West Indies head coach Phil Simmons has said that the battle between Jason Holder and Ben Stokes will go a long way in deciding which way their first Test against England, beginning Wednesday, goes.

Stokes will be leading England in the absence of their regular Test skipper Joe Root in what is the first Test match since the cricket calendar froze in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think that it’s going to be a toss-up between these two all-rounders and hopefully Jason can do what”s necessary to get on top of Ben in this first Test,” Simmons told reporters.

“Ben is one of them who leads from the front. That’s been shown by all his exploits before in cricket, (so) we will have to make sure that we get on to him very early, because he likes to do what is necessary for his team.”

Holder and Stokes are the top and second ranked Test all-rounders in the ICC standings currently. Both have put in stellar performances over the past two years with Holder starring in West Indies’ remarkable series win over England last year and Stokes playing a crucial role in England winning the 2019 World Cup.

While Root remains arguably England’s best batsman, Simmons doesn’t necessarily see his absence as an advantage.

“You have to be careful how you use an advantage because, with Root not being there, you have some youngster who wants to make a name for himself. And sometimes that’s even harder than the players you know, so you have to be very careful about saying that it’s an advantage,” the Windies coach said.

“Ben has not had that time (as captain) but they’ve had a successful team for a while, and that helps.

“With the experience that he has behind him – Jimmy (Anderson) and (Stuart) Broad and people like that, there’s a lot of experience to help him on the field if he comes a cropper. But it”s hard to really say if that’s a big advantage,” he added.

(With agency inputs)