MANY people may find Michael Holding's boycott of the West Indies Test series against South Africa a peculiar thing. Some have said so. I, for one, have nothing but praise for a man whose commitment to the cause of West Indies cricket has never been in doubt. He has done the right thing and more strength to those of his persuasion.
For those who are unaware, Holding had been booked as a TV commentator for the series. He has been filling this role for over a decade now and doing a pretty competent job; he is one commentator who is point-blank about things and does not mind telling it like it is. Just as he was in his playing days, he gives the job his all and it is enjoyable to listen to this great fast bowler when he is in his element.
Holding would have earned $US24,000 for the series. He has chosen to boycott the action because Carl Hooper has been appointed captain of the team, a move he deems incorrect. He has his arguments right - Hooper, says Holding, deserted the West Indies team at a time when it needed him. He did so because of his own selfish reasons. Now he has seen a chance to become captain and has come back to the Caribbean. The selectors should not reward such a person with the captaincy, is his reasoning.
Let me quote the man: "Hooper has turned his back on West Indies cricket on numerous occasions. For him to be brought back and made captain is a slap in the face for Caribbean cricket lovers. He has come back into West Indies cricket because of his selfish ways. He went to Australia and thought that he could have landed a lucrative contract there, but when the Australians paid him no mind he decided to return to the Caribbean, after turning his back on West Indians when they needed him most. Why are we then rewarding this kind of behaviour?"
To my mind, Holding is right. He is damn right. Anyone else could have been made captain. And Holding is not alone - his move has been backed by the greatest player from the region, Sir Garfield Sobers.
Holding's disappointment stems also from other happenings over the years,including Brian Lara and the captaincy and the double standards in West Indies cricket. The Jamaica Gleaner quoted him thus: "There seems to be two rules in West Indies cricket - one for some people, and one for others." He asked whether the selectors and the Board could explain why Lara, despite running around in the field during the one-day finals in Australia, reported a hamstring injury on his return home, did not play for Trinidad and Tobago, and was selected in the Test squad of 16 without playing a match while Mervyn Dillon, coming off an injury, was asked to play in the Busta X1 in order to prove his fitness.
In Holding's words: "Some strange things are happening in West Indies cricket and it hurts - it hurts deeply. Whenever there is a problem in West Indies cricket, people talk about it and then forget it. No one is willing to stand up for principles. I have spoken out many times. It is now time to make a stand."
I can't but draw a comparison with another former West Indies fast bowler, one who has turned to media work recently. Colin Croft was one who turned his back on West Indies cricket in the early 1980s and went off to South Africa to make a quick buck. He often talks about commitment to West Indies cricket!!! Croft, speaking on the BBC, opined that Holding's action did not serve any purpose. Of course, this is exactly what one can expect from a man who has indulged in a good deal of posturing in order to try and get back in good with the fans in the Caribbean. Further, both Croft and Hooper are from the same country - Guyana.
The cricket will thus be missing something - those well-timed comments from a man who knows the game, one who understands the Caribbean ethos and one who knows what cricket means to the people in the Caribbean. In a day and age when people of so-called religious persuasions like Hansie Cronje and Mohammed Azharuddin find they have a common master - the greenback - and so-called coaches like Geoff Boycott make quick bucks by indulging in short camps which can never do any good, it is refreshing to find a man with principles who is willing to stand up for them. As the Aussies would say, good on you, Mike!