Former West Indies skipper Jason Holder has spoken about the difficulties he had to face from different quarters in the early days of his leadership stint, revealing that he had thought of relinquishing the captaincy on more than one occasion.
Holder was appointed West Indies ODI captain in 2014, a year after his debut in the format, becoming the youngest ever WI skipper at 23 years old. The following year, he took up the Test captaincy as well, right before the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
In an exclusive interview with Headstrong: An Innings With, Holder talked about the challenges that immediately came his way.
“I was a bit all over the place, to be honest, because I never envisioned captaincy to be so demanding off the field,” he said. “That was just really a challenge for me. When I crossed the line, it was a whole load just dropped off my shoulder.
“When you take into consideration selection, you’ve got to deal with the disappointed players within the dressing room, then you have to deal with players and their wants and dislikes, and it was just a lot. That’s where in South Africa was my first captaincy stint – we lost that tour 4-1. We won one game in Port Elizabeth, and then we moved on to the World Cup. We left SA and went directly to Australia.
“I am at my first press conference – I had not seen so many journalists in one room. I mean, it was a massive room and it was packed with journalists. It was my first World Cup, just appointed as captain in the tour prior. They were hounding me with questions. For me, that was a bit overwhelming because I never envisioned it to be like that.
“But credit to Philip Spooner, who was our manager. He helped settle my nerves and he was kind of the big, bad wolf in the room. He was able to push off a few journalists and stuff, but I still wanted to be seen as one of those people who take control of the situation. I understood he was helping, but I didn’t want him to interject too much because then it sends a message that I need someone over my shoulder to help me. And I just didn’t think it was the right thing at the right time. It would probably create a little bit of mini-attention than I really needed.”
Despite the off-field obstacles, Holder led from the front on the field, scoring two fifties and averaging 51.66 with the bat, while picking up nine wickets in seven games. However, when he went back to the Caribbean, there was little for the young captain in terms of home comfort.
Holder had taken on the leadership in the aftermath of a period of high controversy for West Indies. Dwayne Bravo, the previous captain, had been sacked after forcing West Indies to pull out of a 2014 tour of India during a payment dispute.
“That really settled me a little bit more, but then you come back to the Caribbean, in front of your home crowd, and that’s where another challenge lied. Going to places like Trinidad [where Bravo is from], where the Trinis are really upset with how the whole situation was handled after India, and they were against everybody.
“It was hard going to Trinidad. Even when you go down to practice, their ground staff was very difficult because they didn’t have any care because no Trinidadians were around. They didn’t want us [to have] what we wanted in terms of pitches, practice facilities were crap. That was another dilemma – it was almost like you are playing away.
“The ground staff, the people around you are not supportive. You had that, you had countries like Guyana who for whatever reason didn’t get much international cricket, they had their feud with the West Indies Cricket Board. It was just a lot, more so off the field. I felt like a burden off my shoulder when we crossed the line to play cricket.”
Holder conceded that there were points in his stint when he contemplated giving up captaincy but didn’t want to walk away from a challenge as he “likes to prove people wrong”.
“If I wasn’t as strong as I was, I would have definitely thrown in the towel and given up captaincy. It crossed my mind on a few occasions, but for me giving it up doesn’t really solve anything. It just makes me look weak because I walked away from something. I walked away from a challenge. It’s not me – I have always been fuelled by challenges and I like to prove people wrong because that is just my persona. That is the grit and determination I possess. For me, that has gotten me through and kept me alive in international cricket.”
You can listen to the full interview with Holder on the Headstrong podcast, available to listen to on all the usual podcast hosting platforms. Headstrong: An Innings With supports the Ruth Strauss Foundation and is exclusively previewed by Wisden.com.
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