Jason Holder up for a ‘very tough’ challenge

“We came here for one thing and that’s to play good cricket,” says the determined West Indies captain ahead of the first Test.

Jason Holder... “Playing India in their own backyard is obviously a challenge, but we are up for it.”   -  PTI

For overseas teams in India, the odds are always stacked up against them. If the conditions weren’t difficult enough, there is also the pressure of being pitted against some of the world’s best cricketers.

Knowing it all to well, Jason Holder, the West Indies captain, is trying to ensure his team remains confident. Holder echoes the determination expressed by coach Stuart Law on Tuesday, saying “we are up for the challenge.”

“It’s a great challenge. Everybody is up for it. In the last two-three years, we’ve played some of the top teams in the world and we have pushed them. We’ve beaten some of the top teams in the world as well. This group has shown what it can do and it’s not about proving anything to anybody,” Holder said.

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The captain also doesn’t want to get involved in “such peripheral things.” “We came here for one thing and that’s to play good cricket and that is what we need to control. That’s all we can control,” Holder said.

While the captain has the experience of playing in India, most of his team-mates are new to the conditions. That, the captain feels, won’t be a hindering factor. “We have been together for the last two and a half years and we have done some pretty good things. We've exceeded a lot of people's expectations. It will be a challenge but it's only a matter for us to focus on what we need to do,” Holder said.

The heat factor

He has urged his team-mates to avoid any distractions. “It will be very, very tough. The heat is one thing we will have to deal with as well, but we have been prone to lot of heat as well; it’s pretty hot and humid in the Caribbean as well. It’s not going to be easy, playing India in their own backyard is obviously a challenge, but we're up for it,” the young captain stated.

But can the surface bridge the gulf between the two sides?

Cricket is played on the day and it is important to have a plan in mind and execute them, Holder believes. “All the talking happens pre-series but when the first ball is bowled [Thursday] morning, we have to be ready. As a bowling unit, I think the key to success is to be as disciplined as possible, make the scoring for India as hard as possible, and make them stretch for their runs. I think we should do that, and put pressure from both ends and get wickets, that is how the game is played,” Holder said.

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Before travelling to India, have the youngsters taken a tip or two from any of the former cricketers?

“I am sure many of the guys have had random conversations with players who have toured here before. Not only past West Indian players but players around the world in general. The luxury we have is that we have just had the [Caribbean Premier League] which obviously has international players. From the Barbados Tridents team, we had Steve Smith and I'm sure at some point the players lent on them for some guidance and expertise on how to be successful playing in Indian conditions. It's about sharing as much information as possible,” he said.

“We obviously watch a lot of footage in this day and age as well and it's just about picking the bits and pieces that we require to make a complete game plan.”

Do his mainstays Shai Hope and Roston Chase have a plan in place?

Positive approach

“Not only Roston and Shai, but all our batters have to have a game plan and know how you're looking to score, and how you're looking to make runs against this quality attack in their own backyard and one of the things I spoke is patience. We've got to be patient, but not only that, we have to capitalise on any loose delivery or any opportunity to score. I think looking to score should be one of our main game plans,” the captain pointed out.

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“Whenever you play any game of cricket, you have to be positive and get runs on the board. Not being reckless but you've got to have a clear game plan about how you will go about facing the Indian attack. We've got people like Kraigg Brathwaite who has been around for a long time and has had success as well. So, these are the guys we'll be looking to carry our batting. I'm sure guys like Roston and Shai, they're had a pretty good last couple of months and we'll be looking to lean on guys like them and myself and Shane to get us through,” Holder said.

Before heading to India, West Indies had spent quite a few days in Dubai to get acclimatised to the conditions. And that, the team says, has worked well.

Thursday begins their litmus test.