For Jason Holder, the short first Test has made for a long last few days. He and his team have been stewing on their defeat at Edgbaston for the best part of a week now, and Holder has the careworn air of a man who has spent a lot of time in team meetings.
“It’s not easy, but I don’t think life is meant to be easy,” Holder said at Headingley on Wednesday. “It’s a young group, we’re trying to learn as best as we possibly can under the circumstance we’re faced with.”
Holder says he has not paid any attention to the stinging criticisms made by the team’s former bowling coach, Curtly Ambrose, who said that West Indies were “pathetic” and “embarrassing”, or any of the other critics, for that matter.
“I can’t change it or control so I ignore it,” Holder said. “It’s a waste of time thinking about it. We’ve taken a fair bit of criticism from the English and the West Indians, and everyone to be honest.
“That’s something that inspires or motivates some people and breaks some people. But we’ve got to stay together as a side, for the people who might not necessarily be able to handle it. And for the people it motivates, it must drive them to get the best out of themselves.”
His own approach was to disregard it all. “My job is to keep motivating the team,” he said. “It is hard, it’s not impossible, but I accept the challenge.”
Holder did not want to talk about Geoffrey Boycott’s idiotic comments, either. During the first Test, Boycott complained that he would have a better chance of winning a knighthood if he wore black face-paint, because they had been “handed out like confetti” to former West Indies players. He has since apologised.
“I don’t get sucked into it, I don’t listen to it,” Holder said, “so I really don’t know what Geoffrey Boycott has been saying or if he’s been saying anything to be honest.”
He is an eloquent, intelligent man, and, you guess, would have plenty to say about all this in private. Instead, he stuck to talking about what had gone wrong at Edgbaston, and what he hoped would go right at Headingley.
“As a bowling unit I don’t think we were as patient as we would like to be, we lacked consistency and it was difficult to set fields as the England players scored both sides of the wicket,” he said. “As a batting unit we’ve got to know where our off stump is and be a lot more selective in our stroke play.” He also said he did not want “to make it too complicated”.
Joe Root spoke, too. There are only 11 months between Root and Holder, these two young captains, but they make a contrasting pair. Holder carries himself like a great leader off the field, but does not often perform like one on it.
Root is the reverse of that. He is a nervous talker, constantly tugging at his sleeves and tripping himself because he is trying so hard to say just the right thing. Chris Woakes had come into the team ahead of Toby Roland-Jones, the Yorkshireman explained, because England felt it was important that he “gets some game time”.
As for the batsmen: “I think the only message for those guys is to go out there and take this opportunity. It’s another week of hard Test cricket, where of course guys are under different pressures wherever they bat in the batting order. And if they want to nail down those spots they have to deal with that and if they get in make it really count.”
How Holder must wish his own challenges were so simple. West Indies, have, he said, been doing a lot of good work with the sports psychologist Steve Sylvester. It is, he conceded, still “a work in progress”.