Following West Indies’ thumping Test win over Afghanistan inside three days in Lucknow, captain Jason Holder believes that his side can punch above its weight and claim a top-half finish – at fourth or fifth – in the World Test Championship points table. West Indies began their Test Championship campaign, against India at home in August, ranked eighth in Tests, but that hasn’t deterred Holder’s bullish expectations.
“I think by the end of the Test Championship, I don’t see it being impossible for us to be fourth or fifth in the world,” Holder said in a press conference after his team’s nine-wicket victory on Friday (November 29). The one-off Test against Afghanistan is not part of the Championship as Afghanistan aren’t one of the nine teams that qualified for the inaugural two-year competition.
West Indies, who lost their WTC opening series to India at home, will take their campaign ahead with a two-Test home series against South Africa before traveling to New Zealand. They are then scheduled to play three series in 2021 – two Tests at home against Sri Lanka, and three away in England and Bangladesh. Holder is not daunted by the line-up, and reckons there’s room for the team to develop and target a top-half finish.
“That would be a significant achievement in a two-year period. We’ve got some tough series coming up: we’ve got England, then South Africa coming to the Caribbean, then we’ve got New Zealand – all good cricket sides. But I don’t think it’s beyond us to beat them. We’ve just got to make sure we keep building and developing. Once we do that, we can compete with any side in the world. A realistic target in two years would be to be ranked three or four in the world,” Holder said, in his assessment of the West Indies side, and the path forward.
There were signs of improvement compared to the India series, albeit against a weaker opposition in Afghanistan, as Holder & Co. showed utter domination across the two days and an hour into the third. After winning the toss and deciding to let Afghanistan bat first, and his bowlers backed him up by skittling out Afghanistan for just 187 on Day 1. A Shamarh Brooks century in response gave West Indies a lead of 90 runs, which put enough pressure on Afghanistan for them to wilt.
“I don’t regret the decision at the toss. In the end, we played a really good cricket game, and we were clinical. I asked the guys to make sure we don’t leave any stones unturned. Probably would have liked a little bit more in our first innings in terms of our batting, but having said that, we had a lead of 90. I think leads win games. Once you have a hefty lead, it puts pressure on the opposition,” Holder said.
The skipper expects his batsmen to carry this effort into the future and show consistency going forward, when West Indies take on tougher oppositions in the World Test Championship. Holder put emphasis on the need to show good batting application in the first innings in order to pose a tougher challenge against stronger teams. West Indies suffered in both the Tests against India in the first innings – scoring 222 in response to India’s 297 in the first Test in Antigua and 117 in Jamaica after India piled on 416.
“I’ve said it in the last couple of series we’ve played: more responsibility needs to be taken by our batters. Once they do that and take the bull by the horns, I think our bowling attack has shown it can compete with any attack in the world. We’ve shown glimpses of brilliance, which is all well and good, but consistency is the name of the game.
“In order to be a world-class team, you have to be consistent with your batting. You have to get 20 wickets of course, but you have to set it up with the bat. First innings count for a lot. If we can put teams under pressure with our first-innings scores, more often than not, West Indies will be up there among the top-ranked sides in the world,” said Holder, exuding confidence on behalf of his team.