West Indies Test cricket team has grabbed all the limelight over the past couple of weeks after dominating Joe Root’s England at home. Windies, who are ranked eighth in Test cricket, are now on the cusp of a historic ‘Blackwash’ after beating England in the first two Tests. As the final Test begins in St Lucia on Saturday, former skipper Ian Bishop opined that the reason behind the success of the Caribbean has been Jason Holder’s exceptional leadership, consistency in selection and the seamers finally coming of age.
Highlighting Holders man management skills, Bishop, in his column for ESPNCricinfo wrote, "I had the great opportunity to speak to Jason after the second Test in Antigua. He spoke passionately about the importance of gleaning information from former greats like Desmond Haynes and Brian Lara and a couple of other prominent names. Jason is tall in stature, but he is such a level-headed guy. During the 2018 CPL, I recall former Australia player Mel Jones asking Jason whether he believes in fighting "fire with fire" to motivate his players. Jason calmly responded: "No, I fight fire with water."
"That sums up Jason’s man-management skills, which are quite impressive. Tactically Jason is still developing and will only get better," he added.
Analyzing the role of the fast bowlers- Roach, Gabriel, Alzarri Joseph, and Jason Bishop explained that while the advantage of height is one aspect there is more than what meets the eye. "But what people are overlooking is that these same bowlers – Roach, Gabriel, Alzarri Joseph and Jason – have played against England several times in the past with limited outcomes. But given the Windies have won the series this time round, extra focus has been on their height advantage," he said.
He further stated that these cricketers have developed their skills and have started executing better than what they used to a couple of years ago. "These bowlers haven’t grown any more in height, to my knowledge, since those previous encounters – not least Roach, who cannot in any way be considered a tall man, rather a fast bowler of average height at best. What has happened is that these bowlers have upped their skill levels. As a group they are far more developed than they were a couple of years ago," Bishop added.
According to Bishop, another factor which has contributed to West Indies’ recent success has been the consistency in selections. Persisting with the same group of players has been beneficial, according to Bishop.
"Since Jason took over the leadership, 27 players have played for the team. It indicates that the selection panel has believed in a set strategy and adhered to that by showing a certain amount of trust and consistency in the selections," he wrote.
Pointing out to players like Kraigg Brathwaite, Roston Chase and Shai Hope Bishop complimented the Windies Board for sticking with them. "They all came through the same system together – from youth cricket, through the academy or the High-Performance Centre. And they all had their ups and downs. But the selectors have shown some trust and some faith to keep them together," he explained.
"There have been a few struggles along the way, but we are starting to see the benefits of those selections in bringing these youngsters into the Test set-up. I believe that they will succeed in all formats as they gain experience. Of course, victories like these will only make them much stronger, evolve better," Bishop concluded.