Jason Holder: from unsold at the auction to key performer for Sunrisers Hyderabad

How the West Indies allrounder turned up late at IPL 2020 but made an instant impact

Hemant Brar
Hemant Brar
Jason Holder: effective with ball, and bat  •  BCCI

Jason Holder: effective with ball, and bat  •  BCCI

Jason Holder wouldn't have been in the UAE had Mitchell Marsh not hurt his ankle. He might not have featured in the playing XI had Kane Williamson's thigh injury not forced a rejig of plans.
But here he is and, though he may not have taken IPL 2020 by storm, he has made enough important contributions in a short time to keep the Sunrisers Hyderabad alive in the tournament.
Over the years, the Sunrisers have been a bowling team. But when Bhuvneshwar Kumar was ruled out because of a thigh injury and Siddarth Kaul failed to step up, their fast bowling resources seemed bereft of experience. Although Sandeep Sharma swung the new ball and T Natarajan nailed the yorkers at the death, the Sunrisers lacked the glue to keep their seam attack together.
That aside, the Sunrisers problems were manifold. In the absence of an experienced Indian batsman, their middle order was looking shaky. That meant Williamson could not be dropped. With David Warner, Jonny Bairstow and Rashid Khan being shoo-ins for the other overseas spots, Holder had to wait on the sidelines.
At the very first opportunity he got - as a replacement for the injured Williamson against the Rajasthan Royals - Holder made an impact. Playing his first IPL game since 2016, Holder picked up three wickets and effected a run-out as the Sunrisers restricted the Royals to a below-par 154 for 6, which Manish Pandey and Vijay Shankar helped chase down with ease.
Before the IPL, Holder had a successful outing in the Caribbean Premier League where he led the Barbados Tridents. Although the Tridents finished second from last, Holder was their best player with 192 runs at an average of 21.33 with a strike rate of 140.14 and ten wickets at an economy of 6.63. But having not been bought at the IPL auction, Holder had other plans: when he was called up as a replacement for Marsh, he was on a vacation.
"I left a vacation to come here and play, I left the missus," Holder to the IPL website after the Royals game. "It was hard enough making the decision to come over and play. I am glad I did, and to get the opportunity tonight and making use of it, it is a pleasing feeling."
In the next match, against the Kings XI Punjab, he again made telling contributions. Using the slower ball to good effect, Holder picked up the wickets of Chris Gayle and Chris Jordan and, suddenly, the Sunrisers seemed to have found the leader of their pace attack.
Even though the Sunrisers lost that game chasing a paltry 127, the team management quickly understood Holder's role was important: he provided balance and experience in both the bowling and batting departments.
When Williamson returned, the Sunrisers made room for Holder by replacing Bairstow with Wriddhiman Saha. Leaving Bairstow out was a gamble, but Saha's 87 off 45 balls ensured it paid off as the Sunrisers beat the Delhi Capitals emphatically.
Before Holder came into the side, the Sunrisers were forced to save Sandeep Sharma's two overs for the backend of the innings. But with Holder and Natarajan now sharing the responsibility at the death, Warner could use Sharma and his swing for three overs upfront. That resulted in the Sunrisers picking up the most wickets (41) by any team in the second half of the tournament, with Holder, Sharma and Rashid Khan leading the way with eight scalps each and Natarajan just behind at seven. They also have the best average (21.00) and best economy rate (7.23) in that period.
Against the Royal Challengers Bangalore, Holder proved his worth with the bat as well after registering figures of 2 for 27. The Sunrisers were playing with only four established batsmen and all of them were back in the hut at 87 for 4 in a chase of 121. The scenes of their botched up chase against the Kings XI would have flashed in front of their eyes but, valuing his experience, the Sunrisers promoted Holder ahead of Abdul Samad.
On November 5, Holder will turn 29. An advance birthday celebration would be helping the Sunrisers make the playoffs by beating defending champions and title favourites Mumbai Indians in the final league match on Tuesday
Holder used his long levers to smash three sixes and a four in an unbeaten 26 off ten balls and, with calmness, took the panic-stricken Sunrisers home.
"It has been a while since I played in the IPL," he said after the victory. "For me, I was just longing for another opportunity and I got an opportunity this time. So just trying to make the most of it."
In the 2020 IPL auction, Holder had listed his reserve price at INR 75 lakh but, despite being consistently ranked among the top two allrounders in Test cricket, a format in which he is the West Indies captain, Holder didn't attract any bids.
This is his second stint with the Sunrisers - he played for them in 2014 as well. But having come in without any expectations this time, he has become an unexpected key performer for them.
The pitches in the UAE have offered bounce and pace to seamers, which has worked in Holder's favour. He has also been tasked with playing cameos in the lower order, which he is more than capable of. With eight wickets in four games and a decisive knock with the bat, Holder has definitely made the most of his chances.
On November 5, Holder will turn 29. An advance birthday celebration would be helping the Sunrisers make the playoffs by beating defending champions and title favourites Mumbai Indians in the final league match on Tuesday.

Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo