Even with the long-awaited Test championship now taking some sort of shape, there continues to be doubt around the future of five-day cricket. With a T20 league happening virtually every month of the year, with franchises willing to pay obscene sums for all-round talent, the fears of players choosing club over country are no longer rooted in a subterranean reality. West Indies perhaps struggle with this the most, but their captain Jason Holder has seen positive signs from the next generation.
“Just a couple of days ago, we were sitting down in the dressing room to chat as part of a group. For me personally, it is a thing of joy and pride to play Test cricket,” Holder said at the pre-match press conference in Rajkot.
“Of all three formats, Test is my favourite format and it was shocking for me but it was really good to see most if not everyone saying the same thing. And in recent chats as well around the CPL and even prior to the CPL, the amount of young players who are eager to play Test cricket is remarkable.
“There’s been a craze that Test cricket is dead around the world but if you have young players coming through such as the ones in the Caribbean who are really looking forward and really want to play a Test match for West Indies, if that goes around the world, I’m sure Test cricket will be here for a very very long time. Personally again, it’s the best format. It’s a test of character and to be successful on this stage, it says a lot of your character and it says a lot about yourself as a person.”
That desire will be useful as West Indies, ranked ranked No. 8, take on India, who are at the top of the table and are experts at winning at home. Holder felt there were ways to bridge that gap and has high hopes of his team doing so, if they followed a few simple steps.
“All our batters have to have a gameplan and know how you’re looking to score, and how you’re looking to make runs against this quality attack in their own backyard. One of the things I spoke about is patience. We’ve got to be patient but not only that, we have to capitalise on any loose delivery or any opportunity to score. I think looking to score is evident and should be one of our main gameplans. Whenever you play any game of cricket, you have to be positive and get runs on the board. Not being reckless but you’ve got to have a clear gameplan about how you’ll go about facing the Indian attack.”
West Indies come to India on the back of a successful home season – they beat Bangladesh 2-0 and drew with Sri Lanka 1-1 – but the last time they won a series here was in 1983. Holder stressed that their biggest focus was on playing good cricket – “because that is the only thing in our control” – but he did put the onus on his batting line-up to do what needs to done.
And in that sense the likes of Kraigg Brathwaite, who is among the top five run-getting openers in the last two years, Shai Hope, who helped pull off one of West Indies’ greatest ever Test wins last year at Headingley, and Roston Chase, who defied India in 2016 and almost did the same to Pakistan last year, become crucial.
“These are the guys we’ll be looking to carry our batting,” Holder said. “Guys like Kraigg Brathwaite who’s been around for a long time and has had success as well and I’m sure Roston and Shai, they’ve probably had an up-and-down period the last couple of months, but they’ll be looking to turn things around. We’ll lean on them and myself and Shane Dowrich, who’s been doing well too, to get us through.”
Only five members of the West Indies squad have played Test cricket in India – Brathwaite, Kieran Powell, Shannon Gabriel, Kemar Roach and Devendra Bishoo and one of them is out of contention for Rajkot. But Holder felt there was a way to overcome that disadvantage.
“I’m sure many of the guys have had random conversations with players who’ve toured here before. Not only past West Indian players but players around the world in general. The luxury we have is that we’ve just had the CPL which obviously has international players. From the Barbados Tridents team we had Steven Smith and I’m sure at some point the players leaned on them for some guidance and expertise on how to be successful playing in Indian conditions. It’s about sharing as much information as possible. We obviously watch a lot of footage in this day and age as well and it’s just about picking the bits and pieces that we require to make a complete gameplan.” (ESPNCricinfo)