Head coach Graeme West believes the turning point of the West Indies Under-19s’ ICC Youth Cricket World Cup campaign was the chance pairing of speedsters Alzarri Joseph and Chemar Holder, ahead of the quarterfinal stage.
Pacer Obed McCoy picked up an injury during the early stages of the tournament, forcing selectors to unexpectedly call up the 17-year-old Holder.
Having just turned out for Combined Campuses and Colleges in the Regional Super50, Holder arrived in Bangladesh fresh and in-form and struck up a new-ball partnership with Joseph which proved the inspiration for the Young Windies.
“The introduction of Chemar Holder was very significant in terms of the whole dynamic of the team. All credit to him, he had three days to acclimatise and then all of a sudden he is playing in the World Cup quarter-final,” West explained following the squad’s return to the Caribbean.
“We said to him, ‘you’ve just come off the back of a very successful competition in the NAGICO Super50, just continue to do what you’ve been doing.’
“I think the partnership of Alzarri and Chemar started to give the team belief. And there are a lot of things that followed on from there and I think the first spell against Pakistan was a real turning point for the group.”
West Indies lost all three of their warm-up matches against Bangladesh and then beat Scotland and tied with South Africa in the two official warm-up games.
They flopped in their tournament opener against England, going down by 61 runs in Chittagong, but West said there were indications the Windies were improving.
“We had five [warm-up] games to kind of establish everything. The problem we had in that period was that McCoy got injured and (Odean) Smith was also carrying an injury so in terms of our bowlers we were really quite depleted so the England game probably came a little bit too early for us,” West said.
“But there were signs in the England game particularly when we batted, that we could compete. The Fiji game was quite nice which set us up for the Zimbabwe game. That game was a must-win game. So early in the competition it was already a knockout match.”
Holder shone in his very first spell, rocking Pakistan with a pacy opening burst to send them tumbling to 57 for five. They recovered to make 227 but the Windies chased that down with ten overs to spare.
The Caribbean side then stunned the hosts in the semi-finals and though they entered the final against the previously unbeaten India as underdogs, West said everything went as planned.
Their pace attack reduced India to 50 for five, a position from which the Indians never really recovered.
“The key going into the final was to try and make sure the players felt comfortable and we tried to do everything normally that we’d done up until that point. So our preparation the night before and the morning of the game, the management team were all aware we needed to keep things simple and very much to the pattern players were used to,” West explained.
“We knew we needed to make a good start. We wanted to win the toss, we wanted to bowl, we wanted to get into their top order early. I guess the stumping (of opener Rishabh Pant in the first over) was very significant because that early wicket just added to the belief and put the Indians under a little more pressure.
“Once Sarfaraz their star player was at the wicket, we knew that he could go on and make a big score. But taking wickets at the other put him under pressure. All the way through the competition he would get out for 50, 55, 60 because he tended to get tired and that’s exactly how it worked out.”