The ICC cricket ratings are a relatively new addition to the global cricket landscape. But using the methodology, you can also rank other previous greats. One of such calculations shows Sir Garry Sobers as the number one ranked test all-rounder during the 1974 season. Close to 45 years have passed, during which the West Indies team has completed a full circle from being the fiercest world beaters to an unpredictable group of underachievers. But no one from the Caribbean in those 45 years could take the rank one position for the all-rounder spot in the ICC cricket rating. But this week Jason Holder became the first West Indian since Sobers to take the number one position leap forging Shakib Al Hasan and Ravindra Jadeja. Obviously, his double century batting at number eight played a significant role as he also reached his best position in the batting ranking and now sits at 33rd position.
But the Jason Holder story was not written in a single day. He made his debut as a 21-year old in an ODI against Australia. It was not a memorable debut. At WACA in Perth, West Indies were blown away for 70 as Mitchell Starc ran through the middle order. Holder could score 7 runs batting at number 9 and got the solitary wicket of Aaron Finch during Australia’s chase. His test debut was more eventful. It was in his hometown Bridgetown, Barbados against New Zealand. Although a Kane Williamson master class took the match away from West Indies, Holder made his mark with tight bowling and handy contributions with the bat in both innings. Chasing 308 for an unlikely win, Windies were tottering at 144 for 7 when Holder and the off-spinner Shane Shillingford got together and added 77 runs to give some hope. Eventually, they were beaten by 53 runs but Holder got his first test fifty. His tall stature was noticed by the fans. He was considered to be a replacement for Darren Sammy but it was evident that he was much quicker and more potent bowler than Sammy.
He became a young captain at 23 years age on his 9th test in a daunting tour of Sri Lanka. Although he started his captaincy stint with an innings loss it was soon evident that Holder was not affected by the added responsibilities and could contribute seriously with both bat and ball. Out of his total 36 test matches, Holder has captained 28 matches with 8-15 win-loss ratio. However, his batting average as captain is 33.68, marginally lower than the overall average of 33.86 and bowling average 26.72, an improvement over his overall test bowling average of 28.29.
Interestingly both these averages lift in case of a win. In those eight test wins Holders batting and bowling averages are 45.72 and 15 respectively. Not only that, since late 2016, Holder easily have the highest batting average among West Indian batsmen in tests and his bowling average in 2018 was magical.
West Indies cricket is in decline for a long time. In the T20’s they have good players and do look like a top team but success in tests are very few. It looks like the team lacks quality and character. But even from that unit, Holder could prove himself to be one of the best in the world. In 2018 he played just six tests and scored 336 runs with an average of 37.33 and took 33 wickets with an average of 12.39 as already mentioned. He got 11 wickets in the test match in Kingston Jamaica against Bangladesh to give West Indies a test win. His match figure of 9 for 60 against Sri Lanka in Bridgetown was noticeable as his 5 wicket haul in his only test during the India tour. All this resulted in Holder getting the All-rounder spot in the ICC test team of the year for 2018, a special honor for anyone playing the game.
Looks like Holder has a special connection with his home ground Kensington Oval and the love affair was ignited once again when West Indies gave a mighty thumping to a very strong England side. Obviously, Kemar Roach gave the early advantage to Windies by his fire spell in the first innings. However, in the second innings, West Indies were 120 for six and there was a chance of England making a comeback. But Holder came in the middle and with Shane Dowrich made sure that the match was beyond England’s reach. His unbeaten 202 was an outstanding knock which helped him to own some very proud records. Records like only sixth player overall to have a test double hundred and test match ten-far, only the sixth West Indian captain to score a test double as captain and also the 3rd highest scorer batting at number eight or lower.
It is still not the time to call this a mini-revival for West Indies cricket as that would require some more such performances against big teams on a regular basis. But one thing is certain that if this West Indies outfit can look to find his lost glory, they have the best man on the helm. Jason Omar Holder may be just 27 years old but has the broad shoulder to carry the West Indian cricket dynasty to greater heights, once again.