West Indies fast bowling legend Michael Holding is now at the centre of a World Cup umpiring controversy with the International Cricket Council (ICC), after the body reportedly tried to censure him over his criticism of decisions by the officials during the West Indies versus Australia game last Thursday.
The Times of India is reporting that Holding hit out at what he termed attempts at ‘censorship’ from the ICC, after an email from the body formally chastised him for his on-air comments during the game and suggested he cut down criticism of umpires on air.
The Times of India accessed both an e-mail sent by Huw Bevan, production head for the ICC’s rights partner Sunset and Vine Asia, criticising Holding for his criticism and the former Windies legend’s reply, in which he refused to back down on his stand.
Holding had called the umpiring atrocious during the game and was not the only TV commentator to do so. The West Indies players and management were also critical of match officials Chris Gaffaney and Ruchira Palliyaguruge during the post-match interviews and Windies fans had even called on the regional board to approach the ICC on the matter.
On the field of play, West Indies opener Chris Gayle was adjudged out twice during an over from Aussie pacer Mitchell Starc and both calls were overturned via the review system. Gayle was eventually dismissed lbw on another review in Starc’s next over but replays later revealed the previous delivery from Starc was a blatant no-ball. The legal ball that dismissed the West Indian thus should have been free-hit. Two more on-field decisions involving Windies skipper Jason Holder were also overturned on review.
While on air, Holding said he felt the umpires were being pressured by vociferous appeals from the players as he noted how the game was affected by the poor decisions.
But in response to the avalanche of criticism of the officiating from Holding and other match commentators the day after the match, Bevan sent an email to Holding noting “the importance of maintaining the highest standards and uphold the game’s best values and spirit while covering the tournament.”
Said Bevan: “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.”
Holding reportedly asked why he was the only commentator singled out in his response to Bevan, adding: “If those umpires 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?”
Holding reportedly said Bevan’s email was evidence that “commentators are being more and more compromised by controlling organisations to the point of censorship.”
Perhaps sensing his stance may have drawn a further response from the ICC, Holding added, “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.”
However, when the newspaper contacted Holding for a comment, he said the matter with the ICC had been resolved and he was continuing on the commentary team.