Even in the midst of the euphoria surrounding the West Indies scoring their first Test series win over England since 2009 (or any high ranking team for that matter since 2012), there has been a dampener in the form of the West Indies captain being penalized with one match ban for slow over rate. Now as he is being asked to appeal the decision, here is where the conundrum lies.
Jason Holder was clearly the star of the first Test in Bridgetown, Barbados. For one, he scored a double century that made a huge difference in the run making tally of both teams, elevating one and denting the other. Besides his batting exploits, Holder was a useful bowler, picking up crucial wickets that told of West Indies’ gift in having the all-rounder in their Test team and on their side. In the constellation of island nations that boast of talented all-rounders but not enough to go around their own circuit, particularly in the longer format of the sport, Holder has been a beacon of hope for the beleaguered island nations that once dominated the sport.
In the second Test, the captain was at it once more, marshalling his resources to ensure England flattered to deceiving, wilting under the conditions of the pitch and the persevering stance of the hosts in Antigua. Picking up wickets to support the other frontline bowlers, Holder became the instrument with which the team inflicted unexpected, shocking damage on the visitors, buoyant after their home series victory over India and a whitewash handed to Sri Lanka in the Emerald Isles and certainly not expecting to be so brutally exposed and upstaged.
However, even as West Indies won hearts once more for the comprehensive manner in which they subjugated England in the second Test to win by ten wickets to follow up their first Test win by 381 runs, there was a twist in the tale. Holder was being punished for the teams slow over rate and as a result, would have to miss out the third Test in St. Lucia.
Customary for captains around the world to bear the brunt of the bowlers’ lag time and any team decisions that may have eaten into the mandatory ninety overs to be bowled in a day, Holder’s problem would not be so unique or unusual other than the fact that it would be not only a little disappointing for the team savoring the victory in a decade but also, severely hampering the team’s chances for a possible whitewash given Holder’s prowess and exploits.
It was not surprising in that context that amongst the dissenters of the rule was former Australian spin legend, Shane Warne, who contended the decision should be appealed since the match did not go the distance of five days. While that has been the argument made on several occasions, the conundrum lies in the fact that the duration of the game cannot be the yardstick by which punishment is meted out for slow over rates. The problem lies in the fact that if Holder was let off the hook in this one instance, given the jubilation that is marking West Indies’ current success, it sets up a precedent for other teams to use at a later date when their own team is facing a similar punitive action for the same offence. It is this issue that has polarized opinion in the aftermath of the Test, particularly since this has been a series that has garnered attention, as an afterthought much like the debate about the penalty.