‘Keep hope alive’

by Tony Cozier/NATIONSPORT
Barbados Nation
October 21, 1999

MICHAEL HOLDING has an encouraging message for despondent West Indian cricket fans.

“I wouldn’t give up hope,” the great fast bowler turned television pundit said by telephone last night from Sharjah, where the West Indies suffered heavy losses to Pakistan and Sri Lanka that knocked them out of the Coca-Cola Champions Trophy tournament.

“I don’t think that the talent isn’t there, it’s just that it was asking too much of the new, young players in the side to bat under pressure all the time,” he said. “Wavell Hinds, Chris Gayle and Ricardo Powell have only just come into the game at this level and they need time to gradually find their feet.

“The main problem was that we needed the more experienced players to bat 35 or 40 overs so that the younger ones could bat around them,” he said. “Sherwin Campbell, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Brian Lara didn’t do that so the new boys found that they had to make the running.”

He pointed out that when Jimmy Adams carried his bat from No.3 to the end of the innings in the opening match against Sri Lanka, the West Indies won their only match. Adams was injured in the next match and didn’t play again in the series.

“It was a pity Lara got run out when batting with Hinds in the second match against Sri Lanka because they were both looking good and looking to take charge,” he said.

Hinds, the tall, left-handed Jamaican, who averaged 28.5 in the four matches, was the only West Indian above 18.

According to Holding, how each of the newer players reacts to the team’s defeat and his own experience would be a key to his character.

“Time will tell what kind of impact it has on them,” he said. “Those who improve will be the ones for the future, those who don’t are unlikely to make it at the highest level.”

Ricardo Powell, the 20-year-old Jamaican, who fell away after his sensational batting in Singapore and Toronto, would have to temper his six-hitting with caution if he was to consistently succeed, Holding advised.

“When I heard everyone raving about him I had some reservations, especially as I saw he was hitting more sixes than fours,” he said. “He’ll have to learn that’s not the way international cricket is played.

“He’s got to be prepared to spend more time in the middle and be more selective in his shots,” he added. “He’s got to wait for the bad ball to hit his sixes, not try to make sixes from the good ones. But the talent is definitely there.”

Holding rated the bowling “OK to a certain degree” but said that it still had to be determined who were the best men to use in the closing overs.

“Reon King is a new ball bowler but not a ‘death’ bowler,” he said. “He’s a length bowler and length bowlers get smashed when batsmen are hitting out.”

Holding maintained that how the team performs in forthcoming Tests in New Zealand in December and January and at home against Zimbabwe and Pakistan next March and April would be a better indication of how it is developing.

“One-day cricket is harder and needs greater experience than Tests,” he said. “It’s so short there’s no time to recover. A game can be lost in one five-over spell.

“In Tests, batsmen have time to pace themselves and a team can consolidate,” he explained. “We can assess our young players better in the Tests.

“I think a lot of people overlook the fact that we’ve only lost one Test series at home since 1973 and while we have been beaten overseas in the last few years, all the other teams, even Australia, struggle overseas as well.”

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