Long-standing West Indies Test captain Jason Holder is “learning to cook” while keeping fit in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought the game to a standstill.
And despite playing only four regional first-class matches in the last six seasons for recently crowned champions Barbados Pride, and 16 all told since his debut against Guyana 11 years ago to this month – he appeared in a solitary game this season – due to punishing international schedules, Holder reckons the region’s most decorated territory deserved the success.
Holder told BCAcricket.org today that dealing with the absence of action on the field for what could be a few months because of the deadly COVID-19 was “really challenging”.
“This has been a time of uncertainty and I don’t think any of us in our wildest dreams would have envisioned this. It has been really challenging for me personally as I have always been active in my life,” Holder said.
“It has definitely put a spoke in my wheels but I’ve found ways to keep them turning over. This time has allowed me the opportunity to “learn to cook” and it has also been really good to sit back and plan/shape a few ideas I’ve had on hold for a while.
“Keeping fit has been hard because with me experimenting in the kitchen it has forced me to eat more, but I try to get in a home workout as best as I possibly can with my little resources.”
There is now great uncertainty over the international schedule for West Indies for the rest of the year because of the COVID-19 impact.
West Indies were scheduled to visit England next month for three Tests in June before hosting New Zealand in July (three ODIs and three T20Is) and South Africa in July and August (two Tests and five T20Is).
Domestically, under the captaincy of West Indies opener Kraigg Brathwaite, Barbados Pride were declared winners of the six-team Cricket West Indies (CWI) four-day Championship on March 24 after the last two rounds of matches were cancelled due to the coronavirus.
After the eighth round, Barbados were leading their closest rivals by a whopping 40.2 points. They amassed 134.8 points, followed by Trinidad & Tobago Red Force with 94.6, Guyana Jaguars 91.8, Jamaica Scorpions 91.8, Windward Islands Volcanoes 78 and Leeward Islands 52.8.
It was the 23rd first-class title for Barbados – by far the most successful team in the region since 1966 – and their first since 2014 when Brathwaite was also the skipper.
The 28-year-old Holder has played 40 Tests, 115 One-Day and 17 Twenty20 International matches since 2013 (February 1) when he had his first international outing in an ODI against Australia at Perth. It was followed by his T20I debut against New Zealand in Wellington in January 2014 before walking onto the Test arena for the first time, also against New Zealand, on home turf at Kensington Oval in June 2014.
Six-footer Holder has captained West Indies in 32 Tests, 86 ODIs and three T20Is.
His sole match (Day/Night) in this season’s first-class Tournament was against the champions for the previous five seasons, Guyana Jaguars – Barbados finished second on each occasion – at Providence in Round 8.
He had a match haul of five for 34 off 14 overs including four for 24 off 10 overs in the first innings, and scored 11 and 22 as Barbados romped to a resounding 235-run win with one day and two sessions to spare.
Holder made his first-class debut for Barbados against Guyana at Providence in 2009 (April 11).
Since the Professional Cricket League (PCL) started in 2014-15, apart from the match against Guyana last month, Holder’s other first-class matches for Barbados were against Trinidad & Tobago at Kensington Oval (Round 1) and Jamaica at the Windward Club grounds Lucas Street, St. Phillip (Round 2) in 2014-15, and against Guyana at Kensington Oval in 2018-19 (Round 3).
“My absence is just simply down to availability and workload management. In plenty of the cases I was only available for a handful of games, if any, and I decided to rest due to the heavy workload in international cricket,” Holder said.
Last August, Holder was named Player of the Year as well as Test Player of the Year at the West Indies Players’ Association/Cricket West Indies annual awards.
Holder was appointed the Barbados Pride captain for this season but on returning to the team, he advised the BCA Board of Management that he preferred Brathwaite, the West Indies Test vice-captain and his Wanderers clubmate, to continue as the skipper.
There are eight Barbadians in the current West Indies Test team – Holder, Brathwaite, Shai Hope, Shamarh Brooks, Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich, Kemar Roach and Jomel Warrican. Due mainly to international duties, all apart from Hope and Chase, played in the CWI first-class Championship this season.
Asked what influence he reckoned his presence in the Barbados side meant to the other players, Holder remarked: “As an international player it’s always great to be around the regional team to help guide and shape the younger players. I don’t segregate myself into one field as I try my upmost to offer my experience in whatever aspect I’m asked. I think I’ve played enough cricket now to be able to offer suggestions on any facet of the game.
“Winning the title this year meant a lot to us, players. We have been runners-up way too often in the recent past without having the luxury of a “full strength” Barbados Pride team.
“This season we have had (virtually) all our Test players involved for the first time in a while and it’s pleasing to see us bring the title back to Barbados,” Holder said.
The Barbados first-class champion teams, with the captains mentioned in each year, are: 1966, 1967 (Garfield Sobers), 1972, 1974, 1976, 1977 (all David Holford), 1978 (Vanburn Holder), 1979 (David Holford and Lawrence Maxwell), 1980, 1982 (Albert Padmore), 1984 (Carlisle Best), 1986 (Joel Garner), 1991 (Desmond Haynes), 1995 (Courtney Browne), 1997 (Philo Wallace), 1999 (Roland Holder), 2001 (Ian Bradshaw), 2003, 2004 (Courtney Browne), 2007 (Ryan Hinds) 2013 (Kirk Edwards), 2014 (Kraigg Brathwaite) and 2019-20 (Kraigg Brathwaite). (BCA)