Is it possible for a man who is 6ft 7in to grow in stature? Jason Holder clearly believes so.
On Wednesday morning, shortly before the start of the first Test, he led the contribution of the West Indies cricketers to the Black Lives Matter movement.
His players not only took a knee, as was widely praised, but put on right-handed gloves – an echo of black American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos onstage at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico.
Jason Holder – Captain Fantastic of the West Indies has grown and is a leader of men
Back then, in less enlightened times, large swathes of white America were horrified. African-Caribbean athletes had to win national medals and be thankful for the privilege. What they shouldn’t do was make a song and dance about social injustice.
But Holder got the gesture on the spot. The attitude changes and he has the nous and the power to chase them. One day, if he wants to, he will become a fine administrator, even a statesman.
For now, he’s the top-ranked all-rounder in Test cricket, and on Thursday – when the West Indies began their quest to win a series in England for the first time since the glory days of the 1980s – he underscored his status with an exclamation mark.
Holder led the contribution of the West Indies cricketers to the Black Lives Matter movement
Both teams had agreed to show their support for the game behind closed doors
Holder and his men raised a gloved right fist – an echo of black American sprinters Tommie Smith (center) and John Carlos (right) onstage at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico
An analysis of six for 42 while England was bundled for 204 was the sort of salvo he could have fantasized about going to bed, especially after getting into the game with concerns about his ankle, and hardly a run to talk about in Western India ‘matches within the selection.
On the eve of this series, Holder had casually wondered if he was getting the credit he deserves.
It was a factual observation, not born of bitterness but of pragmatic acceptance that some men, from some teams, are more equal than others.
So you could forgive him the extra spring in celebration when he removed Ben Stokes, his temporary opposite number while Joe Root is on paternity leave, and the guy one place behind him in that rankings.
More than that, perhaps Stokes plays for a team that is not short on infrastructure or support or money or a seat at the high table of cricket.
This is Stokes’ 64th test since debuting in December 2013. Holder, who started just a few months later, is playing his 41st. If West Indian success is harder to come by, it’s partly because matches are too.
The dismissal of Stokes, who with the help of Vice Captain Jos Buttler forty-five had rebuilt the English innings for 87 for five, was also a reminder of Holder’s skill as a bowler.
That had already been seen before lunch, when he pulled one back in to trap Zak Crawley, then took one away to remove Ollie Pope.
As Stokes strives to go through the crease and work the ball through midwicket, Holder got one to leave the left-handed and kiss his outside edge.
Buttler followed soon after, and when Holder removed Jofra Archer for a duck, he was ahead of his seventh Test five-up. Stokes has four.
Mark Wood’s wicket gave Holder the best marks in his career, bringing his record to 59 wickets since Bangladesh’s visit to the Caribbean with an average of 13.
At the time, he surrendered less than 2.5 a, making him his own captain’s dream: a bowler who is never hit. Holder isn’t lively, but he can land it on a Barbados dollar. On a gray day in England, that can produce a profitable exchange rate.
On the second day of the first test, Holder fired the opposite number Ben Stokes
Holder celebrates the taking of Jos Buttler’s wicket while England was bundled for 204
For all the talk of the all-rounder rankings, it’s easy to forget that Holder is also third among Test bowlers, behind only Australian Pat Cummins and Neil Wagner of New Zealand, and five places for Jimmy Anderson, his closest English rival.
Later Holder spoke of the lessons he had learned watching Anderson during the 2017 series in England, showing patience and not trying to wicket everywhere. On Thursday, the wickets flowed regularly enough.
Perhaps a top-class bowler has also given him a keen sense of cricket geometry.
Three times in England’s innings he asked for a review, three times he was rewarded with a lbw decision in his favor.
The contrast to Australia’s Tim Payne, whose fight with DRS last summer cost his squad their first series win in England since 2001, couldn’t have been greater.
In addition, Holder was a leader of men. Shortly after Stokes was deposed for the second time by Shamarh Brooks in the blankets, the captain was standing by the stumps and urging his players to refocus.
They followed his example. If they keep it up for the next few weeks, they might follow him into the history books.