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'Jason Holder is an integral part of West Indies cricket' - Chief selector Harper

Management pleased with outgoing captain's bond with his successor, Kraigg Brathwaite, and hope it yields dividends

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
'He [Holder] came in at a very young age, took the captaincy at a time when the team was a little unsettled, and he grew with the job and performed creditably' - Roger Harper  •  AFP

'He [Holder] came in at a very young age, took the captaincy at a time when the team was a little unsettled, and he grew with the job and performed creditably' - Roger Harper  •  AFP

West Indies' lead selector Roger Harper has insisted that Jason Holder remains an "integral part" of the Test side despite losing the captaincy after five-and-a-half years in the role.
Kraigg Brathwaite, who led the side to a 2-0 series win in Bangladesh last month after Holder opted out of the tour due to fatigue and concerns about the Covid-19 protocols in place, was unveiled as full-time captain on Thursday ahead of the series against Sri Lanka, which starts on March 21.
While Holder won widespread praise for his leadership off the field and navigated West Indies' Test side through some choppy waters, he had lost four Tests in a row as captain - two in England, two in New Zealand - and Harper said that the series win in Bangladesh had offered a clear blueprint as to how the team could move forward.
"We must appreciate what Jason has done as captain," Harper said. "He came in at a very young age, took the captaincy at a time when the team was a little unsettled, and he grew with the job and performed creditably. He's had his moments of success and he has grown as a player as well to become the leading allrounder in the world.
"I really think that Jason is a very integral part of the Test team and West Indies cricket going forwards. He plays all three formats and I think it's an opportunity for him to really focus on taking his game to higher levels. I think that with him at his best and with Kraigg given the captaincy, it's an opportunity for the team to move forwards.
"I look forward to him performing exceptionally well in his role as a player and still as a leader as one of the senior players in this team. It was great to hear him say that he's committed to giving Kraigg all the support needed and hearing the new captain saying that they have a very close relationship. I think that augurs very well for West Indies cricket going forward."
Brathwaite had been replaced as vice-captain by Roston Chase in November ahead of the series in New Zealand, with Harper asking him to focus on his batting, but he explained that Brathwaite's form in Bangladesh had given the selectors belief that he was back to his best.
"Sometimes a few months can be a very long time," Harper said. "Bangladesh really opened our eyes to a number of things. What we saw was a team playing with passion, playing with determination, rallying around each other, great teamwork, and showing a great desire to succeed. Kraigg played a major part in that.
"We also saw Kraigg's batting returning to the sort of form that we expect and look forward to. He handled the responsibility very well and I expect big scores to come from Kraigg in the very near future. [In] areas where we thought there was a need for improvement, we saw exactly the sort of effort and spirit and the birth of a culture that we would really like to see go forward and develop and be instilled. "
Brathwaite himself said that he saw the captaincy as an opportunity to continue leading from the front, and that having first led Barbados in first-class cricket at the age of 21, he was ready to embrace the challenge of the Test role.
"Captaining Barbados for the first time at a young age was a challenge and I look forward to challenges," he said. "As an opener, I always see myself as a leader. When I go out to bat I'm a batsman not a captain, but I will continue to lead. It will help me to dig deeper.
"It's just a continuing of what we did in Bangladesh. I thought the attitude we showed in practice sessions and on the field was key so for me as a leader, I want to lead from the front and for us to keep the same attitude."
Harper also explained that the omission of Chase and Shimron Hetmyer from the squad owed much to the success of Nkrumah Bonner and Kyle Mayers in the middle order during the series in Bangladesh.
"All players are considered and we had a lot of discussion around Roston Chase," he said. "When we looked at the performances of the team and the players in Bangladesh, some of those players performed exceptionally well and more or less grabbed the spots that they had and grabbed a place in the squad for this series. Players had to miss out, and Roston Chase was one of them.
"I really think that Shimron has the ability to be one of the best batsmen in the world in all formats of the game. As far as Test cricket is concerned, he's been absent for a while and hasn't played regional four-day cricket for a while, so he needs to get some matches under his belt and show what he can do. He's still in the forefront of our minds but we're waiting for him to display the sort of passion and the sort of consistent performance that we're looking for."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98