Michael Holding was known as the ‘whispering death’ thanks to amazingly stealthy run up to the crease and his faster than the wind bowling speed.
He finished with 249 wickets in 60 Tests and 142 wickets in 102 ODIs for West Indies and was part of the famous West Indies pace quartet, which included the likes of Andy Roberts, Malcolm Marshall and Joel Garner, which terrorized the batsmen in 70s and 80s.
Michael Holding, who is currently commentating in South Africa v India Test series, was interviewed by Wisden India. Holding talked about the current scenario of pace bowling and which country has the best pace bowling attack.
Talking about the first Test between India and South Africa, Holding said “It’s always good to see two good teams playing against each other. That is what Test cricket needs, competitive teams playing good cricket, entertaining cricket, gripping cricket. People who turned up on day one and day two would have been very satisfied with what they got. No one could complain about not getting value for money, because that was really good, gripping cricket.”
When asked to compare the South African pace quartet with the West Indian one, Holding said, “That was a different quartet. We didn’t have a Vernon Philander – we didn’t have someone who was so dynamic on grassy pitches. And most of our guys were about pace than anything else. Yes, we had people like Malcolm Marshall and Andy Roberts, who would move the ball around. But they would move the ball around at great pace. What we saw yesterday with somebody chipping down the wicket to Vernon Philander, we wouldn’t have had that in our quartet.”
He admired the way Hardik Pandya batted against South Africa.
He said, “I don’t think anyone batting in the first four would have thought that they could venture to do what he did. When you are batting at the number at which he bats, you can do things like that, because you pretty much have a license to do things like that. And that is what the innings needed: they needed someone to be as aggressive as he possibly could and try and take the attack to the bowlers. You saw what AB de Villiers did when he got out there. I don’t think Pandya has his kind of ability, but at least he tried to be more positive and it worked.”
“South Africa should have bowled (first), in my opinion. I don’t think India would have made 200 if South Africa had bowled first. And when you’re batting on pitches like that, as top-order batsmen you have to rely on luck at times. That was a pitch that was totally in favour of the bowlers. So you need a little bit of luck. You can’t go out there as a top-order batsman and throw the bat around like a madman, because that is not what is expected of you. You rely on your technique, and you hope that your technique will get you through. And you hope along with your technique you get a little bit of luck and things become easier later on,” he continued.
On people comparing Rabada with him, Holding said, “I don’t want to compare Rabada to anyone. He is a good, young fast bowler. He’s developing as time has gone, and he’s getting better and getting stronger – which is important as a fast bowler. And hopefully he will keep on developing because he’s a very good fast bowler who I think has a bright future ahead of him.”
Talking about the heart breaking injury to Dale Steyn, Holding sympathized with him, saying, “It’s very heart-breaking you know, because he must have done a lot of work. But this is a lesser injury to the one that he had before. When you injure your shoulder, that is a serious injury as a fast bowler. And for him to work as hard as he did and to come back into the game, I think he will be back again. I’m looking forward to seeing him against Australia.”
Michael Holding also termed the South African pace attack superior to the Australian fast bowling contingent, which beat England 4-0 in the recent Ashes series.
“I think South Africa’s pace attack is better. Any attack that has four fast bowler with them complementing each other – not that they are similar. Because I’ve seen people try to use three or four fast bowlers in the past, and they are all the same. This is totally different. Each one of these fast bowlers is different, they offer different things to their captain and ask different questions of the batsmen,” said Holding.
Talking about pitch in the South Africa-India Test, he said, “I think the first day had a bit too much for the bowlers. I think it was too lopsided for the bowlers. It’s difficult to be an opening batsman against good bowlers on that pitch. That’s why I think if South Africa had bowled, India would not have made 150. And India have some good players, not that their batting is weak. But on that pitch against that bowling attack – it was too much in favour of the bowlers.”