Michael Holding’s comments on T20 cricket are doltish
Ever since its inception, cricket purists have hardly ever given T20 cricket the deserved respect that the shortest format quite arguably commands. It has often been undermined as the ‘easier format’ and something that doesn’t test the character and temperament of cricketers. Obviously, it is easier to shove aside the efforts required to play a form of the game that was non-existent for such a long period of time.
Most of the purists are those who had retired in the 90s and it is quite understandable that they style of the game that was played at that point of time was quite different to the one that we witness now. The cricketing world is always resistant to change and the failure to adapt has seen them fall quite down the pecking order where the global popularity of the sport is considered. For instance, Michael Holding has been a consistent critic of the game despite his homeland being probably the most successful and talented team in this format of the game.
He terms T20 cricket as a ‘circus entertainment’ and a ‘runaway weed’, statements that simply cannot be ignored owing to the magnitude and the stature of the person from whom this statement is coming. Holding played at a time when Test Cricket was the only ‘serious’ form of cricket and each national team was satisfied after playing a couple of international series’ in a calendar year. Hence, maybe the sheer flashy nature of the T20 game, the quick succession of matches does not settle well with him.
However, are his points valid enough to make us believe that the best players from all cricketing nations come up together to form a certain circus entertainment for the audience? Holding has been a profound critic of the game and has never shied away from crossing the moral line whilst stating his opinions on the game. However, certain statements are enough to infuriate someone like me who has been a vocal supporter of the T20 leagues that are played all over the world. Here, we examine some of his statements:
T20 is not cricket; Pollard not a cricketer
This statement came during the 2010 T20 World Cup, when the edition was taking place in the Caribbean. Apparently, Holding was asked whether he follows the tournament, and the fast-bowler bluntly said that he does not consider T20 format as cricket. Moreover, he even went on to say that Kieron Pollard was not a cricketer as the big-man has been a T20 specialist over the years. Firstly, this statement lacks precision and enough depth in it. It seems that Holding often falls short of points to describe his intense hatred and hence resorts to making statements such as ‘T20 Cricket is not cricket’.
He fails to explain why he does not consider it as a part of the sport and then changed the topic by saying that Pollard is not a cricketer. Again, the same insipid statement that lacks ideas and valid, acceptable points. Pollard had just come off a brilliant T20 campaign in the IPL for Mumbai Indians and almost single-handedly won his team the finals with a blitzkrieg inning that caught the attention of the entire attention.
Moreover, Pollard was an instrumental figure in the squad that lifted the T-20 World Cup in 2012. That trophy was one of the countable cup successes that West Indies achieved after their Golden Era in the 1980s. The all-rounder has always been a match-winner in T20s and his form has hardly deserted him ever since he broke into the scene in the 2009-10 season. Pollard has moulded his style to suit to that of the fast nature of the T20 game. He has regularly shown that he has the composure and temperament to play well under pressure; as was visible in the finals of the 2013 and 2015 IPLs. Demeaning a cricketer of that talent is absolutely unacceptable from my point of view, to be honest.
Twenty20 will kill Test cricket within 20 years
Holding came out to speak this in 2010, in an interview given to the Telegraph. His opinion was that the players were earning too much in the short format, and that would distract them away from Test Cricket. He also said that players with flawed techniques can excel in the T20 format and hence the players will refrain from practicing in the nets. This is a bit of an exaggeration.
Firstly, T20 cricket requires a great deal of practice. You do not select a bunch of random cricketers and send them on the field without any net sessions.
Most IPL franchisees arrange their preparation camps around 15-20 days prior to the league and conduct gruelling fitness sessions and net practices for their players. A new set of skills are honed to make the players smoothly adapt to this format of the game. Also, the fact that T20 cricket will kill Test Cricket in 20 years has not been proven to be accurate yet. It’s been eight years since Holding said this and Test Cricket holds great relevance among the best players in the world even now.
A country like India, which hosts the most popular T20 league in the world places utmost importance to Test Cricket too. The Indian national team just came from South Africa after playing a three-match test series. The Virat Kohli led side is set to tour England and Australia later this year for wholesome Test series’ and hence it is puerile to suggest that national teams are playing down the importance of Test Cricket in favour of other leagues around the world.
Heck, if anything, some of the finest Test players in the world now rose to prominence via T20 with names like David Warner, Ravi Ashwin and Ravi Jadeja coming to mind.
When it comes to the fact that players are earning a lot; it’s a matter of commercialization of the sport as well. Cash-rich TV deals help the cricket boards generate a lot of money and hence it is important to give the players their share of the generated revenue. After all, it is the players who attract the audience to the sport and it is fair enough that they are paid their due credits, isn’t it?
The opening day of 2013/14 Test Match in Melbourne between England and Australia attracted a crowd of 91,112; which is the second highest attendance in a day of Test Cricket history. Again, this comes after Holding made the comment of Test matches being killed by T20 format.
Then in 2017, Oz fans set up another record in a Test Match between Australia and South Africa. Around 521725 people attended the six-match Commonwealth bank Test series and that effectively eclipsed the previous record that was made in 2005/06 between South Africa and West Indies. Don’t play that card again, Mikey!
Test cricket being strangled by popular Twenty20 “weed”
Now, it is a common knowledge that Holding will be asked about his opinion on T20s every single time that he gives an interview. The journalists are well aware of his opinions beforehand and want to generate headlines. The mere fact that even Holding does not refrain from speaking about helps their case even more.
The former player said this at a Prostate Cancer event in UK. Yes, a Prostate Cancer Event. Seven years after making the previous two statements, he came on to say that, the administrators are only interested in making revenue. He also said that Test Cricket has become second fiddle to the shorter formats and he holds the boards responsible for that. Srilanka is playing Test Series’ against South Africa and England this year. India will play a one-off test against Afghanistan and then go on a major tour of England in the second half of the year.
Holding’s own West Indies are going to play against Srilanka and India this year, before playing England and then against India in the early parts of the next calendar year. England will play Pakistan, Srilanka, India and West Indies in a span of 10 months from now. Australia will be playing Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, India and Srilanka in the upcoming 10 months.
They can be excused for playing lesser matches as Australia also need to complete their shorter format assignments this year. Nations like to play full-fledged ties that include T20IS, Tests and ODIs. Australia need to finish their shorter format ties against South Africa and Pakistan before playing out the most-anticipated series against India.
Bangladesh are due to play Australia, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and New Zealand till March next year. It is visible from the above pattern that no team is ignoring Test Cricket unless caught in some unavoidable circumstances. Virat Kohli has always praised Test Cricket for shaping up his career and helping him mould his cricketing style to suit all three formats of the game. Teams and players are mature enough to understand and follow the legacy of Test Cricket.
However, they do not need to budge away from T20 format just because of that. The shortest format of the game has boosted up athleticism and fitness standards of numerous players across the world. Young talents like Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah, and R Ashwin amongst numerous others shot into the limelight due to their excellent performances in the IPL.
Promotion of young talent has always been the primary objective of any T20 league; albeit it is always diverted away due to the immense amount of money that comes through it. Michael Holding was an excellent cricketer and was one of the pioneers of West Indies’ Golden Generation in the 70s and 80s.
However, his comments lack maturity, and he has hardly ever backed up them with accurate and acceptable facts. His hatred seems to be based on heaps of vapid and imbecile beliefs, and he needs to understand this as soon as possible.
Picture credit: Getty Images
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