West Indies Under-19 have lost just one game this World Cup © International Cricket Council
Chemar Holder was bowling in Basseterre in St Kitts and Nevis less than three weeks ago when West Indies Under-19 were playing a bilateral series in Bangladesh, just before the World Cup warm-ups. West Indies lost all three youth ODIs against a second-string Bangladesh side, but Holder finished with a five-for while playing for Combined Campuses and Colleges in Nagico Super50, West Indies’ domestic 50-over tournament, in only his fourth List-A match.
About ten days later, Holder got a call that one of the Under-19 players, Obed McCoy, was injured in Bangladesh and that he had been picked as the replacement. Needless to say, Holder was not expecting it.
“It was a big news. I was happy but shocked,” Holder said with a laugh after West Indies got through to the semi-final with a five-wicket win against Pakistan. Holder flew in, got two practice sessions and made his debut straightaway. He grabbed everyone’s attention by cranking up some good pace along with their lead pacer Alzarri Joseph. Holder stuck to a strangling line outside off, got the ball to move off the pitch and picked up two wickets in his first three overs.
“Well, yes it is different conditions compared to the ones back home,” Holder said. “The pitch is a bit faster at home. So I had to bowl at fuller length.”
Not many people knew where Holder had come from. Just 17 years old, he had not been picked for any of the three West Indies Under-19 camps in 2015 and had only played for Barbados Under-19s until then. He had not really set the Under-19 regional tournament on fire, with three wickets from four matches, but was soon picked for the Nagico Super50.
“Well, really and truly it was a good feeling because I played against international players,” Holder said about his five-wicket haul. “And taking five is a big thing. So coming here now, I am not getting complacent. The wickets may not be as good, so I just keep it simple.”
West Indies captain Shimron Hetmyer could hardly stop smiling after the quarter-final win, and sung praises of Holder, who joined the team only a few days back.
“The boys have coped with the wickets and conditions very quickly,” he said. “Even Holder bowled very well today. Just leading from the front with the ball with him and we have Alzarri Joseph also, so he was very good. Very good day for us.”
Holder and Joseph provided their team with a dream start by reducing Pakistan to 57 for 5 before Umair Masood led their recovery with a century and put on 164 runs in 28.1 overs with Salman Fayyaz. Hetmyer admitted that the team became a little “complacent” after taking the early wickets.
“Possibly I think we got a little bit too relaxed after taking the first five wickets of the game,” he said. “We got complacent and possibly we could have just kept grinding them and possibly it would’ve been a lower score for us to chase.”
Even though the pitch was not flat like it usually is in Fatullah, Hetmyer said West Indies were always confident of chasing down the target. Opener Gidron Pope looked to slog from the first ball he faced and even though he did not succeed in his first four attempts, the openers soon set the tone with an important stand of 45 in 6.2 overs. Pope fell for an 18-ball 25 and Imlach top-scored with a more composed 54.
“I think that probably wasn’t the plan (how Pope started),” Hetmyer said with a smile. “That’s how he plays his natural game and for a couple of balls he played, he should have given himself a chance. After he got accustomed to the pitch and how the bowler was bowling and he got on top of them and kept banging them as hard as he could.
“We thought we gave them a score of possibly about 190 and they scored 227. We still thought we could get this score because it wasn’t that much of a big score. And just have a bat and get a few good partnerships. That’s what we did today, got good opening partnerships and with me and the keeper (Imlach) as well.
“For the game today, how I came on to bat, I was just trying to play my natural game. The way I play back home in the Caribbean and how I play my cricket right through. I think it helped me today because I came out in a positive mindset and to play my shots, hit the balls in the air, I played my shots and I guess it came off for me.”
Hetmyer also agreed that many people may not have expected his team to come this far in the tournament after having a poor run of form in the build-up to the tournament. But their fortunes turned once the World Cup started. Including the warm-ups, West Indies have now lost only one of the six matches they have played so far.
“I think probably coming into the tournament a lot of people thought that because we lost the three games against Bangladesh all here, we wouldn’t really get this far. I think the guys got accustomed to the conditions and adapted as fast as they could, very fast I should say. We have just been playing our normal cricket as we play in the Caribbean and that’s what we have to continue from now on and play our normal cricket.”
Vishal Dikshit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo