Cricketers pick their favourites

'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


Michael Holding

'His rhythm and action were the best I've seen'

June 11, 2013

Michael Holding charges in, England v West Indies, 2nd Test, Lord's, June 22, 1976
Michael Holding had a run-up you ought to copy Hamish Blair / © AllSportUK

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.

Posted by Beazle on (June 11, 2013, 22:00 GMT)

Greg Chappell's remarkable Test average of 53.86 was made against attacks full of these guys at their peak. And his figures do not even include his 14 Supertests against them in which he averaged 56 !

Posted by harshthakor on (June 11, 2013, 13:23 GMT)

Overall in the history of test cricket I have never seen 2 cricketers as close to each other as Michael Holding and Andy Roberts.Great batsman of the 1970's like Gavaskar and the Chappell brothers as well as Dennis Lillee,arguably the best paceman of all rated Andy Roberts the best paceman they ever faced while experts like John Woodcock or the late Ray Lindwall and Imran Khan chose Holding as the best ever West Indian pace bowler.Even a whisker does not seperate them.In an all-time 11 Holding may just win with his superior pace to combine with Marshall,Wasim Akram,Hadlee or Lilllee.Overall Wasim Akram and Michael Holding rolled into one would make the most perfect pace bowler.

Posted by harshthakor on (June 11, 2013, 13:14 GMT)

Had Holding's career not been affected by injury and had he put more effort into his bowling Holding could well have been the best fast bowler ever.He had more natural talent than even Dennis Lillee.Andy Roberts was more versatile but still Holding had a more natural action.Holding's perfect action enabled him to do everything with the ball.Infact in Packer cricket at one time batsman evaded Holding and opted to face Andy Roberts.In 1981-82 in Australia Holding arguably bowled better than any Carribean paceman in test cricket in Australia.Marshall or Roberts had more craft but at his best Holding may well have bettered them.To me in India in the series 1983-84 he was the best paceman ,bowling superbly at a reduced speed.

Posted by whatawicket on (June 11, 2013, 12:27 GMT)

the best fast bowler ever with the best fast bowlers action. dont know what he was like when facing him, but to see him live phew. i was in Barbados when he bowled that magical over to boycs which is often talked about.

Posted by   on (June 11, 2013, 12:22 GMT)

Michael Holding and Viv Richards, my two fovorite West Indian cricketers of all time. I had the pleasure of seeing them on several occasions and see Holding bowled to Richards. Richards did tried to hook him and top edged it for six.

Posted by gmsjgmsj on (June 11, 2013, 11:33 GMT)

There can be no other joy to cricket aficionados than recall the greatest and most glorious Windies reign of 70's and 80's and no other salivary spectacle than Holding's greased lope to the crease! They don't make cricketers like them anymore. I was blessed to meet some of them at Chennai when they played a test there in Dec'1983...Marshall, Roberts, Holding, Viv, Greenidge, Haynes, Lloyd. Name and fame just rolls off the tongue. I think Sunny made 236 in that test and also that it was Roberts last test match.

Posted by SRISESH on (June 11, 2013, 10:22 GMT)

No need for the tag west Indian. There is no other bowler in any of the team. He is the Rolls Royce of Cricket....

Regards Sriram

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