JASON Holder sat in front of us in the press conference room at Harare Sports Club, putting on a brave face, after the West Indies failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in the tournament’s history.
We’ve read numerous times some of the harshest critics of West Indian cricket’s decline opining that the players no longer cared for the badge and maroon cap of the this once mighty team.
The pride had disappeared from this team overtime, they argued.
What we saw, however – when West Indies lost the crucial match to Scotland by seven runs at Harare Sports Club on 1 July to fail to qualify – was genuine disappointment by the players.
I must say, on that day, was a group of players truly gutted for themselves and for the people of their region – that a proud record dating back to 1975 when they won the inaugural World Cup, had been torn to shreds.
Veteran star all-rounder Holder was the face of that disappointment in that presser five months ago.
Holder admirably showed composure underneath the hurt, speaking of how quickly the region needed to regroup “and find a way to turn things around.”
“All in all I don’t think all is lost,” he told us. “There is still a lot of young people in the group who can develop and turn things around for West Indies cricket. We just need to put a lot of support around them.”
Holder warned, though, that the process would not be “a quick fix”.
It has perhaps been quicker than Holder might have imagined because since the wreckage of Harare, West Indies’ white-ball form has improved over a short period of time.
They beat India 3-2 at home in a T20 series, but lost the ODI leg of the same tour 2-1. They have recently defeated England 2-1 in an ODI contest and as I submit this column, the hosts lead the touring Englishmen 2-0 in the five-match T20 clash.
True, England has been in free-fall in limited overs cricket in recent times but to be fair, England is England and West Indies hadn’t won a series against them in 25 years.
I’m also particularly drawn to that presser back in July when I recall that some of the young players mentioned by Holder as key in the West Indies’ rebuilding process – Alzarri Joseph, Alick Athanaze and Brandon King – have been outstanding in the wins over England so far.
West Indies’ story is in sharp contrast to that of Zimbabwe, who alongside the men from the Caribbean didn’t qualify for that World Cup in India recently.
Whilst the Windies have quickly moved on, Zimbabwe has fallen to unimaginative extents ever since that qualification tournament five months ago.
But it’s clear that even though the disaster in Zimbabwe was clearly a wake-up call for the West Indies, their quick turnaround isn’t only because they failed to go to the World Cup.
There was a plan, something that should always be there if you are a serious cricketing nation, a Test-playing one at that. Jason Holder was confident of that plan coming together and it is no coincidence that some of the names he put forward are already match-winners for the West Indies months after the Zimbabwe debacle.
That’s the difference with Zimbabwe – for the longest time there hasn’t been concrete steps to a meaningful plan. Because of that everything is out of control now.