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Echoes of the past in Holder's clear and present future

Holder: belief, optimism, determination Getty Images

It was sealed with a six, a stroke of such eccentricity and authority that the mists of time rolled back to Roy Fredericks at the WACA in 1975. If you didn't see him that day, try YouTube - it's gold. Wind forward to the Sir Viv Richards Stadium in Antigua some 44 years later, then read John Campbell for Fredericks and think of the left-hander's thrilling ability to flick-pull-hook deliveries pitched a little short of a good length into the bleachers at square leg. Of course, it was only one shot by Campbell, while Fredericks made 169 of the very best runs against Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson that famous day, but the way Campbell raised his arms to the sky in celebration of victory was very much a statement that said, "We're back!"

This may come to be remembered as the most significant match played by West Indies since Clive Lloyd's team dropped the bombs on England in 1976. Back then, the germ of an idea had formed to rotate four fast bowlers, and to bat with a little less gung-ho. But you've got to have the artillery. The previous English summer at Lord's, Lloyd had made a hundred against the Australians in the World Cup final and a slip of a lad called Viv Richards had run out one Turner and two Chappells to scupper the Australian pursuit of 291. A year later Richards commanded the playing fields of England with his bat as Michael Holding, Andy Roberts and company ripped the heart out of Tony Greig's team with the ball. Stars were born; the rest is history.

There was a common theme to the English post-mortems after Barbados ten days ago: bad starters, poor preparation, didn't take the West Indians seriously enough, would be sharp in Antigua after the tough "practice" game, which was the first Test, the right team would be chosen, Stuart Broad to fire on all cylinders and so on and so forth. Er, no.

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Four years ago Jason Holder was appointed captain of West Indies. He was 23 years old. It was as if a child had been thrown to the lions. Lloyd said that Holder had something, by which he meant an old head on young shoulders. He noted that neither Holder's batting nor bowling quite justified certain selection on playing ability alone, so he hoped that the boy would kick on apace. Lloyd feared the fallout of defeats, the extraneous demands of captaincy, and the almost unbearable public judgement that would beat down this clearest of minds and brightest of smiles. Not so. Holder was in it for the long haul. He didn't always smile - so ghastly were some days that such a response would have been beyond comprehension - but he never let up on the clear thinking.

Lloyd once knew a little of public judgement himself, though he suffered nothing of the opinion driven on today's social media. Lloyd's references were to Garry Sobers for on-field inspiration and Frank Worrell for his almost Mandela-like touch of conciliation and unification. The Caribbean is made up of independent regions, each with their own identity and vested interests. These regions coexist as West Indies pretty much only for cricket, a consequence of which is that knitting them together takes patience and results: without results the vested interests overrun the common cause. Worrell was uniquely gifted in both appeasement and the common cause of friendship; while Sobers just blew away everyone, everywhere, with his genius. Lloyd's master plan, though sometimes controversial in its application, was otherwise admired and applauded. It had next to nothing to do with "calypso" cricket and everything to do with winning.

Holder has never veered from his belief that the talent to hand was good enough to win. It is by no means the hand given to Lloyd, but it has now proved itself to be more than the sum of its parts. On occasions, the captain's determination to see the thing through has been quite moving. Too often senior colleagues let him down, and worryingly, those at the helm failed to act. He never grassed on them; rather, he went bravely on, pursuing the light he knew was at the end of the tunnel.

So, back to the aftermath of Barbados, to the light. The margin of victory was just ridiculous, or, shall we say that 381 runs is the Grand Canyon of defeat. A clear-thinking mind would know that for England's players to crawl out of that canyon inside less than a week was close to impossible. The same mind knew that the only way was if the opponent took the foot off their throats. So Holder drummed the message home: discipline, character, personality and belief... discipline, character, personality, belief... stick with it, concentrate, trust yourself and we will wrap this thing up in Antigua, he told his men. And how!

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If one man is to be paraded as the force behind this sudden regeneration of West Indies cricket, it is Holder. Of course, many others - Jimmy Adams, Richard Pybus, Johnny Grave among them - have done their bit, but in the end the captain carries this can.

The loveliest, kindest, smartest thing of all? Within moments Holder had dedicated victory to the memory of Alzarri Joseph's mother. Joseph's courage to play on the third morning, after she had passed, his agreement to be interviewed after the match, and Holder's gesture tell us much about the West Indian spirit. This team is as one - feeling, thinking, reflecting, responding. Heads are screwed on and the gears are moved smoothly through. Whatever the result in St Lucia, it really is a new order.

Heroes are plenty in victory, scapegoats are everywhere in defeat. Sure, the pitch was rogue to some degree, and yes, England lost the important toss, and luck deserted the dynamic new-ball duo - a combined total of more than 1000 Test wickets between them - who were rendered helpless by the realities around them. Amid the dropped catches, the endless play- and-missing, the cruel balls that did for Joe Root twice, and others too, was an extraordinary sense of West Indies playing terrific cricket and deserving everything that came their way.

Think Darren Bravo's six-hour vigil. An innings of such inertia would usually be ridiculed; here it must have been considered for the Man-of-the-Match award. Those 50 runs did more than just draw the sting from the England attack; it neutered the damn thing. Think Kemar Roach's magical control of swing at pace and wonder if Malcolm Marshall was ever any more uplifting. Think Joseph's cruise to the bowling crease and the splendidly simple method of releasing the cricket ball from the hand in the correct fashion. Think Shane Dowrich's tidy, understated work behind the timbers and imagine the hours that have made the footwork what it is and the glovework so soft and certain. Think batsmen who simply played balls on their merit, putting the past aside and applying focus to the present. And think that six-foot-eight-inch-tall captain dictating terms. He told us so a while back. It is a wonderful thing that he was right. This really might be the new order.