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Jason Holder: 'I think we just need to support people'

The West Indies allrounder sees a lot of promise in his team-mates in the Test arena

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
Jason Holder goes big over midwicket, South Africa vs West Indies, 2nd Test, Johannesburg, 2nd day, March 9, 2023

Jason Holder notched up a counterattacking half-century  •  AFP/Getty Images

Jason Holder believes the West Indies Test side will improve if they can stick together and get more game time.
West Indies are currently playing their sixth Test this season and Holder's unbeaten 81 has put them in a position to challenge for a second victory. With batting collapses becoming a familiar feature of their scorecards, there is a growing sense that they will continue to lag behind teams in the top half of the World Test Championship (WTC) table, something that Holder thinks can only change with more game time and more backing.
"We have been a little bit slow, we've been a little bit inconsistent but I think we just need to support people," Holder said. "You see the talent that we have in the dressing room. We've got Test hundreds from No. 1 down to down to No. 8, with the exception of Raymon [Reifer], who has just come in.
"We've got to have that patience and build a strong core group of players. The more we chop and change in cricket, the worse results we will probably get because we need to give people opportunity. The urge for me and everybody else within the group is just to keep getting the opportunities and taking them with both hands."
Last week, after Holder became the second West Indies player to take 150 Test wickets and score 2500 runs, he lamented the dearth of fixtures for West Indies in the Future Tours Programme, a topic which the MCC has also expressed concerns over. From July-August this year, they will play 26 Test matches until 2027, fewer than South Africa, Pakistan, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Australia, India and England, which will not give them as much opportunity to gel a unit as Holder would like.
Despite that, he hopes this group of players can continue taking the field and growing together. "I love playing cricket with this group and I think we've got the talent in the dressing room to produce [results]. We will have some slow days but we are only day two of this Test match and I have no doubt our players can come in and show their worth and class in the second innings."
On a pitch that both teams expect will start to take more turn as the match wears on, Holder believes that batting last "you can easily get 300-plus" but acknowledged "it won't be easy". As things stand he admitted South Africa have the advantage but "more often than not, we tend to play well coming from behind". That much was evident at SuperSport Park, where West Indies dismissed South Africa for 116 in the second innings to set themselves a gettable target of 247.
Kagiso Rabada's six-for played a big role in them not being able to get there but two of the other three South Africa bowlers who were part of that defence are not in this Test. Anrich Nortje was ruled out through injury and Marco Jansen was rested in favour of allrounder Wiaan Mulder, who was tasked with sharing the new ball and put in a solid but not outstanding effort to take 1 for 40. Asked about the advice he could give to Mulder, who is his team-mate at Durban's Super Giants, Holder reiterated his rhetoric about giving players time to settle into the international arena and a decent run in a team.
"Test cricket is a massive step up from first-class cricket. I think any individual needs time. We tend to critique people very quickly, which is fair, but people need an opportunity and people need time and support," he said. "Once you have the support and good people around you then you will get the results. Sometimes we just get too critical, too fast, of people and we don't give them enough time to actually show what they're made of. It's hard in losing sides and sides that haven't had success. But more often than not, I think you need to stick behind your players, keep a strong pool of players together and back them."
South Africa's new red-ball coach Shukri Conrad intends to do exactly that. He has used all 15 squad members in this two-match series and said he hopes to use a lean winter for South Africa to work with a core group of players who will all be part of the next WTC cycle. After this match, South Africa will not play Tests until December but they are aiming to find what Conrad called "content" in terms of A-team cricket in order to put together their strongest squad to host India at the end of the year.
While South Africa's lack of Tests is a cause for concern for their players, they also see the unplanned hiatus as a way to do what Holder suggested and develop players in the same way they have one with someone like Gerald Coetzee. The 22-year-old quick travelled as a reserve bowler to Australia, where he observed the intensity of international training sessions and readied himself to make a debut, as he did last week.
He was South Africa's second-change bowler in a four-strong seam attack there and is now the third-prong in an inexperienced pace pack, and he has enjoyed the challenge. "What you learn is you still want to bowl the best ball possible. If you bowl one that isn't your best but still get a wicket, it's always a bonus. It does happen and it can happen at any moment because there is pressure over a long time. Suddenly there's a release shot, which might go to the boundary but might also lead to a wicket because he hasn't received a bad ball for a while," Coetzee said. "However, at this level, the more you 'miss', the better you are. If you look at the best bowlers in the world, they can do the same thing over and over. That's what we all strive for."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent for South Africa and women's cricket