Jason Holder on Ben Stokes battle: 'Maybe I don't get as much credit as I deserve'

play
Maybe I don't get as much credit as I probably deserve - Holder (0:56)

Jason Holder on comparisons with Ben Stokes, opposite captain and fellow allrounder (0:56)

Captains, allrounders, rivals. As England and West Indies prepare to go head-to-head in cricket's comeback following its Covid-enforced hiatus, so too do Jason Holder and Ben Stokes.

While Holder has been top of the ICC rankings for Test allrounders for the past 18 months, he acknowleges that it is the No. 2-ranked Stokes who dominates conversation on the world's premier allrounders. And he is not entirely sure why.

"I don't really like to get into these personal accolades or ICC rankings," Holder said ahead of Wednesday's first Test between the sides at the Ageas Bowl. "Ben has always been talked up and quite rightfully so, he's a really good cricketer, but the ICC rankings say that I'm the No. 1 ranked allrounder and maybe don't get as much credit as probably I deserve, who knows?

"I don't get caught up with it to be honest. Journalists are there to write their stories, I am merely here to play cricket. It's always a good battle on the field when you face competitors like Stokesy, face competitors around the world."

ALSO READ: 'Do it your way' - Root's message to Stokes

While both players have impressive records in their careers to date, it was Holder who starred last time these sides faced off. While Stokes performed well in defeat, averaging 37.20 with the bat and 22.80 with the ball, Holder made a defining contribution, thanks to his maiden Test double hundred in the first Test at Bridgetown. That innings set up a 381-run win in the match and a 2-1 victory in the series, meaning it was Holder who got his hands on the Wisden Trophy.

And while it is a significantly different looking England side to the one defeated in the Caribbean last year that Stokes will captain this week in the absence of Joe Root, who is on paternity leave, Holder was not about to offer any advice to his opposite number about leadership.

"I'll give my advice to Stokesy after the series," Holder said. "England are in capable hands: he's an excellent cricketer, a great competitor and I'm sure the guys in his dressing room look up to him. He'll have experienced campaigners in his dressing room to help him along, I'm sure, so I wish him all the best in this one game as captain."

Perhaps in further evidence that he sees the key battle as being against Stokes the allrounder rather than Stokes the captain, Holder highlighted the importance of performing on the field himself. Nursing an ankle injury, Holder faced fewer than 30 deliveries for just seven runs across three innings in West Indies' two intra-squad warm-up matches. He also bowled only five overs in that time.

ALSO READ: Holder's lean run continues in warm-up

But Holder was confident of being ready for the first Test where, having passed 100 Test wickets against India in Jamaica last year, he needs 102 runs to reach 2000 in Test cricket. It is a feat that only Sir Garfield Sobers and Carl Hooper have previously achieved for West Indies, and Holder has often sought Sobers' advice throughout his career.

"Before captaincy I'm a player and my performances must stand out: I must perform my role for the team," Holder said. "With bat in hand I've got to make runs, with ball in hand I've got to take wickets and in the field I've got to help the guys hold on to chances.

"Leadership will come into effect after that and when I do perform well with the bat it sends added confidence throughout the dressing room.

"I've had tonnes of conversations with Sir Garry. I always look up to Sir Garry - he's one of the most positive individuals I've ever spoken to. He just sees things from a different light and I guess that's why he was so great. He's never shy of giving information or advice and he's one of those guys that would put his arm around you and nurture the next generation."

It was not just Holder who was short of runs during the warm-up matches, with a likely top five of Kraigg Brathwaite, John Campbell, Shamarh Brooks, Shai Hope and Roston Chase managing just 29 runs between them in their rain-affected second intra-squad game. Brathwaite, Hope and Brooks did reach fifties in the first tour game, as did Shane Dowrich, who missed the second with a side strain.

On the prospect of either himself or Dowrich moving up the order, Holder said he would leave it until match morning to finalise his team, but he did not rule out moving to No. 6 at some stage.

"It's on the radar for me," Holder said. "I've had success and been consistent where I've been batting but no doubt at some stage I will definitely come up the order, it's just a matter of when.

"The beauty about the lower half contributing so heavily in the last couple of years is that we've got stability and depth... you go back to the series against England, Roston Chase got a century in that series as well as myself and Shane. There were still very significant contributions from the top order so generally I think we've got to bring it together as a squad.

"I know a lot has been said about the lower half contributing the bulk of the runs in the recent past but if you look at the calibre of players we've got. Kraigg Brathwaite has had success here in England, Shai Hope has had success here in England, Shamarh Brooks has had success in youth team cricket in England and that's just to name a few. I'm more than confident that these guys will do well here in this series.

"It doesn't only have to come from the top order. We're putting a lot of emphasis on the top order. Yes, they probably haven't lived up to the expectation but it's still a team sport and we've just got to put runs on the board. However we get them, personally I don't care, it's just a matter for us to put the runs on the board and give our bowlers something to work with."