Michael Holding

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Michael Anthony Holding (born 16 February 1954 in Kingston, Jamaica) is a former West Indian cricketer, and nowadays a commentator on the game. One of the quickest bowlers ever to play Test cricket, he was nicknamed "Whispering Death" by umpires due to his quiet approach to the bowling crease. Holding was an outstanding athlete as a teenager and used skills acquired from running the 400 metres on the cricket pitch, with one of the longest and most rhythmic run-ups in world cricket. His bowling was smooth and very quick, and he used his height (6' 3½") to generate large amounts of bounce and zip off the pitch. He was part of the fearsome West Indian pace battery, along with the likes of Joel Garner, Andy Roberts, Sylvester Clarke, Colin Croft and the late Malcolm Marshall that devastated many great batting line-ups in the world throughout the seventies and early eighties.

He was a natural athlete, who in his early days was a middle-distance sprinter. He is now a broadcaster, a member of the Sky Sports cricket commentary team. During his first-class cricket career, Holding played for Jamaica, Canterbury, Derbyshire, Lancashire and Tasmania.

Holding was the bowler in what is often described as "the greatest over in Test history", which he bowled in 1981 at Bridgetown to English batsman Geoff Boycott. The first five balls increased in pace, causing Boycott to have to react very rapidly to avoid being hit. The final ball saw Boycott clean bowled, to the great delight of the crowd.[1]

In a limited-overs international between England and West Indies on 26 August 1976 at Scarborough, Michael Holding's return from long-leg deflected off the nearer wicket and scuttled along the pitch to break the far one with Graham Barlow and Alan Knott, on his only appearance as England's captain, stranded in mid-pitch. The dumbfounded umpires, Bill Alley and Arthur Fagg, rejected the run-out appeal for reasons which remain obscure.

At the Oval in 1974, during a Test match between the West Indies and England when Holding was facing English all-rounder Peter Willey, the commentator at the time, Brian Johnston, innocently described the action as "The batsman's Holding, the bowler's Willey", a typical Johnston gaffe, resulting in gradually increasing and ultimately uncontrollable mirth throughout the commentary box. (Unfortunately, the gaffe is usually quoted the wrong way round, as Holding rarely batted for long.)

A less amusing incident was when he kicked over the stumps in anger at an umpiring decision in New Zealand in 1979/80. The tour had gone sour almost from the beginning: West Indies had just finished a long tour of Australia, and were perhaps resentful about having a tour to unglamourous New Zealand immediately afterwards (their leading batsman of the time, Viv Richards, refused to tour). West Indies felt that the umpiring had been incompetent and against them throughout. It should be noted, though, that others countered that perhaps West Indies were also embittered at failing to adjust to the local conditions, which are sharply different in terms of climate and pitches to those found in Australia or the West Indies, hence the lowly fancied New Zealand seam bowlers (and the great Richard Hadlee who was just making his mark as a truly world class bowler) embarrassed the formidable West Indian batting line-up. After one decision by the West Indian bête noir, umpire Fred Goodall, Holding turned and sent the stumps flying with a kick that would not disgrace a rugby fullback attempting a penalty kick. It was captured on film, and remains an enduring image of a less than savoury event for world cricket.

Despite modest batting talent he did it with exuberance. He holds the record for the most sixes in a Test career for any player with fewer than 1000 career runs. He hit 36 sixes in his Test career, placing him at 32 in the all-time list. Remarkably almost a quarter of his Test runs came by way of sixes.

Currently, Holding is one of the more respected cricket commentators in the world. His distinctive, smooth Caribbean burr and his droll observations have proved popular wherever he is heard.