May 4, 2007
Tone down, Mr. Holding!


WHEN BRIAN LARA announced his retirement from international cricket, he caught the overwhelming majority of cricket enthusiasts in the Caribbean by surprise. The surprise was due to the fact that he had been so positive about his participation in the imminent tour to England in May, 2007.

However, when he made the announcement, we thought that his decision represented a genuine change of heart on his part the result of an introspective assessment of the disgraceful performance of his team in the 2007 World Cup.{{more}} He must have convinced himself that his inept leadership was very much part and parcel of the reason for their dismal showing.

Notwithstanding this, I think that the majority of West Indians were saddened by his sudden decision not to tour England in May. Now, we are made to believe (by Mr Toney Cozier, and others) that the Great Brian Lara,s retirement (like the great Vivian Richards,) was apparently, the consequence of conspiratorial circumstances between the so-called selectors and the executive of the WICB. We are hearing through the grapevine that, Lara-angry selectors, in a tail wagging dog, scenario demanded their boss (the WICB) to advise Lara to resign, since they would not consider him for selection in the team to tour England in May. The Board obliged and axed the great man before he was ready! We are also hearing that the selectors wrath might have been fuelled and prompted by certain influential past players (mainly Lara detractors).

Very unfortunate

I think that it is a very unfortunate way to end the great man’s career; and, I would like to know the extent to which Michael Holding’s relentless gladiatorial verbosity against Lara, over the last decade, and particularly in the just concluded World Cup, might have contributed to this latest scene in the never ending West Indies Cricket saga. And, if it did, I want to express my deepest disappointment (I also speak on behalf of the majority of the cricket loving Caribbean). The reason being, that judging from the tone of some of Mr Holding’s criticisms, it would appear that he does not only criticise Lara’s poor attitude, but when he does so, some degree of dislike is also involved. In fact, I feel strongly that Mr Holding was the main target of Lara’s infamous statement that certain past West Indian players were jealous of him.

But who should blame Lara for retaliating thus. The evidence of Mr Holding’s flippancy regarding the great man is irritatingly frequent and outrageous.

In my view, two of the most despicable moments were in 1999 when he suggested that the West Indies captain, Brian Lara needs to see a psychiatrist; and secondly, his most recent response to the news that Lara had retired in saying, “Lara stayed on for longer than he should have, and now it’s time to thank him and move forward”. The tone of this remark in my view, showed a deliberate intention to summarily dismiss Mr Lara as not being important he is just another player who has retired from the game!

Shameful sentiment

What an absurd and shameful sentiment from Mr Holding! We know that for years, he has been cock-ahoop on the idea that he is Lara’s nemesis.

Mr Holding should be more circumspect in his utterances regarding the great man.

It would appear to me also that even though the individuals of influence in West Indies cricket have detected this intentional insult, none would have the courage to rebuke Mr Holding who, for the past decade and more seems to have been given blanket approval to verbally abuse West Indies cricket administrators and players alike. Hence, I want in the most lowly and humble manner (on behalf of the majority of the West Indian public, who are frequently hurt by some of Mr Holding’s tactless outbursts, but who are not in any position to admonish him), to ask him to tone down, the buccaneering ramblings, that characterise his criticisms about the people who try to maintain the game in the region. We recognise the fact that he might be concerned about the state of the game here, but all the relevant debates should follow a pattern of like cordial conversations and not pre-fight quarrels,.

Of course when he played, he was by far my most favourite cricketer. In fact, it is my view that to date, the game has not produced another athlete of his calibre. He was a three-in-one individual, a cricketer, a footballer, and a more than competent middle distance runner, all in one go. Over the years, even though I have been privileged to witness most of the thrilling strokeplay associated with the three greatest batsmen of all times: Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Vivian Richards and Brian Lara, in my estimation, Michael Holding’s exploits on the field were the most exciting.

Doing more damage

It is my opinion too, since he took up commentary as his new job, he has been doing more damage (with his mouth) to West Indies cricket than the destruction recorded in total, by the great Australian sons, Shane Warne and Glen Mc Grath on West Indian batting line-ups over the last decade. His comments on the state of West Indies cricket are usually tactless, very divisive in nature and frequently, only self-serving – which only helps to further exacerbate a crisis situation.

He seems to be an individual, who promotes himself as Mr Divinely Perfect; carrying an air of arrogance which often steers him out of control – especially when he is among those whom he considers his peers. And, when he loses control, his discourse degenerates into a spate of nonsensical, insular and controversial rhetoric which sometimes gives his audience the feeling that he has been programmed into show-off mode. I notice also that most of his unwarranted eruptions explode when he thinks that the West Indies team selection process might have overlooked players whom he and his big friends have high on their pedestal, even though some of these players might not deserve their places.

For instance in 2002, he launched a scurrilous attack on the management of the West Indies Cricket Board for replacing his compatriot, James Adams with Carl Hooper as West Indies captain, after Mr Adams had been experiencing an ultrapoor and demoralising stint at the helm of the team. Holding did not even try to disguise his insular outburst and further vowed not to have anything more to do with West Indies Cricket. The overwhelming majority of the West Indian cricket enthusiasts thought that Carl Hooper might not have been the ideal alternative at that juncture, but it was our view also that Mr Holding’s intervention was too outlandish for a man of his stature, and it did not in any way contribute to the spirit of unity that is so critical to the successful development of West Indies Cricket – the most likely outcome would always be the litany of ill-disciplined players who comprise successive West Indies teams for the last decade.

Mr. Holding was in showoff mode, when he described St Vincent and Windward Islands fast bowler, Cameron Cuffy in India. He told his fellow commentators, after Cuffy had bowled a bad delivery thus: “In Jamaica, you don’t want to be called a Cuffy. Cuffy means dunce”. If Mr. Cuffy had been brought up in a similar environment of such indiscipline, an insult of such magnitude could have resulted in unfortunate consequences. I do not think that anyone can be blamed for believing that it is Holding’s continuous verbal torment of Mr. Cuffy, why he (Cuffy) was not given a fair chance to fulfil his potential in the West Indies Cricket team.

The long and short of this issue was that Mr Holding true to form, and once again, vowed to distance himself from West Indies Cricket.

You would also notice that his most recent outburst came when he discovered that Lara had omitted his compatriot, Jerome Taylor from the World Cup encounter against South Africa (we all agreed that it was a silly idea on Lara’s part), but you would not have heard Mr Holding inquiring why one of the better all-rounders in the region, St Lucian Daren Sammy was not playing in an ever-failing team even if he knew that Sammy could definitely have made a difference. Then, the only name he singled out to blame for the loss against England was the Grenadian, opening batsman, Devon Smith, for scoring too slowly. The reader should note that in the said match, Smith’s performance was better than most.

Call to question

The manner in which he addresses the concomitant issues related to West Indies Cricket sometimes leaves one to question the extent of his commitment towards the amelioration of the game in the region.

I do not know if the answer to the question of his commitment is not concealed in situations like: the lack of criticism for the WICB when they hired baseball coach, Mr Bennett King from Australia, to replace the Trinidadian, Gus Logie immediately after Logie had successfully coached the team to win the Champion’s Trophy in 2004! Or in statements such as the one he made when Australia whitewashed England in the 20062007 Ashes series in Australia. Paraphrasing that statement, he assured the Australian public and the rest of the world that the Australia whitewash of England brought a greater feeling of satisfaction to the occupants in the Australian Dressing Room than was the case in the West Indies Dressing Room when their team (WI) whitewashed England on two consecutive occasions! What a nonsensical statement! I am surprised that he still has not been publicly rebuked by any of his more mature former team mates, whom the world knew played the game with great pride and dignity.