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'His rhythm and action were the best I've seen'
Part five: Allan Donald on the most intimidating bowlers he has seen: this week, Michael Holding (03:58)
Produced by: Gokul Chakravarthy; Interviewer: Nagraj Gollapudi
June 11, 2013
'His rhythm and action were the best I've seen'June 11, 2013
I played my very first season against Michael Holding, in 1987. I had watched videos of Michael Holding. I had never seen him play live. Here I got the opportunity as a 19-year-old to face him. He bowled off 15 yards, because Sunday League run-ups were restricted to 15 yards, and he hit me straight on the bridge of my right foot. I'm not quite sure how old Michael Holding was, but he just was the most athletic person. He wasn't called Whispering Death for nothing. The amount of footage I've seen of him just gliding in. If you ever want to copy a run-up of a fast bowler, he would be it, because it had everything; it had presence, it had rhythm, it just was effortless, and that's why he bowled with effortless pace.
It was a series against New Zealand and they feared him massively. Watching the great West Indies bowlers of those days, when they cleaned up Australia in the '70s, where Australia clearly admitted it was the dumbest thing they did the series before. Now West Indies had four great fast bowlers - Garner, Croft, Holding, Marshall [and Andy Roberts] - what an unbelievable four. When you travel across the world, everyone you speak to will say Holding was the Rolls Royce of West Indian fast bowlers.
I just wanted to copy his action, and that to me was the intimidating factor about him. Ian Botham says that the most intimidating thing about him was not just when he released the ball, but when he ran in at you. And the gather was just so smooth, nothing could go wrong. The timing of the snap was absolutely awesome and the natural, effortless pace of it set him apart from everybody of that time. And he was quick, really, really quick.
After that game in 1987, I went to him and asked him, "How did your rhythm come so natural?" and he said he actually practised that. He practised that run-up. It made sense to me that rhythm is a thing that you need to get used to. You need to practise that. It was something I did religiously. And he would probably never ever remember the time I actually asked him that in 1987!
Him as a package was just the thing I liked watching. I would say among every single bowler I've looked at in world cricket, his rhythm and his action was the best I've ever seen. There's no question about it.
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