Biosecure bubble took its toll, says Holder

MANCHESTER, England ( CMC) — Captain Jason Holder has pointed to mental fatigue arising from the COVID-19 biosecure environment as one of the reasons behind West Indies’ weak finish in the three-Test series against England.

The Caribbean side started the series strongly with a four-wicket win in Southampton earlier this month but then faded badly, losing the second Test at Old Trafford here by 113 runs and the final contest also in England’s north-west by 269 runs on the final day here Tuesday.

All three matches were played back to back and behind closed doors, with the players embedded in hotels based at the venues and barred from contact from the public since their arrival in the first week of June, in order to mitigate against the threat of the global pandemic.

“It’s been challenging. I think mentally some of the guys are a bit worn out as well,” Holder said following his side’s defeat which saw them surrender the Wisden Trophy they won last year in the Caribbean.

“We’ve been here four weeks prior to the first Test. We had a change in environment which we really enjoyed at Southampton but then to come back here to Manchester to see the same people, same place, same rooms was a bit difficult.

“It could be this way for a little while so we’ve just got to find ways to make it work. Hopefully things can ease up throughout the world and probably guys can get out the hotel a little bit more, but more or less, it has been mentally challenging for sure.”

He continued, “We’ve been kept indoors for the last two months, the guys haven’t seen a bit of real life for a bit. Outside of that it’s tough to constantly get up, open your curtains and see the cricket ground.

“So it has been challenging mentally and a lot of our guys have felt it and coming closer to [leaving for] home, it probably gets a little more difficult but more or less I think the guys have done outstandingly well, in terms of keeping their focus.

“The last Test match obviously we were probably outplayed, but I think in the Test series we’ve had a lot of positives, whether it be wickets, runs, and generally as a group we’ve shown signs of improvement as well.”

West Indies came under criticism for their lack of squad rotation which saw the same XI feature in the first and second Tests, with a single change made for the final Test.

In contrast, England rung the changes throughout the series to facilitate players’ workloads, but Holder said it was important West Indies tried to field their best team at all times.

“We won the first Test match and trying to clinch the series, you put out your best team every time,” he pointed out.

“Yes, we’re still considering workloads after having not played cricket for a while, and it’s just one of those decisions where you’re trying to back your best team to do the job for us.”

West Indies’ suspect batting was under the microscope prior to the start of the series and it proved to be their downfall in the second and third Tests.

They managed totals of 287 and 198 in the second Test while failing to dismiss England in either innings, and could only muster 197 and 129 in the final Test in a mediocre showing.

And Holder, who also struggled with the bat to slip out of top position in the all-rounders rankings, urged his batsmen to focus on converting fifties into centuries in the future.

“When we look at the actual cricket itself, definitely we need our batters to score a bit more runs,” said Holder.

“And it’s mainly just to convert most of the starts they’ve been getting and it has been the case where they’ve been getting starts but not converting them. I can’t ask the bowlers to do much more than they’ve done for us so far.”

Main photo: West Indies Captain Jason Holder (left) waits with his players before the start of play on the final day of the second Test cricket match between England and the West Indies at Old Trafford in Manchester, north-west England in this July 20, 2020 file photo. (Photo: AFP)

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