Fearlessness and clarity of thought, Jason Holder says, have transformed him into a versatile white-ball player. From being thrashed by AB de Villiers in the 2015 World Cup game in Sydney, where he went for 104 in ten overs, Holder has added more strings to his white-ball bow and is now among the most sought-after allrounders in T20 cricket.
Holder can not only bowl with the new ball but also nail yorkers at the death. With the bat, he can finish the innings as well as construct it up the order and disrupt spinners with his long reach. After Barbados Royals' regular captain David Miller and regular wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock returned home to tune up for the India tour, Holder was promoted to No. 5 against Guyana Amazon Warriors. He responded with an unbeaten 40 off 33 balls on a Tarouba track where no other batter passed 20.
"I think I've come a long way," Holder told ESPNcricinfo, reflecting on his evolution. "I was actually sharing the experience I had in one-day cricket down to AB de Villiers when he played in Johannesburg first and then in the 2015 World Cup in Sydney. I think at those times I was probably a little bit timid, and I understand that to be successful in and amongst the big dogs in the game, you need to be brave and clear.
"I think clarity goes a long way in anything you do - in sport and probably life. Having a clear mind to execute - it definitely helps in a big way. I think back then and [during] my development over the years, one thing that is probably talked about is my bravery - being able to put my hand up in tough situations and get myself through. I mark myself pretty hard after a performance but I'm not one of those persons to beat myself up; I understand that life is full of setbacks and life is full of disappointments but it's more or less about how you rebound from it. And I think the biggest thing to take from the experience is learning. Once I learn from an experience, it's just more or less about trying not to repeat the same mistakes and that's where the learning takes place."
"Ireland, Scotland and Zimbabwe by no means are pushovers. We've got to take it as seriously as we possibly can and just make sure we get into the next phase of the tournament"
Holder prides himself on being a senior player who shows the way for the youngsters in the Royals set-up. Having seen the progress of Ramon Simmonds from close quarters, he gave the 20-year-old left-arm seamer a glowing appraisal. Simmonds is only in his first CPL season but has fronted up to bowl the tough overs for Royals and the management is so impressed by him that their franchise (Paarl Royals) scooped him up for the SA20 too.
"The main thing for them [youngsters] is to understand themselves and that's something I had to work out coming up as a youngster as well," Holder said. "For me it's important, I help pave the way for them to understand themselves. Once I do that, I think the execution becomes a lot easier for them. Someone like Ramon Simmonds has really impressed me, particularly because this is the first time I've played with him. To just see his composure under pressure and then him having the confidence to execute slower balls and yorkers to big players at big stages of the game is quite impressive to me. I think he has talent that not many people can boast of at such a young age. Once he continues to develop, the sky's the limit for him."
Obed McCoy, the other left-arm quick, has also been central to Royals' run to the playoffs, forging a potent partnership with Holder. McCoy and Holder have taken a combined 27 wickets so far with their bag of variations.
"Obed has obviously been around now for a couple of years and his skill level is right up there," Holder said. "He's probably one of the most skilled bowlers that we've produced in a very long time, and it is showing - he has been successful around the world. He has played in the IPL, county cricket, he has done well in the Caribbean as well. Again, if he continues to develop, and understands himself, then nobody can really stop him.
"He has got the talent and all the deliveries you could think of. So, it is important for me to continue to help them. Whatever they ask, just try to have answers for them. If I don't have answers at a particular time, [I] try my best to find them and help them as much as I can. It's like being a parent. I don't have any children but I see them as my little sons (laughs). So, it has been great so far and I've enjoyed it - not only on the field but off the field as well."
Holder backs Pollard, Sammy's calls for a local T20 tournament
Holder has added to the chorus for a local T20 tournament in the Caribbean that could act as a stepping stone for the CPL. Trinbago Knight Riders captain Kieron Pollard and St Lucia Kings head coach Daren Sammy had earlier called for a domestic T20 tournament, in addition to the 6ixty and the CPL, that would help expand West Indies' talent pool.
"I 100% agree [with Sammy and Pollard]," Holder said. "I think we need to play more T20 cricket. If you look around the region, the only T20 cricket we play is the CPL cricket. There should be a stepping stone to the CPL and that way we will see a lot more local talent being exposed. I think it will be fairer on franchises to actually see the full set of talent we have here in the Caribbean. Trust me there's a lot more talent in the Caribbean that we've not had the privilege to see and if you have a stepping-stone tournament leading up to the CPL, I think it gives you a great opportunity to see a wider bundle of talent."
Holder also hopes to see more age-group tournaments and camps to groom talent although that would be a financial strain on CWI.
"Along with doing that [staging a local T20 tournament], maybe more development camps, maybe more camps to bring the young talent we have and just try to develop them. It's tough on Cricket West Indies, yes, and it's a heavy burden in terms of financial costs, but if we can find some sponsors to have more camps and more age-group tournaments and more age-ground workshops, then I feel we can really hone in and develop the talent that we have here in the Caribbean. A lot of people have talent, but talent doesn't get you anywhere. You've put in hard work and development around it to really reap the benefits of talent."
WI should be wary of Zimbabwe, Ireland and Scotland - Holder
Holder has warned his West Indies team-mates against complacency in the first round of the T20 World Cup, where they will face Scotland, Zimbabwe and Ireland.
"We've got a task to uphold in terms of qualifying first [for the main round]," Holder said. "More or less, we have to focus on the qualifier [first round]. Ireland, Scotland and Zimbabwe by no means are pushovers. We've got to take it as seriously as we possibly can and just make sure we get into the next phase of the tournament."
West Indies left out Andre Russell and Fabian Allen for the T20 World Cup, but Holder is pleased with the depth in the squad and sees the qualifier round as an opportunity to build early momentum in the tournament.
"I think it's good in a way that we're playing the qualifiers," Holder said. "West Indies teams of the past have proved that we get better as we go along. To have the warm-up phase of the tournament and then to go into the actual group stage after qualification, I think it's going to be to our betterment in the sense we get more cricket. The talent we have got - depth in terms of resources and batting and bowling - we've always been pretty athletic in the field, so I'm looking forward to that challenge. But before that, I want to finish off strongly with the Royals and lift that [CPL] trophy."