Holder proposes football model to save Test: ‘Australia, India are way, way up’ | Cricket - Hindustan Times

Jason Holder proposes football model to save Test cricket: 'Australia, India are way up but rest are way, way down'

By, Dubai
Jan 20, 2024 11:28 AM IST

Jason Holder is currently taking part in the ILT20, as he gears up to represent the Dubai Capitals.

West Indies star all-rounder and former captain Jason Holder had made headlines with his decision to opt out of taking the field for the international team against Australia in favour of his stint at the International League T20. Known for his consistent performances for West Indies over many years, Holder is set to further bolster the Dubai Capitals – a sister franchise of the Indian Premier League’s Delhi Capitals – in the upcoming season of the ILT20.

Jason Holder after a match against Australia.(Action Images via Reuters)
Jason Holder after a match against Australia.(Action Images via Reuters)

Holder's absence from the Test squad for the series against Australia was a decision that raised eyebrows and sparked speculation about the dynamics at play. As a former captain and a key figure in West Indies cricket, Holder's choices, both in terms of international commitments and ILT20 participation, have stirred discussions among fans. In a candid chat with Hindustan Times, Holder speaks in detail about the decision and touched upon the various issues ailing the Windies cricket, as well as the sport in general.

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How are the preparations going on for the ILT20? This is your first season in the league.

The preparations are going well. The boys are all pretty much here now, so we are all together and looking forward to playing some really solid cricket. I think we've got some really solid guys and it's more or less how we start the campaign. We've got as great a chance, but it's all about how we play cricket on a particular day.

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There have been so many leagues around the world today. It is still only the second season, but what expectations do you hold from the ILT20?

I'm sure it wouldn't be different from any other league worldwide. In particular, I think it's a great opportunity for the UAE players to get exposure. Hopefully, some of them can play and not sit on the sidelines, which is important for their development. Look, league cricket is pretty prevalent worldwide, so it's more or less trying to understand each condition and execute under pressure on the big stage.

That's what international cricket and franchise cricket are all about. So, I think it's nothing new to me. (I have to) perform and execute my role for the team.

You had to skip the Test series against Australia to play for the Dubai Capitals. Was that a difficult decision?

Ideally, it's not what you want in terms of international cricket… having a choice between franchise and international cricket. But particularly after the long negotiations with Cricket West Indies, this was my decision. Unfortunately, it didn't work out where we could have had another avenue. From discussions with Cricket West Indies, it was pretty clear that I needed to be in Australia for the T20s, particularly it being a T20 World Cup year.

So, yeah. It's just unfortunate, I guess. But it doesn’t mean I’m turning my back on Test cricket. That is still my favourite format, and I definitely will be available going forward. But for me, I just wanted to make sure that I'm giving myself the best chance to prepare myself for the T20 World Cup.

What does this mean for the future of Test cricket?

Honestly, if we continue in this manner, Test cricket will die. It's sad, but it's true, based on the current structure. You've got the big three who practically command all the revenue regarding the disbursement of ICC funds. And it's difficult for smaller territories such as the West Indies to compete.

We just don't have the financial resources that they do. We're struggling to even stay afloat in terms of cash flow. And it's hard to develop our facilities and structures the way they're meant to be. And with the little finances that we have… pretty much all the money we get goes straight back up into covering expenses and debt.

So, it's a difficult one. The only way you can honestly see Test cricket being saved is… if you have a window for Test cricket in a year so that you can have your best players available to play there. And on top of that, you need to compensate players fairly.

It can’t be a situation where Australia and India are up there, and all the other teams are way, way down below. So, when you've got a situation -- a dilemma -- similar to mine, where you can play a Test series for X amount and a franchise for three times the amount, you will constantly have players going toward more money. If we could come up with a model where you can have a minimum wage where you can’t fall below a particular threshold, it would actually incentivise players to say, ‘Well, look, this is the benefit of me playing Test cricket’.

At the end of the day, it's still a job. As much as we love to play cricket and entertain the fans… for us, It's still a profession. Players have their own situations and scenarios regarding family dynamics, and you've got to provide for your family. So, at the end of the day, I've got to give myself the best chance to make the most of it in the short tenure that I have in professional sports.

The only other thing I would say is that you need to find a window. Find specific pockets where there's no clash with domestic leagues.

It is often said that West Indies don’t pay particular attention to Tests and ODIs. Is that a fair assessment, given the side’s performances over the past years in the two formats?

I think that's rubbish. When you look at the amount of West Indies players we have in leagues, I think it's easy to sit and paint that picture because we have so many players who play there. If there were 50-over leagues, we'd have a lot of players playing in them. If there were Test or 4-day leagues, we'd have a lot of players playing there too.

Unfortunately, that's not what we're faced with. The prevalent dilemma is that we only have T20 leagues and T10 leagues. And these are very lucrative, so, obviously, we have a lot of players going towards them. To say that we focus more on one format over the other is absolute rubbish.

I think, maybe, cricket may go in the football model where you have an international window, and you've got the franchise window. Maybe that might be a model going forward, but who knows?

But the results are not coming for the Windies. Last year was a big setback in terms of the ODI World Cup. Why do you think is that?

Look, I think the talent that we have in the Caribbean is just like anywhere else in the world. So, talent is not an issue. I think our issues stem from development. Again, if we had structures and systems in place that we put players through programs, I think that would be the easiest way to stay on top of development, making sure players are getting better every time they go away and come back for international cricket.

Unfortunately, we don't have that. And I think that's where we fell and why we didn't qualify for the World Cups (2021 T20 WC and 2023 ODI WC). What are we doing outside international cricket for players to enhance their skills? What are we doing to develop them? I hope that you guys ask all relevant personnel in the Caribbean. It just can't be a situation where we're putting the blame solely on the players involved.

Yes, we've got responsibility. And yes, we've got to perform, but outside of international cricket, we need to have structures and systems in place to develop our players. That's the only way we'll get better.

There’s another World Cup coming up in a few months’ time. How will you be preparing for that?

Looking at the scheduling leading up to the World Cup, all our players will be involved in T20 cricket. And I think that that's going to be our preparation. You've got the SA20 going on, the ILT20, and the Bangladesh Premier League about to start; after that, you've got the Pakistan Super League, and then you've got the IPL.

Those are five tournaments before the start of the World Cup. So, most T20 players go from tournament to tournament. All these players will be involved in these T20 competitions, which will be our preparation. For those not involved for whatever reason… hopefully, Cricket West Indies will have things in place that they can do camps and make sure they're ready and prepared for the World Cup.

You were one of the big names unsold in the IPL auction. Was that a shock?

The IPL auction is one where you can never even preamp or try to guess what will happen. I think everything is timing, man. Everything is timing. I didn't get by this time. Maybe, who knows, maybe I'll be a replacement. Maybe I won't play in the competition. But it doesn't get me. If anybody's picks, well, fair enough, I just go back and work hard and see what happens.

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