Holding: 20-20 is killing my game

Michael Holding caused a commotion
in England recently when he whispered the death of Test cricket. Now, to
illustrate his point, the fast-bowling legend and respected commentator says he
would have been lost to Tests if he had started his career in the Twenty20 age,
which he feels has intoxicated the cricket world to the detriment of
traditional formats and pacemen everywhere.

Holding is among the most respected
and principled voices on a game confronting rapid change. Not surprisingly for
a man disillusioned by the proliferation of lucrative Twenty20 games, he is
scathing of Cricket Australia’s plan to pioneer split-innings cricket,
believing it will needlessly destroy the one-day format when a more simple answer
to its problems would be to play less of it. “What they are trying to do then
is just have four Twenty20 innings,” Holding said. “Well, I wouldn’t have too
much positive to say about that.”

Holding’s light-footed approach to
the crease and malevolent pace earned him the nickname ‘Whispering Death’
during 60 Tests for the West Indies, but the Jamaican said his career would
have been very different had it begun 35 years later. “If I had started today,
more than likely I would have gone and played Twenty20 as well. If anyone was
paying me a million dollars to play six weeks of cricket, I would have done
that and I wouldn’t have bothered with Test cricket, what’s the point?

“That is the danger. Why would any
young man want to work hard correcting his technique, learning how to do things
properly when he can earn that amount of money over a short period of time
doing rubbish? Look at someone like Kieron Pollard; he averages less than 12
runs per innings in the Twenty20 format, less than 22 runs per innings in the
50-over format, has never played a Test match, and yet he was offered $800,000
to go and play for six weeks in the Indian Premier League. Why would he want to
go into the nets and learn to bat properly?”

Equally, Holding believes the
saturation of all forms of cricket is hurting the art of genuine fast bowling.
Asked if there was a paceman on the international scene who reminded him of
himself, he said: “I don’t think you will get any fast bowler bowling at that
sort of pace any more. With the amount of cricket that they play, it is pretty
difficult to bowl that fast and to last.

“Even if the bowlers have the
ability to bowl that fast they won’t. It doesn’t make sense. Look around the
world now and tell me how many bowlers bowl 95 miles an hour and if they do
come along, how long they last. Not very long.”

Holding, 56, no longer holds an
official role with the International Cricket Council, having resigned from its
cricket committee over the bungled handling of the forfeited Oval Test between
England and Pakistan.

But he is typically forthright in a
new book, No Holding Back, in which he criticises the ill-discipline of modern
West Indies players, takes aim at the English Cricket Board over its
misadventure with the since-disgraced Allan Stanford and does not spare the
International Cricket Council. Holding urges administrators to care for the
game he loves by insisting on less cricket, with more meaning.

Even the unfashionable 50-over game
can survive if it is managed properly, he argues. “If it is looked after, it
can have a future but if Twenty20 is allowed to run unabated that will kill everything
else. At the same time, here in England Twenty20 cricket is losing its appeal.
Too much of anything, people will get tired of it and I think Twenty20 cricket
is even more susceptible because it has no plan, no storyline, it’s just
bish-bash.”