If the bowler’s Holding neutral umpires are respected

Sunday Times


TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

MICHAEL Holding coulda, woulda, shoulda been red-carded on West Indies’ tour to New Zealand in 1980. Says who? Says Michael Holding.

“I might have gotten a red card eventually,” the Jamaican former fast bowler said this week.

And what of Colin Croft on the same tour?

“He would have gotten a yellow card – that would have been his first offence.”

A famous photograph taken in Dunedin during the first test of that series shows Holding, frustrated by umpire Fred Goodall turning down an appeal for the umpteenth time, kicking the stumps out of the ground with ferocious intent.

In the picture Holding’s athleticism – he looks like a properly pissed off Rockette – contrasts irresistibly with the slope-shouldered defeat of the  batsman, John Parker, who has tucked his bat under his arm and undone his gloves, and would seem to be shambling off to the dressingroom.

At Lancaster Park in Christchurch, where the second test almost wasn’t played because the Windies were ready to pack up and go home, Croft allowed his 1.96 metre behemoth’s frame to crash into the far shorter, podgy Goodall in his delivery stride.

“After I called Colin for a no-ball or turned down a caught behind that was too much for him,” Goodall said in an interview with ESPN years later.

“So he came in and ran into me. But the ball immediately before that, when I had called him for a no-ball, he flicked the bails off in front of me as a gesture of defiance, perhaps. Who knows?

“And after the incident when I got hit I walked down the pitch to Clive Lloyd, the captain, but he didn’t really want to know about it.”

Of course, neither Holding, Croft nor Lloyd would have been shown a card of any colour.

Even now the card system is only a recent recommendation by the Marylebone Cricket Club’s World Cricket Committee.

But the code of conduct makes a player who assaults an umpire guilty of a level four offence, which carries a penalty of a ban of up to a year.

Despite his and his teammates’ behaviour in New Zealand 37 years ago Holding supported cricket adopting a version of football’s disciplinary measures: “I am in love with that; I nominated that a long time ago.”

If approved it would be the next step in the evolution of the relationship between cricketers and umpires, which has come a long way even since the relatively recent past.

“The players’ behaviour has improved tremendously with regards to umpires,” Holding said.

“You still have players mouthing off at each other. But you don’t hear any player saying anything to an umpire because umpiring has improved but also because he knows there are repercussions.

“In my day there were no repercussions. If there’s no penalty you will think you can do whatever you like.”

That changed, Holding said, because of neutral umpires – who were first seen in a test in 1986 when a pair of Indian officials, VK Ramaswamy and Piloo Reporter, stood in a match between Pakistan and West Indies in Lahore.

It was Imran Khan’s idea, and it was borne out of Pakistani umpires’ reputation for bias.

“With independent umpires there’s no way anyone’s going to say, ‘That’s a hometown decision’,” Holding said.

“You still have umpires making mistakes they shouldn’t be making but the perception of them being biased and being cheats is out of the game. That’s a big positive.”

The Decision Review System, Holding agreed, has also helped take the sting out of umpiring controversies.

But why would the rampantly successful Windies side of the 1980s want umpiring sanitised? Wouldn’t they have profitted from intimidating officials into doing their bidding?

Umpires like Goodall, for instance, an amateur who earned his living as a schoolteacher?

“If he was intimidated he would have made some good decisions,” Holding said.

Respect, Mr Goodall.

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