Jason Holder: 'Our top order has really let us down'

West Indies was reduced to 49/5, 97/4, 113/5, and 68/5 in its four innings, giving itself little chance of putting pressure on India.

Jason Holder made his presence felt for the West Indies in the second Test, having missed the first with an ankle injury.   -  K. R. Deepak

Jason Holder, on Sunday, became the first Windies pacer since Courtney Walsh (in 2000) to take four five-wicket hauls in a calendar year. In a hostile spell of new-ball bowling on the third morning, Holder triggered a batting collapse which saw India lose its last six wickets for just 59 runs. In the second innings, defending a rather paltry total, Holder bent his back to extract extra bounce from a benign pitch and even troubled the free-flowing Prithvi Shaw with a couple of deliveries that came back in after pitching on off and middle. 

Explaining his strategy, Holder said, "I need to understand my strengths and weaknesses and that'll allow me to put the ball in the right areas. For example, Prithvi Shaw stayed on the leg side and chose to cart the ball through the off-side. I had made up my mind that I wasn't going to give him any room. If anything, I'll bowl at his pads, if he hits him from there, so be it. My aim was to not let him score freely today (Sunday)."

Crediting his recent success, as a bowler, to 'hard work', Holder said, "The wickets were a little drier at the time I made my debut, so it was a little difficult. But I always had faith in my ability; I started understanding a lot more what the game was and what the game requires. I've been watching a lot of clips of guys like (Glenn) McGrath and (James) Anderson and while they've great skills with the ball, the one common thing is the pressure they build." 

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Holder's incisive bowling notwithstanding, the Windies batsmen -- in a familiar template -- succumbed to the pace of Umesh Yadav and the guile of Indian spinners, who skittled out the visitor for 127 in the second innings.

Reflecting on the performance, Holder noted, "It was a tough series no doubt; we didn't play our best cricket. In the last two-and-a-half years, we've had a few good results. Looking back, we were playing India in their own backyard. They are the No. 1 team in the world and we expect a good push from them. There were a few other positive performances like Roston Chase, for instance. 

"We still have some promising, young cricketers; it's just a matter of putting the team together. They have to learn and learn quickly. If there's one thing I've learnt in my short tenure in Test cricket, it is that you've got to be patient."

The Windies top order simply failed to challenge the Indian bowlers at any stage of the series. Holder attributed Windies' abject surrender largely to the failure of the top five batsmen. "We haven't put up runs on the board. For quite some time, it has been relatively inconsistent. I think our top order has really let us down," he said before adding, "We've been heavily reliant on our middle to lower half which is not ideal in any circumstance. The guys have to put their hand up and come to the party." 

Asked what plan he and Shannon Gabriel had in mind when they came out to bowl on Sunday morning, Holder revealed that the strategy was to attack the stumps. "On these surfaces, you want to be bowling at the wickets. That's something we wanted to do -- challenging the stumps regardless of whether it's a spinner or a pacer. 

"I strive for accuracy and building pressure. For me, I have to find a way to hit my length and cause problems because I generally tend to move the ball both ways and I try to use that to my advantage. That said, we ended up bowling quite a few loose deliveries as a unit but I can't fault the bowlers, to be honest. 

"They put in a very good effort, from the position India were in after yesterday's play, they could've easily pushed on and given us a 100-plus lead which would've been a tough ask on a surface such as this one. It played reasonably well. We spoke about just how important this morning session was, so it was good to see the boys charging in and bowling India out."

The batting collapses, however, have little to do with 'technical deficiency', according to Holder. "There are times when you've to put your foot down and let people know that they're not pulling their weight. It's not a matter of guys having issues with their technique, the thought process at a particular time may not be the best one. Especially our youngsters need to understand the importance of building an innings in Test cricket; it's not an arena where you just come and start blasting the ball."