Cricket World Cup 2019: Commentator Michael Holding reveals ICC TV censorship

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Cricket great turned television commentator Michael Holding has revealed an attempt from ICC officials to shut him up after he slammed New Zealand umpire Chris Gaffaney for his blunder during Australia’s controversial World Cup win over the West Indies last week.

Holding, a former West Indies fast bowler, called the officiating by Gaffaney and Sri Lankan Ruchira Palliyaguruge “atrocious” and “weak” after a number of questionable decisions went Australia’s way.

The criticism followed after Chris Gayle was dismissed following a huge no-ball from Mitchell Starc went undetected by Gaffaney.

Holding also criticised the behaviour of some Aussie stars in the field after they were accused of intimidating umpires with over-the-top appeals for wickets.

In leaked emails obtained by The Times of India, Holding has gone rogue and is refusing to curb his forthright views, despite being cautioned by his TV employer, which is the official ICC World Cup host broadcaster used by global TV networks, including Channel 9.

The report reveals an email from host broadcast service Sunset and Vine Asia sent to a number of people in the ICC TV broadcast team where Holding is told to remember that “it is not his duty to judge or highlight mistakes”.

The email, reportedly written by Sunset & Vine Asia’s Head of Production Huw Bevan, also singled out Holding’s comments at the moment when Gayle was incorrectly given out.

The email stressed: “The importance of maintaining the highest standards and uphold the game’s best values and spirit while covering the tournament”.

The missed no ball was slammed by Michael Holding. Photo / Supplied
The missed no ball was slammed by Michael Holding. Photo / Supplied

Bevan’s email also suggested the commentary team should not be critical of umpiring decisions.

“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”.

He said Holding’s comments about the controversial decisions that went against the West Indies need to be avoided.

“We had an incident in the (WI vs Aus) match where we highlighted on air during an analysis segment (which Holding denies) that a no-ball should have been called,” Bevan wrote.

“This is exactly the kind of thing we need to avoid putting on air.

“Before the event, we went to great pains to explain to you all as senior production and commentary personnel of the need to avoid this kind of thing.

“It’s critical for us that we should never amplify umpires’ mistakes by giving airtime to those incidents nor show the umpires in bad light. We should also be very careful not to look to create controversy around an event or match at any time.”

Holding’s email response to Bevan’s letter has also been leaked to the Indian newspaper, showing that the cricket commentator has no intention of being silenced in future.

“Commentators are being more and more compromised by controlling organisations to the point of censorship,” Holding reportedly wrote.

“I do not intend to go down that road.

“If those umpires yesterday were FIFA officials, they would have been told to pack their bags and head home, 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?

“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.”

The same report also claims Holding intends to remain part of the Sunset and Vine commentary team for the rest of the tournament.

Cricket legend and commentator Michael Holding. Photo / Getty
Cricket legend and commentator Michael Holding. Photo / Getty

Holding fumed during Australia’s 15-run win over the West Indies — and he was far from alone.

Gayle and captain Jason Holder were both twice given out on the field at Trent Bridge, on both sets of occasions, saw their decision to review vindicated by the third umpire.

The mood of the Caribbean side was not helped when standing umpire Gaffaney missed Starc’s no-ball the delivery before the left-arm quick dismissed Gayle for 21.

Had the New Zealand official called a no-ball, the next delivery would have been a free hit from which the veteran opener could not have been dismissed.

Star all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite accepted Gaffaney and Palliyaguruge were doing their best, but he made no attempt to hide his annoyance after the West Indies fell short chasing a target of 289 in Nottingham.

“I don’t know if I’ll be fined for saying it but I just think that the umpiring was a bit frustrating,” Brathwaite said.

“Even when we were bowling we thought a few balls close to head height were called wides.

“And obviously three decisions, as far as I can remember being dodgy, it was frustrating and sent ripples through the dressing room.

“To lose Chris in a chase of 280, who can probably get 180 of them himself obviously, broke the start that we wanted to have.

“But the umpires do their job, they try to do it to the best of their ability, we as players go out there to do our job as well, so there was no confrontation between the players and the umpires.”

Chris Gayle of the West Indies waits for the appeal against the lbw decision against Australia. Photo / Getty
Chris Gayle of the West Indies waits for the appeal against the lbw decision against Australia. Photo / Getty

Gaffaney raised his finger twice in three balls to give Gayle while Palliyaguruge was two-times over-ruled by replays after raising his finger against Holder.

Brathwaite made it clear the decisions had not been the key reason why the West Indies had lost, but said they were part of a concerning pattern.

“I just think I’d like that for West Indies, we don’t have to use all our reviews and that some of the other teams get a chance to use theirs because, every time we get hit on our pad, the finger goes up,” he said.

“When we hit the opposition on their pad, the finger stays down. So we have to use our reviews and it’s always missing and then we have to use our reviews when we’re batting as well and it’s always clipping.

“I’m not a technology person, I don’t know why that happens, I can just say what I have seen happen over the past few years.”

Holding, at the time, was seething about the officials.

“The umpiring in this game has been atrocious,” said Holding, one of cricket’s all-time leading fast bowlers.

The 65-year-old Jamaican added Gaffaney and Palliyaguruge had caved into pressure created by prolonged Australia appeals.

“For one, even when I was playing and you were not as strict as they are now, you were allowed one appeal,” recalled Holding, who infamously kicked down the stumps during a 1979/80 Test in Dunedin after his appeal to have New Zealand’s John Parker caught behind was rejected by umpire Fred Goodall.

“You don’t appeal two, three, four times to the umpire. They are being intimidated which means they are weak.

“This has been an atrocious bit of umpiring by both (Gaffaney and Palliyaguruge).”

The Alternative Commentary Collective are podcasting their way through the World Cup. Known for their unconventional sports analysis and off-kilter banter, the ACC have come to ask the tough questions. Here’s the latest episode of ‘The Agenda’:
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT



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