Move over India-Pakistan, there’s a new World Cup rivalry in town – West Indies captain Jason Holder has set his sights on Afghanistan, who bested his team twice last year.
“I’m looking forward to playing Afghanistan, mainly because they beat us in the final of the World Cup qualifiers,” Holder said to ESPN in Barbados.
“I think in head-to-head contests they have probably edged us out, so I really want to get at them. They are a great team – a team in transition, and they’ve done wonderful things, but I really want to make amends for what happened in the Qualifiers.”
In fact, Afghanistan got the better of West Indies twice in the Qualifiers – they won by three wickets in a Super Sixes match and then by seven wickets in the final, which means their overall head to head is now 3-1 in favour of Afghanistan .
In the 2019 World Cup, where all ten teams will face each other before the knockouts, Afghanistan and West Indies will meet on July 4 at Headingley for their final game of the round-robin phase.
Holder said it was hard to pick a favourite to win the World Cup, given there have been some unexpected results in the lead-up. “West Indies just beat England [the series was drawn 2-2], so you never quite know. It’s just a matter of who plays the better cricket on a given day.”
Barbados calypsonian Mighty Gabby makes up a short ditty about West Indies captain Jason Holder at the Kensington Oval
But he was optimistic about West Indies’ chances, saying their “underdogs” tag was likely to work in their favour. “I just go back to the World Cup Qualifiers, where we were seen as probably the favourites and the pressure was on us. But now we’re seen as probably the underdogs and not much is expected of us. I think in years to come and especially after this World Cup, we’ll put our names right up there.”
Looking back at the time when he had just been given the captain’s role, when just 23, Holder said trying to be all things to all people took its toll.
“For me, with my personality, I’m very ‘soft’, so I tried to keep everybody happy and please everyone, which I [later] understood is impossible to do.
“My early years of captaincy really hampered my performance [on the field] because I consumed so much energy thinking about how to keep everybody happy, how to please everyone, how to make sure that the players get what they need. I’m the captain of the team but if I’m not performing, I can’t be the captain of the team.”
Holder took over as ODI captain in 2014, in the wake of the team controversially pulling out of a tour of India over a contracts dispute with the WICB.
“I had a pretty good relationship with most of the guys before [I became captain],” he said, “but obviously it was a new role for me, especially in the context of what was going on in West Indies cricket – it was a funny time for me personally.
“The guys were supportive. They weren’t overly verbal. I don’t think they expressed themselves as much as they would have in the past, and it took me time to build a relationship as a captain. It was tough.”