Virat Kohli © Getty Images
Virat Kohli © Getty Images

In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Holding spoke on a variety of topics including the return of international cricket in Pakistan, the future of Virat Kohli as Indian Test captain, Mohammad Aamer‘s expected re-entry into international cricket, Wahab Riaz’s development into an effective fast bowling option for Pakistan, Misbah-ul-Haq’s captaincy and also offered his views on the treatment of players by the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB).

PP: Virat Kohli has some big boots to fill as India’s captain. Do you think he has the temperament to become a successful captain?

MH: Captaincy could help calm him down. Now he must recognise how important the job is and that could settle him down. These little blips that he has had in the past during his career, regarding his temperament and his behaviour now need to be cut out. If he does not cut them out I would suspect that he will be removed as captain. He is a proud young man who wants to do well for his country and captaincy could make him an even better cricketer. I like the way he captains, he is got an aggressive style as captain and that could work well for him.

PakPassion.net (PP): How do you feel about international cricket once again being played in Pakistan?

Michael Holding (MH): It is good to see that someone has taken the initiative and said that they will tour and see how things will work out. It is pretty difficult for people to make that move because in the last tour of Pakistan by Sri Lanka you obviously had a few problems and everyone is going to say I do not want to be the guinea pig.

It is really good and heartening to see that first steps have been taken for the return of international cricket to Pakistan, and I hope that everything will go well in future.

PP: Realistically though do you envisage other international teams following Zimbabwe and touring Pakistan?

MH: I think there will be problems simply because the International Cricket Council (ICC) did not send any of their umpires or officials. They said that if countries want to tour Pakistan that is fine, but the information they had was that Pakistan is still too dangerous to travel to and they could not commit their employees. The issue is that other cricket boards will look at the ICC’s stance and say if the ICC will not send its officials then we have to be wary as well. One would hope though that teams will go to Pakistan at some point with this happening regularly, people will get  confident about touring.

Pakistan needs international cricket to return to its shores. I can only imagine what it must be like to not have any international cricket at home. It must be really difficult for the fans to rely on watching the matches on television. If you have had international cricket before in your country then that makes it even more difficult to accept the fact that there is no international cricket at home.

PP: As well as the fans, it cannot be easy for the Pakistani players to never get the chance to play international cricket at home?

MH: It definitely cannot be easy. You are constantly away from home. People talk so much about playing a lot of cricket and constantly touring and being away from family and friends, but those teams have home series to fall back on. Pakistan have absolutely no series at home, so they certainly are not in a very nice position. All you can do is hope as things like this do not get solved very easily and quickly. It takes time, especially for the confidence of people to return.

PP: The ICC has recently tightened-up their policy on illegal bowling actions. Do you think this is the right call?

MH: I do not think it is a change of policy, I think it is it is more a case of people now becoming braver and are doing the right thing. I have no problems at all with the clampdown. I have been very critical in the past of some bowling actions and once you can see some of these bowling actions live, you can clearly see that some actions are above the level of tolerance. I have sat there watching bowlers and it immediately seems to me that their action does not look right. If I can sit there watching it live and observe that, well then something has to be wrong with those actions as I am not twenty or thirty years old with perfect eye-sight. There has to be something wrong with those actions and it has to be remedied and I am glad that it is it is being dealt with. READ: Michael Hodling believes fast-bowling dying due to overdose of cricket

PP: What about the counter-argument that these ‘mystery-spinners’ bring something different to cricket and there should be some leeway given to them?

MH: No, absolutely no leeway should be given. In the world of athletics it would be great to watch someone run 100 meters in 8.5 seconds but if you find out they were doping then you cannot say that it was great to watch that. No, it has to be done legally and as far as sports is concerned it should stick to that mantra. We see a lot of rubbish going on, look at what is going on with FIFA at the moment; we want to see sportsmen and sportswomen competing fairly and within the laws of their relevant sports.

PP: I guess the onus is now on these mystery spinners to‘re-invent’ themselves and to prove that they can bowl well within the laws of the game?

MH: Well that is  up to them. It is up to them to find a way to be effective. I do not see how breaking the law is being effective or is good for the game, or is good for that individual. We have seen Kane Williamson come back with a legal action and he helped New Zealand win the second Test, so if he can do it, then why cannot others? READ: Nine reasons why I am a Michael Holding fan

PP: Turning the clock back to 2010. What was going through your mind when you were on commentary and Mohammad Aamer delivered that infamous no-ball?

MH: Nothing at all was going through my mind. At that moment I did not believe that there was anything untoward going on. I saw the no-ball and said on commentary, that is a big one, but in my mind there was nothing to say that the no-ball was pre-planned and that he did it on purpose. It never entered my mind at the time.

When I heard about it afterwards I thought, he made sure it was a no-ball, but that showed me that it was something that he had not done on a regular basis or was an expert at it. When you want to do something like that and you are an expert at it, then you do not bowl such a big no-ball and make it look so obvious. Each bowler knows within a few inches where his foot is landing and a bowler knows how to bowl a no-ball without making it look extraordinarily bad, if they wanted to do that. It is obvious Mohammad Aamer was not an expert at it and that is why he bowled a huge no-ball rather than being marginally over the crease.

VIDEO: Michael Holding cried after the 2010 spot-fixing scandal involving Mohammad Aamer, Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif.

PP: There is still divided opinion on whether Aamer should be allowed to play for Pakistan again. Do you think it is right that he has been allowed to return to domestic cricket before his five year ban ends?

MH: I can totally understand people not wanting him back especially those people in Pakistan who will be saying that he has embarrassed the country and yes you do not  want someone who has embarrassed your country to get off lightly, but I make reference to life in general. I have seen people who do things who have cost others their lives, like reckless driving, drink-driving, reckless accidents with machinery, yet they are given another opportunity in life to come back and make good.

Whatever sentence they are given, whatever term they are given, after that they are given another chance to re-start their life and make good. Mohammad Aamer has not taken the life of anybody. Why cannot Aamer’s life be repaired and he be given another chance? He has done something that was bad for the game and illegal and something that should not have happened but he is not taken a man’s life and what he did can and should be repaired. I believe Aamer deserves a second chance and I hope he grabs this second opportunity firmly with both hands.

PP: Mohammad Aamer burst onto the scene very impressively. Do you think he can regain those skill levels and become a successful cricketer once again and what advice would you offer him?

MH: The truth is we do not  know what the future holds for him. Having said that, a lot will depend on how people will accept him when he comes back: his team, his fans and people around the world. It depends on how they treat him and whether they accept him. It is going to be difficult for him if people are cynical and make comments about him and jeer him, as that will undoubtedly affect him mentally.

As far as my advice goes, Aamer does not need my advice. When I saw him in 2009/2010 he already had everything a fast bowler required. I remember sitting in the third man chair where we analyse technical aspects on television and I did some analysis on him. I was so impressed with what he was doing especially his control, his pace, his slower deliveries and his cricketing intelligence. I think he had it all, he had a lot going for him as a bowler. All he has to do now is to stay fit and do not be tempted again to do anything that is wrong. He looks physically stronger now and I am sure he’ll be back to his best soon. READ: Michael Holding’s ‘Over of the century’ to Geoff Boycott

PP: In Pakistan, Misbah-ul-Haq is either loved or hated, there seems to be no middle ground. What are your thoughts on Misbah?

MH: I think he is a fantastic cricketer. He is a good man with a steady head on his shoulders. Back in 2010, he stabilised the Pakistan team when it was needed most. He is a good and sensible man who has done a lot for Pakistan cricket and he has made the  team a lot more consistent especially in Test cricket. During the World Cup I became a little frustrated with him at times due to his batting when he was being a little too careful, but I suppose that was because he did not have a great deal of faith in the other batsmen around him.

PP: One pace bowler from Pakistan who is emerging as a much improved talent is Wahab Riaz. What are your thoughts on Wahab’s bowling?

MH: He looks a pretty good fast bowler who has a lot of pace. I think I will remember that spell against Shane Watson at the World Cup for a very long time. The problem for him and a lot of fast bowlers is the amount of cricket that is being played. It is difficult to maintain that sort of pace and effort if you are being asked to play the amount of cricket these guys are being asked to play these days. I can only hope that he can maintain his fitness and last quite a few years.

If he can give Pakistan the sort of spells he did against Shane Watson every now and then, Pakistan can live with that as you cannot ask these guys to bowl those sort of spells of extreme pace every time they go onto the field. I want to see Wahab bowl more spells like he did against Shane Watson, as that is what fast bowling is about. The way to go would be to handle Wahab carefully and not to play him all of the time in all three formats, particularly the twenty over format.

PP: Do you think the combination of all three formats in international cricket is working well?

MH: I do not  think there should be any 20-over international cricket. That would give international cricket and players a bit more breathing space. I think there should only be 50 over matches and Testsat the international level and T20 should just be played as domestic tournaments. However I do not see that happening right now as administrators and cricket boards only look at the bottom line rather than the cricketers they have on their payroll. If the administrators will not make the changes then the selectors need to make a change to their policy of selecting players and to rest them in T20 matches and therefore

PP: There is a concern that whilst some professional sporting bodies are expanding

MH: I was not in agreement when three countries wanted to hijack cricket and I have said this on several occasions. I do not think it is good for the game that Australia, England and India are pretty much running cricket. Sadly that is the way it is and everyone has to come to terms with it. When this was happening, I did not hear too many journalists or cricket writers hitting out against it, apart from Michael Atherton and one or two others, but the majority just sat quietly.

PP: There are a number of players missing from the current West Indian starting line-up against Australia and consequently they have struggled. That cannot be healthy for West Indian cricket?

MH: It is sad to see but the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) needs to change its culture and recognise that they have to be in partnership with their players. If they have the attitude that they are the boss and the players are the employees, you will find that these situations will continue. We need administrators in the WICB who can accept that the culture has to change and then perhaps we will see the players a lot happier to represent their country.

What we are seeing now is that a lot of youngsters are happy to be selected for West Indies but what you find is that as soon as they make a name for themselves and get called up for T20 tournaments around the world, and they realise they can make some money, then they disappear from international cricket. You would hope that the players would stick around and play for their country, but if the players do not believe they are being treated well, then they will not stick around.

(Saj Sadiq is Senior Editor at PakPassion.net, from where the above article has been reproduced. He can be followed on Twitter at @Saj_PakPassion)