From My Perspective: Michael Holding
Former West Indies Test cricketer and Sky Sports commentator
PHOTO: SANJIVA PERSAD
Which memory makes you smile more, the 14-149 in 1976, or your over against Boycott in 1981?
I don’t really reflect too much on my personal achievements as a West Indies cricketer. I get asked more about the over to Boycott than I do about my fourteen wickets at The Oval, but my lasting memory of playing Test cricket is being a member of the first-ever West Indies team to beat Australia in Australia in 1980.
Which Test team did you most love to play against?
I have always relished playing against Australia as I believe they and Pakistan gave us the toughest battles. I never got to play a Test against Pakistan.
Was there anyone in particular who inspired you to play cricket?
No one inspired me to play cricket. I played as many sports as were available to me as a young man. I didn’t intend to become a professional cricketer; it just happened.
Which is the most exciting game you have commentated on?
The most exciting Test series I commented on was the 2005 Ashes series in the UK. There were quite a few very closely fought Test matches in that series with the Test at Edgbaston perhaps the closest finish.
Does sport have a special role to play in overcoming racism?
Sport, and sportsmen and sportswomen, can help overcome racism but ultimately it’s institutionalised; it’s systemic so it’s down to those who have the power to change systems and institutions to make meaningful change.
Has much has changed since your first comments on BLM?
There certainly have been changes since July 2020. Lots of folk have thought about the current racial imbalance and have consciously decided to pay more attention to their attitudes towards race. There’s also been some shift in the corporate world towards tackling the problem.
What advice would you give your eighteen-year-old self?
At eighteen years old, I don’t think I would have needed any more advice than what my parents were already giving me about getting a good education and some sort of qualification. Life is a learning process and you learn best by experience.
Which world political figure do you most admire, and why?
Unfortunately the one I admired has passed – Nelson Mandela (whose real name wasn’t Nelson by the way). Going through what he did, fighting for his country and being imprisoned and tortured for years can’t have made it easy to forgive his oppressors. But he knew it had to be done, to save his country and make it a better place for all. I just wish he’d lived a bit longer to remain at the helm and see the transition through properly.
What is the key message of your new book?
The key message of my new book is that a lot of what we – I’m talking about the universal WE – have been taught fits a particular narrative. We owe it to ourselves to re-learn REAL HISTORY and REAL TRUTH. Only then will we recognise the folly of racism and make the changes necessary for a better world.
Did Brian Johnston really say “The bowler’s Holding, the batsman’s Willey”?
Not that I’m aware of! The BBC certainly doesn’t have any recording of it.
What steps would you take to educate people about racism?
I have already made the first step in writing this book. Hopefully people will read it then do their own research so they can dispel the myths and falsehoods they have been taught.
If you hadn’t played cricket, what would you have done?
Well I was at university doing computer science when I was invited back into the game by Kerry Packer to play World Series Cricket. So I suppose I would have had a boring existence in an office somewhere working nine to five.
Is Twenty20 really cricket?
Not in my opinion!
Apart from cricket, what else are you passionate about?
I’m very passionate about horses. I spend most of my free time around the animals in the mornings in Newmarket and around the sport of horse racing when I can.
Is there any one achievement of which you are particularly proud?
Not yet. As I said before, I don’t focus on personal achievements in sport but if I can make a positive change in the world with this book, I will be very proud of that achievement.
What issue do you worry about the most?
I don’t worry about things too much. There is no point in worrying about matters. You can either do something about an issue or you can’t. If you can, you try, if you can’t there is no point worrying about something you have no control over.
Have you learnt anything about yourself during the pandemic?
Nope. I have spent most of the period in Cayman where there is no Covid and hence no restrictions on everyday activities. The little travelling I’ve done has meant I’ve had to quarantine, but that has only confirmed that I can enjoy my own company without any problems.
Many Black people play football for England, but not cricket. Why do you think that is?
Looking at both sports and listening to the stories being told, it would seem Black folk feel more comfortable in the footballing atmosphere than in the cricketing atmosphere. I would not venture to suggest why, although it is hinted at in my book.
Should English cricketers take the knee like footballers do?
It is not up to me to tell English cricketers or anyone whether they should take the knee or not. You take the knee if you support the cause, not to tick a box.
Michael Holding was born in Jamaica in 1954 and played 60 Tests for the West Indies between 1975 and 1987, taking 249 wickets. After retiring from the game, he became a commentator, mainly working for Sky Sports. His new book “Why We Kneel, How We Rise”, (Simon & Schuster, £20.00) is out now