Nottingham: Former West Indies pacer Michael Holding was a rare breed as a cricketer — apart from being a forthright character who called a spade a spade. He had once resigned from the ICC committee on account of his displeasure over an incident and took on the governing body of the game again for telling him to refrain from saying anything ‘negative’ against the umpiring howlers during the 2019 World Cup.
According to a media reports, the 65-year-old Holding noted that umpires Ruchira Palliyaguruge and Chris Gaffaney couldn’t handle the pressure created by repeated appealing of the Australians against the West Indies and that was not acceptable. He even went on to label the umpiring was ‘atrocious’.
Word is around that the ICC attempted to gag him after this incident. Holding has remarked that “commentators are being more and more compromised by the controlling organisations to the point of censorship.”
Holding has reportedly received an email from Huw Bevan, the production head for ICC’s rights partner Sunset & Vine Asia, saying: “ICC TV values the importance of maintaining the highest standards and upholding the game’s best values and spirit while covering the tournament. ICC TV’s duty is to reflect the values (above) and not to cast doubt or negative judgement on anything associated with the tournament in our coverage.
“Inherently in live television, there are occasions when on-field decisions cause reason for discussion or debate, but as ICC TV host broadcasters, our (Sunset & Vine) duty is not to judge or highlight mistakes.”
Bevan even stressed that “this is exactly the kind of thing we need to avoid putting on air”.
It is understood that before the World Cup began, there was a meeting between the senior production team and commentary personnel to discuss the need to avoid making negative remarks. “It’s a strong reminder to everybody involved to uphold the strongest of standards in our coverage.”
Holding, in his reply to Bevan, said: “If those umpires yesterday were Fifa officials, they would have been told to pack their bags and head home. They would not have been given another World Cup game to officiate. As a former cricketer, I think cricket should be held to a higher standard.
“Is the objective to protect the umpires even when they do a bad job? I am sorry, but I am not going to be part of that. Please let me know if I should be heading back to my home in Newmarket instead of heading to Cardiff because I don’t agree with what is being suggested here and happy not being part of it.”
In an interview to Guardian, he had once remarked: “I resigned from the ICC when they decided they wanted to change the result of the Pakistan game at the Oval (against England in 2006 from a forfeiture to a draw) because of politics. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. There is not much integrity at the top level of cricket and, unfortunately, that is the way the whole world is going.”
He was referring to the ball tampering incident involving umpire Darrel Hair. It is understood that after the exchange of emails, a meeting was held between Holding and Bevan and the matter has been resolved. Neither the ICC nor Holding were willing to comment on it further.