Former Barbados captain and West Indies leg-spin bowling all-rounder David Holford died late Monday after a lengthy illness.
The astute leader, who turned 82 last month, was consistently respected and a successful player for Barbados, whom he captained 26 times in the West Indies Championship. He was Barbados’ most successful captain in the Shell Shield Tournament, leading the side to five of six titles they captured in the 1970s – 1972, 1974, 1976 (shared with Trinidad), 1977, and 1979. He was at the helm of the Barbados team as well when they won the first two regional one-day (Gillette Cup 50-over) Tournaments in 1976 and 1977.
President of the Barbados Cricket Association and Cricket West Indies director, Conde Riley described Holford as “a no-nonsense person”. “He always spoke about what Barbados’ cricket meant to Barbados, and he paid a lot of attention to the preparation of our national teams,” Riley said in a tribute on the BCA’s website. “As chairman of the West Indies selection panel, he was responsible for picking Shivnarine Chanderpaul at a very young age, and the rest is history,” he added.
Ricky Skerritt, President of Cricket West Indies, fondly remembered Holford and showered heaps of praise in his memory. “David Holford epitomized the values of cricket both on and off the field, and was the quintessential West Indies cricketer and ambassador. As a player, he was a top-quality allrounder and captain who gave his utmost at all levels. “He had a hand in the development of several young players across the region, not just in cricket but in several other fields of endeavour. David’s legacy is therefore one of service and dedication to Barbados and West Indies cricket.”
Tall and slim, Holford developed into a generally accurate leg-spinner and more than reliable batsman with a stylish drive, leading to his debut for West Indies on the 1966 Tour of England.
Holford toured England in 1966, India in 1966-67, Australasia in 1968-69, and played at home against England in 1968, India in 1971 and 1976, New Zealand in 1972, and Pakistan in 1977.
After Joe Solomon retired from Tests in 1966, Holford appeared to be the obvious choice to replace him and started well in his first Test against England in 1966 at Old Trafford. He shared a century stand with his cousin (Sir) Garfield Sobers, and then bowled well in tandem with Sobers and Lance Gibbs, frustrating the English with their accurate spin bowling.
Holford’s finest hour on the international stage turned into a family affair in only his second Test, when he shared a record unbroken sixth wicket stand of 274 with Sobers, and West Indies almost snatched an unlikely win in the drawn second Test at Lord’s.
He came to the crease with West Indies in strife on 95 for five, leading by nine, and made an unbeaten 105, which was his only Test hundred.
After his exploits in England, Holford started the 1966-67 Tour of India strongly, scoring 80 in his only innings and taking five wickets in the first Test at Bombay, now Mumbai.
But he suffered a severe bout of pleurisy – inflammation of the tissue between the lungs and ribcage – and the illness kept Holford out of the rest of the tour and seemed to take some of the zest out of his game.
He was never entirely out of the reckoning, however, and bowled so well against the New Zealanders in 1972 that he was being considered for the post of West Indies captain for the tour of England in 1973.
He was not selected for the trip and had to wait until three years later to make his mark again, when he took a match-winning five for 23 against the Indians in the first Test at Kensington Oval.
Following the retirement of Rohan Kanhai as West Indies captain, opinion was divided as to who should replace the Guyanese great as skipper for the 1974 tour of India with Clive Lloyd and Holford seen as the most likely candidates. The scales however tipped in favour of the much younger Lloyd. Holford played his last Test against the touring Pakistan team in 1977. He played 24 Tests in all that yielded 768 runs at an average of 22.58, and captured 51 wickets at 39.39 apiece. He also scored 3 821 first class runs with three hundreds and grabbed 253 wickets.
Holford later became a recruit to Kerry Packer’s controversial World Series Cricket before his playing career came to an end after the 1979 West Indies first-class season.
Holford was a consistently outstanding performer in club matches for his beloved club Spartan well into his 50s after leaving his neighbouring alma mater of Harrison College.
After Holford retired from the game, he channelled much of his energy into his career as an agronomist.
He also served in a variety of administrative positions, managing both Barbados and West Indies, heading the Barbados and West Indies selection panels, and also becoming the first chief executive of the West Indies Players Association.
Holford leaves to mourn his wife, Marva and son, Marc. (CMC/WG)