Stanford 20/20 for 20 August 31, 2008

Holding calls Stanford Super Series a 'farce'

Cricinfo staff

Michael Holding: "He [Stanford] is telling people in the Caribbean that he wants to revive West Indian cricket but how is a week of Twenty20 cricket in Antigua going to do that?" © AFP

The millions offered by Antigua-based billionaire Allen Stanford may have won over the West Indies and England boards, but Michael Holding, the former West Indies fast bowler, has taken a contrarian stand, saying Twenty20 games won't help revive cricket in the Caribbean. It marks a sharp turnaround from his statements in May, when he enthusiastically backed Stanford's plans. "I'm not interested in being involved with Mr Stanford because I do not think Mr Stanford is telling the people what he's really about," Holding told the Daily Mail.

The England team, as well as domestic Twenty20 champions Middlesex, will be involved in the week-long Stanford Super Series from October 25 to November 1. Stanford has on board a host of West Indian greats, including Garry Sobers and Viv Richards, but Holding said he won't be present for the series. "I am not going to be involved in a farce," he said. "He is telling people in the Caribbean that he wants to revive West Indian cricket but how is a week of Twenty20 cricket in Antigua going to do that?"

In May, Holding had joined the board of the Stanford 20/20, the domestic Twenty20 tournament in the region, calling Stanford's programme "amazing and comprehensive" and one that "encompasses funding for territorial development".

In this latest interview, he clarified his change of heart. "If what he started to do initially had been carried on, it would have benefited West Indies cricket because he was involved in the development of the game in various islands and donated money to them to improve their infrastructure," he said. "That is when I was involved but now [that] Stanford has got into bed with the ECB he doesn't need to do that anymore so he has abandoned it. He wants to promote himself and his companies, that's all. If people can't see that then I can't help them, it's their problem."

Holding said he doesn't like the Twenty20 format. "I don't think it is good for the game. Okay, it's entertainment, but cricket is what made me what I am. Cricket gave me the lifestyle I have and cricket sent my children to school so I am interested in what is best for it, not just the entertainment value.

"It has its place but it will be bad unless those in charge manage it properly and I do not think they can because they are blinded by money," he said. "I can see Test cricket dying because of this. I am not saying how many years that will take but if I was a young cricketer now I would want to play Twenty20 because of all the money. Why would I want to play Test cricket? And that is very unhealthy."

Stanford himself has maintained that Twenty20, and not Test cricket, will attract youngsters and bring in revenue for players. However, while stating he would try to recover his investment in the Stanford 20/20 from the television rights, he maintained profits would go to the West Indies Cricket Board. In June, Stanford, who had stopped his funding to regional boards over their lack of accountability, resumed giving $15,000 to each board every month.

Earlier in the year, Holding had quit the ICC's cricket committee after its decision to change the result of the 2006 Oval Test between England and Pakistan from a Pakistan forfeit to a draw. "I will never get involved with any cricket committee or cricket board again for the rest of my life," he said. "Never. I've had enough and I needed to move on. In my opinion, Pakistan and Inzamam-ul-Haq did the wrong thing in that match and I do not see why that result should have been changed for political expediency."