Michael Holding (second from front) and Joel Garner (extreme back) were phenomenal bowlers, but they did bowl wides in ODIs © Getty Images
Michael Holding (second from front) and Joel Garner (extreme back) were phenomenal bowlers, but they did bowl wides in ODIs © Getty Images

Everyone on the internet seems to be talking about the fact that neither Michael Holding nor Joel Garner bowled a single wide in One-Day Internationals (ODIs). But how true is this? Abhishek Mukherjee investigates.

They were outstanding bowlers, Michael Holding and Joel Garner. Holding and Wayne Daniel followed Andy Roberts into the side. Then came Garner, alongside Colin Croft. And while Croft gave way to Malcolm Marshall — the greatest of them all — Holding and Garner were around, suffocating batsmen with pace like fire and claustrophobic accuracy.

They were outstanding in the 50-over format as well. Garner’s numbers were, in particular, phenomenal: 146 wickets at 18.84 (at an economy rate of 3.09) make spectacular reading. Such was Garner’s greatness in ODIs that he makes even Holding’s astounding numbers (142 wickets at 21.36, economy 3.32) look inferior.

Fascinating as those numbers were, fans were always willing to take things to the next level — as expected, without proper research. So there emerged a claim (that shortly got converted to an internet meme) that Holding did not bowl a single wide in the 5,473 balls he sent down in his ODI career; and neither did Garner from his 5,330.

The men, as I would never tire of repeating, were giants (literally, in case of Garner) of the art of fast bowling, but this was too stunning for me. Not a single wide from 11,803 balls seems too fantastic to be real. I had to verify this.

Unfortunately, both men played cricket before the era of ball-by-ball commentary. Though team wides are usually marked on historical scoreboards, wides conceded at individual level are usually not available.

This called for deeper research. One person to approach was Charles Davis, the man who has attained legendary status for his research on ball-by-ball information. Rob Moody, with his trove of videos, was another obvious source: what if a video of either man bowling a wide existed?

I also turned to the trusted Facebook group True Test Match Cricket Lovers (host to some of the most maniacal cricket historians, statisticians, and trivia buffs on the third planet of the Solar System) for help.

Could this be proved? Could this be disproved? There were general discussions, mostly on the grounds that such claims were almost impossible to be true despite the fact that umpires of the era were more lenient on wides those days.

The only way to go about it was to look up old newspapers. The Canberra Times came to my help. This was what a somewhat detailed scorecard of a Benson & Hedges World Series Cup Australia vs West Indies encounter at MCG on February 10, 1985 had in store:

The image tells the story. Garner had bowled five wides and Holding one © The Canberra Times, February 11, 1985
The image tells the story. Garner had bowled five wides and Holding one © The Canberra Times, February 11, 1985

As was (probably) expected, yet another myth bit the dust. Holding and Garner bowled six wides between them in the same match.

Just a small message: It is advisable for fans of cricket (or readers of any discipline) across cyberspace not to believe in random numbers without checking. Unfortunately, there are people who resort to the nefarious act of spreading rumours for cheap, temporary publicity. The onus is on us, citizens of the internet, to verify every one of them.

Note: Though the entire True Test Match Cricket Lovers group deserves credit for helping unearth the fact, a special mention should be made of Sreeram.

Update: Rob Moody confirmed that they bowled “several” during World Series Cup 1984-85. So there you go.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)