Only a few bowlers in cricket history have such a beautiful and flowing action, that’s why Michael Holding was called ‘Whispering Death’. Strangely this title was given to him by umpires, not by his fellow or foe players. Umpires used to say that he passed them so quietly they couldn’t feel an extremely fast bowler going through.

[caption id="attachment_242" align="alignright" width="199"]Because of his swift bowling action, Michael Holding was known as “Whispering Death” (Photo: Getty Images) Because of his swift bowling action, Michael Holding was known as “Whispering Death” (Photo: Getty Images)[/caption]

Celebrating his 58th birthday today, Holding is popular for his commentary only among the cricket fans of modern era like us. But there was a time the bowler was a death penalty for batsmen world over. Representing West Indies in 60 Tests and 102 One-day Internationals, he picked up 391 wickets in his international career, 249 in Tests with an average of 23.38 and 142 in ODIs at 21.36.

Most important aspect of his career was his performance in away matches. Like he has got five wickets in an innings 13 times in his career, out of which he was at the opponents’ country 11 times.

No cricket fan can forget his performance against England in 1976, when he took eight wickets in first innings and six in second. He devastated the English batting line up and helped his side win 3-0. About that match Pakistan’s former coach late Bob Wolmer believed that Oval’s pitch was a heaven for batsmen but Holding’s destructive bowling and Vivian Richards’ magnificent batting which inflicted defeat on England. Although Tony Greig had claimed to mop the floor with West indies, nothing like that happened. West Indies won the series with Holding and Andy Roberts’ wreaking havoc in bowling and Vivian Richards’ superb batting performance.

Another highlight of Holding’s career was his performance in New Zealand tour where West Indian team had arrived after defeating Australia in their homeland. West Indian players were unhappy about the standard of umpiring on first day. Holding lost his temper on second day when he did not get the decision for out and kicked the stumps at batting end. In fact, seven lbw decisions were given on first day and the guest team believed that umpires were partial towards the hosts.  Holding, who was not happy with these happenings, got furious when umpire John Bestie didn’t declare John Parker out - caught behind the wickets and gave a boot to stumps.

Cricket has produced many memorable rather magical moments – one of them happened in March 1981. The occasion was England-West Indies Test in Bridgetown, Barbados. Where the great English cricketer Geoffrey Boycott faced, what termed by many experts as, ‘the best over of Test history’ including Martin Williamson, the executive editor of popular cricket website Cricinfo. Boycott couldn’t play the first five balls of this over by Holding and eventually lost his off stump on the last ball making the spectators go crazy. By the way it was the same Boycott who now partners with Holding in commentary box. In Boycott’s view he did not face any deliveries faster than these in his career. Bob Wolmer too used to say that Holding was the fastest he had faced.

Unfortunately they didn’t have speed radars back then otherwise his speed might have made records. He is one of the history’s fastest, anyways.

Besides being a great player he is also an exciting commentator with an eye for cricket affairs. He has covered many memorable cricket moments in his typical Jamaican accent. Being a fast bowler himself he has immense fondness for this art and it was evident from his immediate comments regarding the young Pakistani fast bowler, Muhammad Amir being involved in spot fixing scandal. He got his eyes wet while commenting on the match on Sky Sports.  Being emotional for a young bowler, he probably had never met, shows Holding’s love for the game.

Michael Holding has penned his autobiography, named ‘No Holding Back’ while the government of Jamaica has also issued a postal ticket worth $2 in 1988.
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