West Indies fast-bowling legend Michael Holding’s criticism of the officiating in the ongoing Cricket World Cup has not gone down well with the International Cricket Council (ICC).
But cricket’s governing body’s attempt to censor the respected cricket commentator has been rebuked by the outspoken Jamaican great. The ICC has made a formal request for on-air criticisms of umpires to be toned down
Holding was heavily critical of umpires Ruchira Palliyaguruge and Chris Gaffaney during the West Indies versus Australia match last week. He was, however, far from the only one as the game featured several high-profile errors.
West Indies opener Chris Gayle was given out twice, while facing an over from Mitchell Starc, with both calls later overturned via the decisions review system. The batsman was dismissed lbw in the next over from Starc but replays showed the previous delivery had been a huge no-ball. The ball that dismissed the West Indian should, therefore, have been given as a free hit by the standing umpire.
Later, two more on-field decisions were overturned. The first was reviewed by West Indies captain Jason Holder after he was initially sent back to the pavilion lbw, sweeping to Glenn Maxwell, the ball just pitching outside leg.
Holder then successfully reviewed once more, attempting to sweep Adam Zampa, with ball-tracker showing the ball would have comfortably missed leg stump. Holder later noted that it seemed all the erroneous calls in the match had gone against the West Indies.
Holding, who called the umpiring “atrocious”, expressed the belief that the officials were being pressured by strong appeals from the players.
In response, the ICC in an email to Holding and other commentators pointed out “the importance of maintaining the highest standards and uphold the game’s best values and spirit while covering the tournament”.
Never one to hold back on his opinions, however, Holding charged that commentators were being increasingly “compromised by controlling organisations to the point of censorship”.
Holding reportedly received an email from Huw Bevan, the production head for ICC’s rights partner Sunset & Vine Asia, which stated: “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.”
But Holding, in his reply to Bevan, said: “If those umpires [Palliyaguruge and Gaffaney] 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.”
Holding’s commitment to principle has long been established. In an interview with the Guardian, Holding 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.” Holding was referring to the ball tampering incident involving umpire Darrel Hair.
It is understood that since the exchange of emails, a meeting was held between Holding and Bevan and the matter has been resolved. Neither the ICC nor Holding offered further comment on the situation. (Cricinfo)