Carib Sports

‘To get some luck is pretty good’ – Jason Holder

Having sealed a spot in the 2019 World Cup, Windies captain wants the team to play ‘the perfect game’ in the final of the qualifiers.

“Relieved and pleased,” said Jason Holder, the Windies captain, after his team confirmed their spot in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 on Wednesday, 21 March.

The venue was Harare Sports Club. In front were Scotland, who had played exceedingly well to stay in the hunt for a spot in the final of the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018. And it seemed all even when the rain came down in the 36th over of the Scotland innings. Windies had scored 198. Scotland, at that stage, were 125/5. There was no play after that, and Scotland were five runs short on the DLS method. That took Windies to eight points and left Scotland stranded on five, signaling the end of their hopes.

For Holder, captain of the team that won the first two editions of the ICC Cricket World Cup in 1975 and 1979, the thought of not being among the 10 teams at the 2019 edition was unthinkable. Happily for them, the job is done.

“Definitely relieved. Coming into this tournament, being here for the first time in a World Cup qualifier, we knew what was at stake. I was just really pleased to see how the guys responded,” said Holder after the Scotland result. “We really came together as a squad, everybody put their heads together and tried to do what’s best for West Indies cricket and what’s best for ourselves.

“I can’t really see two-three individuals really dominating in every single game. It’s a strong collective effort most of the time in every game we have won. And those are strong signs of a good side. We’ve played some really good cricket and we’re really, really relieved and pleased.”

That said, Holder has been one of the standout performers in the tournament, aggregating 219 runs, with a best of 99*, and picking up 15 wickets, including a best of 5/53.

The game against Scotland didn’t start in the ideal fashion for Windies, with the magnificent Safyaan Sharif sending Chris Gayle back first ball and then reducing Windies to 2/2 in the third over with Shai Hope’s wicket. Evin Lewis (66) and Marlon Samuels (51) led the way as Windies recovered to post what seemed like a smallish total.

Looking at the sluggish pitch, Holder said that he felt the total was good enough.

“At the half-way stage, seeing how the pitch played, I felt we had enough and it was just a matter of having a good new-ball burst,” said Holder. “We saw what Scotland did with their new ball and we thought we could’ve done the same and make things hard for their middle order. Maybe 200 would have looked psychologically a lot better, but seeing how the pitch played – it was a fresh wicket where the ball went through and there was a little tackiness up front and the ball holding up a little in the pitch – I knew anywhere around 200 would have been enough.”

It proved to be so, but with a lot of help from the weather, and Holder acknowledged that. “I knew there was some rain about but I didn’t actually think it would end the game. Then to see the amount of rain that fell, it was actually quite shocking. But I guess some things have to go our way at certain times. We have endured some really tough times in the last few years and to get some luck at some stage is pretty good.”

While Holder was happy with the fact that various players, at different stages of the Qualifier, had put their hands up and taken the responsibility, he stressed on the importance of playing ‘the perfect game of cricket’, which he hoped would happen in the final.

“One or two boundary balls when we bowled that we could’ve probably tightened up on,” he pointed out. “We were half-decent in the field. We could’ve held on to one or two half-chances and made things a lot easier for us but all in all, I don’t think we’ve played the perfect cricket game here in this competition so far and still been able to win games. My message to the guys in the dressing room is to look to play the perfect final.”

The last two games in the Super Sixes pit Zimbabwe against UAE (Thursday) and Afghanistan against Ireland (Friday). If Zimbabwe win, the other games becomes irrelevant. However, if Zimbabwe lose, the winners of the last game join Windies in the final on Sunday, with both teams getting tickets to the United Kingdom for the World Cup next year.