Gayle, Holder urge the West Indies rookies to become "rock and soul"

I just found out, will have a serious conversation with Gayle - Holder (0:51)

Jason Holder says that Chris Gayle didn't announce his change of heart in the dressing room before telling the media (0:51)

On Sunday, after being rudely ejected from the World Cup by defeat to Pakistan at Lord's, South Africa captain Faf du Plessis spoke painfully and eloquently of what defeat did to teams and individuals. "It chips away," he said. "At your confidence. It chips away at your ego. It chips away at you as a player."

In their last two matches, West Indies have faced two confidence-denting and campaign-disrupting defeats. Bangladesh chased down 321 in under 42 overs and then New Zealand successfully defended eight runs with 12 balls to go. West Indies captain Jason Holder said the two defeats had been "crushing" and, "we felt them drastically over the past couple of days."

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Yet the buzz from the West Indies camp on Wednesday was not about what Holder was promising - to keep going. "There's no point to drop our heads," Holder said. "We've got three games left in this campaign and we've got to just win all three games." Just before Holder, Chris Gayle had made an unexpected arrival into the media box and announced his "unretirement" and that he is up for being involved in the series against India after the World Cup. In a trice, attention wandered from the West Indies' rickety campaign to Gayle and that OTT nickname 'Universe boss'.

At the moment, Gayle is a titanic figure in West Indies cricket, one who is marketed as a brand beyond the team itself, even as he modestly but unequivocally counted himself among the Caribbean greats. No West Indian batsman has come close to Gayle in this World Cup in run-getting. Gayle is the highest run-scorer for his team, his 194 off five innings a sign of how the younger West Indians expected to shine - Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran, Evin Lewis, Darren Bravo - have been considerably and consistently underwhelming.

At this World Cup, outside of the match against Bangladesh, the only century partnership by West Indies batsmen was Gayle and Hetmyer's 122 against New Zealand. In their four other completed matches, they have only had two top-order stands above fifty in which Gayle was not involved. Brathwaite has scored the team's only century; Hope and Hetmyer have two fifties and Pooran only one from five innings. But that is about it. Against India, on Thursday, it will not do.

Braithwaite's century of daring and torment and the hubbub around the Andre Russell injury has taken the heat off any of their young batting stars failing to announce their arrival at the tournament. When Holder was asked about them, he did begin his reply talking about "being proud" of the newbies, but stated that they would need to increase their adaptability quotient to the level of the competition they were facing.

"It's just a matter for them to grasp batting on the international circuit," Holder said. "And I think Shai has done a reasonable job so far. Hety has shown glimpses of brilliance, as well as Nicholas."

Rarely are West Indies referred to as "qualifiers" in this World Cup, maybe due to their status as two-time world champions and of being everyone's romantic favourites. But West Indies haven't won a 50-over series, never mind a multi-nation 50-over tournament since they beat Bangladesh August 2014. Five years is enough time for turnarounds, but since the last World Cup and the start of this one, West Indies have lost 42 of their 67 ODIs. Reports of the West Indies' 50-overs renaissance, it must sadly be accepted, are greatly exaggerated.

The young batsmen, Holder said, needed to become the "rock and soul" of his team and not its minor players. "They've got to set up games and learn to close them out," Holder said. "And great young players are great players, full stop. They get themselves in, set themselves up and they go very, very big."


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Holder singled out Kane Williamson's performances in the World Cup as an exemplar to his tykes. "Just see the way how he goes about his business, he sets it up and goes big and bats down to the very, very end."

When asked about the younger bats, Gayle said he had been talking to them on building on starts, citing the lessons given to batsmen through longevity and experience. "You have to build on it because it doesn't come easy, and you're going to find a difficult time in your cricketing career where you're going to be struggling for runs. So when you get those starts, you have to convert these fifties into hundreds and be consistent as much as possible as well."

An unsettled West Indies top order has also not helped, born of the early lack of form of Bravo and followed by an injury to opener Evin Lewis. The West Indies highest opening partnership in the World Cup has been 36, all else in single figures and not more than seven partnerships have added 50 or more. This before we move onto other inadequacies.

Who would want to be Holder having to explain, as he had, "on numerous occasions" why his team had not stepped up after their dramatic opening match against Pakistan, blowing out the batting that had scored 300-plus in three of their four previous ODIs inside 20 overs? From a World Cup start that heralded the beginning of a new era in world cricket to a squad of showboaters drunk on T20s, West Indies would have liked to steer clear of either descriptor.

Yet, here they are: on the verge of becoming the third team to be emphatically sent out of contention for a place in the final four, lined up against one of the two unbeaten teams in the tournament. As the cup of clich├ęs is running over, patience around the West Indies young stars, like the team's chances at the World Cup, is running out.