The spat between the West Indies great Michael Holding and the International Cricket Council over what commentators can and can’t say on-air has been on since last week. Here’s a roundup of what has happened so far:
During West Indies’ 15-run loss to Australia at Trent Bridge, opener Chris Gayle was caught plumb in front of his stumps by pacer Mitchell Starc in the fifth over of the team’s innings. But TV replays showed Starc’s previous delivery was a no-ball by a big margin, which meant the delivery should have been a free hit and Gayle couldn’t have been dismissed LBW.
Fans of the team were enraged and Holding who was the commentator at the time declared on-air, “The umpiring in this game has been atrocious.”
“Even when I was playing and you were not as strict as they are now, you were allowed one appeal. You don’t appeal two, three, four times to the umpire,” he said. “They are being intimidated which means they are weak. This has been an atrocious bit of umpiring by both.”
— RyanQuiney (@RynoQuino) 6 June 2019
The ICC did not take kindly to Holding’s criticism, and dashed off an email to all commentators, asking them to use restraint. The production head for ICC’s rights partner Sunset and Vine Asia, Huw Bevan, wrote an email to Holding, asking him to understand “the importance of maintaining the highest standards and uphold the game’s best values and spirit while covering the tournament.”
The letter said that ICC’s duty is ‘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 duty is not to judge or highlight mistakes,” the letter said.
“We had an incident in the (WI vs Aus) match where we highlighted on air during an analysis segment (which Holding has denied) that a no-ball should have been called. This is exactly the kind of thing we need to avoid putting on-air,” Bevan wrote.
“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”.
In his reply to the ICC, Holding was quoted by The Times of India as saying that the cricket body’s policies are the reason for today’s “commentators are being more and more compromised by controlling organisations to the point of censorship.”
“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?” Holding wrote back.
He also asked whether he should be heading back to his 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.”