Former West Indies pacer turned commentator Michael Holding is bemused with ICC for commanding him not to be overly critical of umpires and officials for their mistakes during the ongoing World Cup in the United Kingdom.
Holding had lashed out hard at umpires Chris Gaffaney and Ruchira Palliyaguruge, calling them up for their "atrocious" show in West Indies' 15-run loss to Australia last Thursday (June 6) at Trent Bridge.
As a result, the sport governing body had reportedly sent out e-mails to all of its world-feed contracted commentators seeking restraint from them before any such comments.
Chris Gayle and Jason Holder received disagreeable calls of "out" twice before those were thankfully turned down by the DRS. But a major controversy triggered when Gaffaney missed a no-ball from Mitchell Starc the delivery before the left-arm pacer dismissed Gayle for 21. Had Gaffaney spotted it, Gayle would have received a free-hit.
"I am sorry but the umpiring in this game has been atrocious," Holding had said on air at the time. "For one, even when I was playing and they were not as strict as they are now, you were allowed one appeal. You don't appeal two, three, four times to the umpire. That is the first thing."
It is learnt from TOI that Holding was then sent out a mail from Huw Bevan, the production head for ICC’s rights partner Sunset & Vine Asia, reading, "The importance of maintaining the highest standards and uphold the game’s best values and spirit while covering the tournament."
"ICC TV’s duty is to reflect the values (above) and not to cast doubt or negative judgement on anything associated with the tournament in our coverage."
"Inherently in live television, there are occasions when on-field decisions cause reason for discussion or debate, but as ICC TV host broadcasters, our (Sunset & Vine) duty is not to judge or highlight mistakes."
Bevan added, "This is exactly the kind of thing we need to avoid putting on air. Before the event, we went to great pains to explain to you all as senior production and commentary personnel of the need to avoid this kind of thing."
"It’s critical for us that we should never amplify umpires’ mistakes by giving airtime to those incidents nor show the umpires in bad light. We should also be very careful not to look to create controversy around an event or match at any time."
"It's a strong reminder to everybody involved to uphold the strongest of standards in our coverage."
But Holding being true to himself didn't mince words in the mail reply he sent to Bevan.
"If those umpires yesterday were FIFA officials, they would have been told to pack their bags and head home. They would not have been given another World Cup game to officiate. As a former cricketer, I think cricket should be held to a higher standard. Is the objective to protect the umpires even when they do a bad job?" wrote Holding, who is learnt now to be the only recipient of that email from ICC.
"I am sorry, but I am not going to be part of that. Please let me know if I should be heading back to my home in Newmarket instead of heading to Cardiff because I don’t agree with what is being suggested here and happy not being part of it. I was certainly very critical of umpiring which was pathetic to say the least."
However, the matter now seems to have been resolved.
"It’s true that there was a mass email sent out after the West Indies/Australia game and I did see fit to respond."
"But as far as I am concerned, the matter has been resolved and I have, and hopefully, everyone, has put it behind them. I don’t really want to distract from the World Cup that is already suffering from some uncooperative weather," Holding concluded.
(With TOI inputs)