At the start of 2018, Jason Holder averaged 29.00 with the bat in Test cricket, and 38.52 with the ball. Those numbers fit the widespread perception of Holder at the time; a useful lower-order batsman and a useful medium-fast workhorse, but perhaps not good enough in either capacity to make a top Test team as a batsman or bowler alone.
In five Tests this year, though, all of them played in the last two months, Holder's record has improved dramatically, particularly on the bowling front. Three Tests against Sri Lanka and two against Bangladesh have brought him 28 wickets at 12.00, including three five-wicket hauls, and 265 runs at 37.85.
On Saturday, after a player-of-the-match performance in West Indies' 166-run win at Sabina Park, Holder's career numbers finally looked like those of a top-drawer allrounder, his batting and bowling averages on the right sides of 30. He credited the selectors for giving him, and the young players who are now growing into the team's recognisable core, a run of opportunities to find their feet as Test cricketers.
"I just think it's coming together for me now," Holder said at his post-match press conference. "I'm probably 30-odd Test matches into my Test career, and I've always remembered Clive Lloyd saying that he learned to play Test cricket after three years.
"It took him three years to understand the Test game, and it's good to see the selectors have given this group [of players] some confidence in terms of sticking with them. I guess I'm now getting into my own in terms of my cricket at the international level, I felt the skill level was always there. It's just a matter of putting it together."
Holder also admitted that he had benefitted from helpful bowling conditions. And while he has been a consistent lower-order contributor on those same surfaces, he hoped to make bigger scores more often and push for a move up the order.
"Quite frankly, I think the surfaces obviously helped me in terms of my movement and conditions were in my favour pretty much in terms of this home series. I would say things are really coming together for me, both with bat and ball.
"I still would like to be a little bit more consistent in terms of getting a few more scores, but batting down at No. 8 and 9, for me, it's quite difficult to really post a healthy score unless you're batting with the last recognised batsman, but we weren't able to get that partnership that we were looking for in the end."
Holder batted at No. 7 in the series against Sri Lanka, but moved further down the order against Bangladesh with the team going in with an extra batsman. While he wants to bat at No. 6 or 7, eventually, he said the decision would have to be made by the selectors.
"I would love to, you know, but in terms of the context of the team at this present time, that's the way the selectors have gone," Holder said. "That's my ultimate goal, to be in the allrounder's position and be seen as a genuine allrounder. Hopefully with my performances, the selectors will see and push me up."
Perhaps part of the reason for Holder not yet getting that genuine allrounder's slot is the burden it will place on him in a busy year for West Indies, particularly since he's already managing a shoulder that's at less than 100%.
"I'm playing the one-dayers [against Bangladesh] and afterwards straight into the CPL," Holder said. "I don't think we get any rest until probably until the end of the year. We've got cricket now from here until December, there's no rest. It's just a matter of me trying to manage it as best as I probably can.
"It's just a bit of tendinitis in my right shoulder. Obviously I had an operation on my elbow at the end of 2017, and I guess in trying to take some load off my elbow I put a little bit more strain on my shoulder. It's something that really crept up on me in the World Cup Qualifier, so I'm just trying to manage it as best as I possibly can."
While praising the bowlers for setting West Indies up to beat Bangladesh 2-0, Holder wanted to see some improvement from the batsmen, particularly against spin bowling, after they slumped to 129 all out in the second innings at Sabina Park. With tours of India and Bangladesh coming up later in the year, he wanted his batsmen to find solutions to what he felt had been a long-standing problem.
"I just think we need to understand our games a little bit more, work on a few more scoring options to expand our game, especially when the slower bowlers come on," Holder said. "It's probably been a problem that's plagued West Indies cricket in the last seven to ten years in terms of how we've played slower bowling.
"The wicket did assist their spinners up front and they're heavily reliant on their spinners as well, so we've got to find a way to negotiate their spinners on tough tracks. Maybe a bit more sweeping, maybe a bit more improvising in terms of throwing them off their line and length. I think that's something we really need to pay attention to, especially going down to the subcontinent in the latter half of the year."
Holder wasn't too pleased with the surface at Sabina Park, where he felt the bounce had been too uncertain.
"I felt as though the pitch deteriorated quite quickly," Holder said. "It dried out after the first day, [when] it was very very moist. It dried out, but still, variable bounce, which for me you don't really want to be seeing in Test cricket.
"I just feel we need to do a little bit more in terms of our pitches to have consistent carry throughout the entire game, as opposed to balls keeping low and some balls popping. I was a little disappointed in the way it turned out, but at the end of it it's still good to see the guys adjusted well on the surface and we got ourselves out of a tough spot after losing the toss."