Michael Holding, apart from being one of the most deadliest pacer cricket has witnessed, was also a massive hitter of the cricket ball    Getty Images
Michael Holding, apart from being one of the most deadliest pacer cricket has witnessed, was also a massive hitter of the cricket ball Getty Images

Michael Holding was born February 16, 1954. Abhishek Mukherjee explains why he went on to become a fan of ‘Whispering Death’ over the years.

1. The man who scared heroes

When I was a kid I had heard vaguely of the name of Michael Holding. I do not remember Holding or his bowling action that vividly (though countless YouTube visits have changed all that). All I remember was that he bowled fast enough to be scary and intimidating to the batsmen. Well, all but Sunil Gavaskar, but then, Kolkata was quite anti-Gavaskar in the early and mid-1980s. Anyone who could intimidate my heroes had to be someone special.

2. Terrorising Boycott

His over to Geoff Boycott at Kensington Oval, 1980-81 has gone down in cricket history, and is widely acknowledged as the best over ever bowled. The first one hit Boycott on the glove; the second beat him outside off-stump; the third rapped him on his right thigh; he somehow avoided getting bowled in the fourth and fifth balls; but the last one, too quick for him, rattled his stumps.

 

3. Flat wickets? What flat wickets?

On a dry flat track at The Oval in 1976 (during the Grovel series) Holding returned figures of 8 for 92 and 6 for 57 to bowl out England twice. The pitch was bone dry, the seamers had no assistance, but Holding ran through the English line-up with sheer pace in his armour.

4. Johnners blooper

Holding was responsible (well, half-responsible) for possibly the most famous line ever uttered by a cricket commentator. As he was bowling to Peter Willey in the above-mentioned Test at The Oval, Brian Johnston famously uttered the phrase The bowler’s Holding, the batsman s Willey that has become a part of cricket folklore.

Okay, I know the story is probably not true, but then…

5. Running out two batsmen in one ball?

Holding once threw so hard from long-leg in an ODI at Scarborough that the ball hit the stumps at the batsman s end so hard that it went on to hit the wicket on the other end (and dislodge the bails) to find Alan Knott short of the crease by a distance; the umpires (David Constant and Arthur Jepson) got so confused that Knott was not given out.

6. The penchant for sixes

An absurd 216 of Holding s 910 Test runs have come in sixes a number that amounts to 24 per cent. The corresponding numbers for other big-hitters read as follows: Shahid Afridi 18%, Chris Cairns 16%, Adam Gilchrist 11%, Virender Sehwag 6%, and Adam Gilchrist 5%. Those shoulders were brutal.

7. Why bowl slow, indeed?

Commentator: Mikey, did you guys bowl slower deliveries in your era?

Holding: Why bowl slow when you caan bowl faast?

8. What on earth is an ice-bath?

During the ongoing Test between Australia and South Africa at Centurion a commentator suggested that Shaun Marsh may require an ice-bath after his marathon on Day One. All was going well till the poor man asked Holding what the Jamaican thought of ice-baths.

I d raather haav them in my drink, came the curt reply.

9. The impassive baritone

To top everything, once, during a Sanath Jayasuriya sixfest, Tony Greig had been going berserk over the Sri Lankan s lusty hits. As the steely forearms unleashed yet another punch over the ropes, Greig, tired by now, left it to Mikey .

With the crowd roaring, everyone shouting, yells and shrieks all around, everyone glued to the television waited for Holding s voice to respond to the occasion. He did, serenely, in that reassuring baritone: Onaather six.

That was all; all; a perfect victory of apparently expressionless silence over hyperactive shrieks.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor at CricketCountry. He blogs at ovshake.blogspot.com and can be followed on Twitter @ovshake42.)