Cricket Sports

‘Business as usual’ for battle-ready Test skipper Holder

Despite cricket facing an uncertain future due to the challenges posed by the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, Test captain Jason Holder said it was “business as usual” for him, as he ramped up preparation for next month’s tour of England.

Holder was one of 13 Barbadian players named in a 30-man provisional squad, who resumed outdoor training at Kensington Oval here last week, following several weeks of a government-enforced lockdown.

In perhaps a sign of things to come for the sport at least in the short term, players were forced to train in small groups in order observe social distancing during, and also pay attention to new sanitisation protocols.

While acknowledging the new measures were designed to protect players, Holder said it was also important not to allow them to hamper the focus on preparation.

“For me it is business as usual, to be honest. Yes, there are restrictions and restrictions in place for our safety but at the end of the day once you understand them, you just get on with it,” Holder told CWI Media.

“I don’t dwell on it, I wouldn’t try to tinker with it. I think they’re put in place for a reason and we all understand why they’re put in place and safety must always come first.

“I’m just happy to be back out playing cricket, even although it’s only a practice session, but I’m just happy to be back out doing something that I love and I really can’t wait to get back onto the cricket field.”

West Indies are poised to take on England next month in a three-Test series that was rescheduled from May due to the outbreak of the pandemic.

And the tour is expected to be the first of its kind played in “bio-secure” conditions behind close doors, with strict health protocols in place to guard against the coronavirus.

For instance, players have been discouraged from physical contact when celebrating, sharing drinks or physical equipment, handing personal effects to the umpire and from using saliva when shining the ball.

Holder said while there had been no discussion yet on how to curb the customary exuberant celebrations, he believed West Indies would come up with “our unique way” of expressing themselves.

“I really can’t say [regarding celebrations] but knowing the West Indian way, we’ll find our unique way of doing it,” said the 28-year-old, the world’s leading Test all-rounder.

“I just think it is important that you still celebrate every wicket as though it’s your first or it’s your last Test wicket. We’ll find a way to cope with it, we’ll find a way to enjoy it and the safest way at that.”

West Indies will be defending the coveted Wisden Trophy after stunning the English last year in the Caribbean to record their first series win over them in a decade.

However, the tourists will likely start the tour of England as underdogs, especially having not won a series in the United Kingdom in 32 years.

Holder said memories from the 2017 series there were still fresh and it provided the belief that West Indies could come away with a series result.

“It would always be a challenge. England in England are a very competitive and successful team. Not many teams go to England and defeat England,” said Holder, who is poised for his third tour of England.

“For us, we’ve got a really good opportunity to do it and the last time we went there it was a keenly contested series. Many people wrote us off quite early and we rebounded really really well and we shocked the world.

“It didn’t shock me per se because I knew the capability of the team. But to see the guys respond in that way after the first Test match, was significant.

“I know the guys are really looking forward to the opportunity of getting back out there and playing cricket and we really relish the opportunity of going to England so I know once we get on that cricket field, everybody will be putting their heads together, hands together, hearts together in trying to achieve a series win.”

In 2017, West Indies lost the first Test at Birmingham by an innings inside three days but hit back in the second Test at Leeds to pull off a stunning five-wicket victory with Shai Hope scoring a hundred in each inning.

They lost the final Test at Lord’s by nine wickets.

CMC

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