"It was kind of a shock" for Jason Holder to be relieved from the West Indies Test captaincy, and while he admits to finding it difficult to transition from being the leader to an ordinary member of the team, he wants to focus more on his game, and be a sounding board for youngsters looking for guidance.
"Yeah, it's been difficult. I probably may not show it, but it has been difficult," Holder told ESPNcricinfo in an interview a couple of days away from the start of West Indies' first Test against South Africa in St Lucia. "For the last five-six years, I've been captaining West Indies, whether that be Test-match cricket or one-day cricket. So now being relieved of both captaincies, it has been a strange transition for me personally."
Kraigg Brathwaite led West Indies in Bangladesh when Holder, as well as a number of other regulars, opted out of the tour because of the Covid-19 situation around the world. West Indies swept the two-Test series, and when it was time to select the squad for the home series against Sri Lanka in March, the team kept faith in Brathwaite. Roger Harper, the lead selector, said at the time that Brathwaite's role in shepherding the team successfully in the absence of many first-choice players in Bangladesh had played a big role in his appointment on a permanent basis.
That meant Holder's stint as captain, which had begun in October 2015, ended after 37 matches, which included 11 wins and 21 losses. It was a period in which he climbed to great heights as a player, piling on big hauls with the ball and even hitting a double-century with the bat. After 47 Tests, Holder has 123 wickets at an average of 27.41, 2253 runs at an average of 33.13, and the No. 1 spot in the ICC rankings for Test allrounders.
Holder played the home series against Sri Lanka, in Antigua, and did well. In the first Test, there was a five-wicket haul (his eighth in Tests) and in the second, there were scores of 30 and 71* - both matches were drawn.
"It's no longer a time where you've got to look to select teams, look at combinations… all these things have just gone through the window. So for me now, it's just a little bit more detailed as to as to my preparation into myself, particularly, and not having to deal with the team aspect of it."
Jason Holder
"It was kind of a shock. Yeah, still lost for words in regards to that, but I am not dwelling on it. I don't think it's something I should dwell on, to be fair," Holder said. "I am just trying to find ways to move on and transition back to just being a regular player. For me now, it's about showing a bit more of my character, and being a lot more… I would say outspoken. I am relatively outspoken, but just expressing myself a little bit more and having fun.
"I feel as though I have been really, really committed to West Indies cricket - I am still committed to West Indies cricket, but more or less for me now it's just about having fun and enjoying however many days I have playing international cricket."
Holder is still only 29, and has spent most of his career at the highest level in leadership roles. Without that responsibility, Holder felt he would have to redesign his role in the team.
"There is a lot less pressure, a lot less responsibility. It's just about me now personally… I'm a 100% team man. So I'll play my part to help the team and if there are other players who are seeking out advice or guidance, no doubt I'll be here to give them that," he said. "But it's no longer a time where you've got to look to select teams, look at combinations… all these things have just gone through the window. So for me now, it's just a little bit more detailed as to as to my preparation into myself, particularly, and not having to deal with the team aspect of it.
"I guess my contributions now will be more so in small groups and one-on-one basis with the players. And team meetings obviously I'll share my expertise, and give as much guidance as I possibly can, but I still think the captain has to be given his leeway to lead the team the way he wants to lead the team, and we've got to give him confidence and support that we can as the group."
The first West Indies vs South Africa Test starts on June 10, with the second set for a June 18 start at the same venue.