Michael Holding to retire from cricket commentary

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Michael Holding is set to bring to a close one of the most distinguished modern broadcasting careers when he hangs up his mic at the end of this season, ESPNcricinfo has learnt.

Holding has been part of Sky Sports commentary team for over two decades now, a role he has fulfilled with at least as much distinction as his playing career. Holding is widely regarded as one of the game’s greatest pace bowlers, playing 60 Tests and 102 ODIs for West Indies from 1975 to 1987, and becoming an integral part of the all-conquering West Indies’ sides of the era.

He began his commentary career in 1988 in the Caribbean, and quickly brought the same grace to the commentary box as his run-up during his playing days, an approach so smooth it earned him the nickname of ‘Whispering Death’. But Holding, 66, never held back from expressing some forthright opinions on the game, not least that he wouldn’t commentate in domestic T20 leagues because he thought it wasn’t cricket.

Modern viewers would have seen another side of Holding last year. Having been keenly aware that the significance of the West Indian teams he played for went far beyond the field of play, the Black Lives Matter movement in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd last year, became a moment for Holding’s voice to be heard loud and clear once again. His eloquent, heartfelt and personal piece to Sky’s cameras on racism and inequality became one of the broadcast highlights of year, eventually winning two broadcast awards in the UK.

Holding won the Royal Television Society (RTS) Award for Sports Presenter, Commentator or Pundit and the channel, the best Sport Programme award. The RTS said Holding “captured the mood of the event perfectly, bringing a personal perspective to bear on a moment of huge significance” when talking about Floyd’s murder and the movement it sparked.

That led, this year, to his acclaimed book, ‘Why We Kneel, How We Rise’ dealing with racism in sport.

Holding was unafraid to show the emotion that he did in that piece of programming. Pakistani fans and viewers will remember his broadcast in the aftermath of the spot-fixing scandal in 2010, a summer in which he was commentating and admiring the skills of Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir. The pair were found to have been involved in spot-fixing during the Lord’s Test. Holding, who had been on air during one of Amir’s bigger no-balls, needed a moment to compose himself when he talked of the sadness of a talented 18-year-old bowler getting dragged into fixing.

That combination of insight, empathy and the gravitas of a celebrated career meant that Holding was one of those rare ex-players who was on air even when the national team he represented wasn’t playing. He was part of the panel for England’s recent Test series against India, but had already indicated last year that he was near the end of his broadcasting career.

“I am not too sure how much further than 2020 I will be going with commentary. I cannot see myself going much further down the road at my age. I am 66 years old now, I am not 36, 46 or 56,” Holding was quoted as saying by Press Trust of India on a radio talk show.

“I told (Sky) that I could not commit to more than a year at a time. If this year gets totally destroyed, I might have to think about 2021 because I can’t just walk away from Sky, a company that has done so much good for me.”



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