I mentioned to some friends that Holder reminds me of Sri Lanka’s Angelo Mathews. Angelo in 2014 was ranked at number two for batting aggregates, in Tests and ODIs, and had the highest average of all batsmen to score 1000 runs or more in Tests or ODIs that calendar year. Those performances were the reason he was nominated for the 2014 ICC Player and Test Player of the Year Awards. This is where I see Jason Holder a few years from now: topping batting averages and aggregates in Tests and ODIs, and much more.
Like Holder, Mathews was given captaincy early in his career, and Mathews had the full support, assistance, and advice of the former Sri Lankan captains Dilshan, Jayawardene and Sangakkara, both on and off the field. Holder has reiterated that he has the full support of the West Indian former and current captains that play with him: Denesh Ramdin, Chris Gayle and Darren Sammy. However, we saw the dust-up that almost transpired on the field between Holder and Sammy during the World Cup. We also saw how no senior player, or former or current captain walked up to Holder during those two overs of carnage from AB de Villiers in the World Cup to offer a word of advice. Does he really have their full support? Or is Holder his own man, who takes little advice and stays the course?
Nonetheless, Holder has the full support, assistance and advice of Convenor of Selectors, Clive Lloyd and other erudite former players such as Brian Lara. Lara during the World Cup chastised the senior players and said they should follow the example of Holder when it comes to commonsensical batting. Holder after making his knock in Antigua said, “it was just for me to play the ball on its merits and try not to play any rash strokes and just be selective”. I think our new Head Coach, Phil Simmons needs to print this statement and give it to all our West Indian batsmen and have them recite it until it’s a part of their consciousness.
In addition to that coach Simmons, I believe Holder is batting too low down the order. Similarly to when another Barbadian, Garfield Sobers, who was initially picked for West Indies as a bowler and was being wasted batting at number 9. Similarly, I think Holder at number 8 in both the Test and ODI teams is a waste. Now I’m not saying Holder is the next Sobers, who to tell, but he is a more intelligent and capable batsman than most other illogical players in the team.
When ten scheduled balls remained in the day’s play, and eight fielders were within twenty metres of Holder, who was on 99, he hit Treadwell’s off volley over the top, one bounce into the long-off boundary to bring up his maiden first-class and Test century. What a stroke it was in hypertonic circumstances. He hugged his teammate, raised his right hand in a fist, in honour of the iconic Nelson Mandela.
Later that evening my dad called, “I’m being discharged” he said gladly. I pull up outside Accident and Emergency, a porter wheels my dad to the car, he stands up, opens the door and sits in the passenger seat beside me. His first words were, “How much did West Indies make in the second innings”?
Many will find it strange that this man just left the hospital after suffering a stroke due to a hypertensive crisis and the first thing he wants to know about is West Indies cricket. Cynics will say you would ask such a question, only if you want to have another hypertensive crisis. However, I didn’t find it odd, that’s my dad: the immortal West Indian fan. I was very glad to report in Richie Benaud-like fashion “Close of Play: 7 wickets for 350 runs. Young Holder made a mature century beyond his years. The match ended in a breathtaking draw”.
My dad raised his right hand in a fist, as sweet peace flooded his mind and body. Without hesitation he uttered, “Rally Rally round the West Indies, now and forever”. All I could think about were these two audacious strokes and these two West Indian cricket-loving blokes: Jason Holder and my dad, as I joined him and sang “Rally Rally round the West Indies …”
Until next time …
© Zaheer Clarke
From the “Lies & Statistics” Column in the Western Mirror (Published Monday, April 27, 2015)