The Jason Holder Suspension
The suspension of West Indies captain, Jason Holder, for the third and final test of this series in St Lucia has split opinion among cricket supporters, journalists and pundits.
His one-match ban followed a slow over rate during the second innings of the Antigua; the team were two overs short of their target. Put in other terms, it would have taken the West Indies an additional hour’s play to bowl a 90-over day. The calculation takes out time for wickets falling and DRS, so it does try to be fair to the bowling team.
Holder was fined 40% of his match fee and his teammates 20%: proof if ever it were needed that the ICC is doing everything it can to tackle the kind of turgid over rates that can spoil a good day at the cricket.
Except, this was a good day (or three) at the cricket, if drama is what you want.
I understand the ‘rules are rules’ perspective, and many forgot to mention that Holder knew he was on the verge of this kind of sanction following a previous formal offence (against Sri Lanka last June) as well as sailing very close to the wind in other innings.
But I do think there should be room for the ICC to use judgement and discretion in these cases rather than just pointing at the rule book and holding their hands in the air.
If your fast bowlers are taking wickets, why should you have to take them off and bowl your spinners for the sake of the innings over rate? To have done that would have been much worse for the game of cricket, a real case of the tail wagging the dog and surely not what anyone (apart from maybe the next England batsman in) wanted to see.
There is an argument that those who wished to see Holder reprieved hold a patronising attitude towards Caribbean cricket. I suspect if it was an Australian captain suffering the same fate for the same offence, we’d be rather quieter. It would be harder for the ICC’s disciplinary panel to ‘read the room’ in a feisty series, with the suggestion that perhaps the bowlers were on a go-slow to save their energy for the next match etc.
So while Holder’s punishment certainly feels imperfect, hard cases make bad law and things are probably left as they are until we start talking seriously about run penalties.