Michael Holding has hit back at “censorship” by the ICC following a request to tone down his views on umpiring while commentating on the World Cup.
The former West Indies fast bowler, who remains among the most popular and respected voices in cricket, described the officiating in last week’s match between his former team and Australia as “atrocious” on air following a string of on-field errors.
These included Chris Gayle receiving two reprieves while being given out three times in the space of nine balls – the last of which followed a huge front foot no-ball by the Mitchell Starc the previous delivery that was missed by the umpire Chris Gaffney – and Jason Holder being adjudged lbw to a ball that pitched outside leg stump, albeit saved on review.
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According to the Times of India, Holding’s withering assessment prompted an email from Huw Bevan, the production head at the International Cricket Council rights partner, Sunset & Vine. Bevan reminded the 65-year-old and some production colleagues of “the importance of maintaining the highest standards and uphold the game’s best values and spirit while covering the tournament”.
It continued: “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”.
In a terse reply Holding questioned why he was the only commentator included on the email chain and added: “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?”
Holding added that such requests are why “commentators are being more and more compromised by controlling organisations to the point of censorship”.
Holding and the ICC have stated the matter has been resolved, with Holding continuing to broadcast from the tournament.