Holding makes successful transition from cricket field to commentary box
November 21, 2018
Luck and friendships have contributed significantly to Michael Holding becoming one of the most successful West Indies fast bowlers and a leading cricket analyst.
On his return home from the West Indies tour of England in 1976 where he took 28 wickets in four Tests at an average of 12.71, Holding accepted a scholarship from late Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley to pursue computer science studies at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona campus.
Struggling through the first two semesters and living at home with his family, a phone call from ex-West Indies captain Clive Lloyd changed the course of his life.
“My dad answered and said, ‘your father is on the line’,” recalled Holding who was conferred with a UWI honourary degree on November 2.
Lloyd told Holding, who had a shoulder injury and was unavailable for the Pakistan series in the Caribbean that year, that late Australian entrepreneur Kerry Packer was recruiting players for a private enterprise and the financial package he was offering was much more than what the players were earning playing for the West Indies.
Holding was paid US$200 per test in the Caribbean while Packer was offering a three-year contract worth Aus$75,000. At the time, the Aussie dollar was higher than the American.
“I think it was good fortune that I left UWI because I might have embarrassed myself in the second year,” he said in his convocation address delivered without speaking notes. “Had it not been for World Series Cricket and Kerry Packer, my cricketing career would not have continued as it was unlikely I would have returned to play cricket at the end of my four years in university. Without that stroke of luck, I would not be standing beside you and I would not be enjoying the life I do now and totally enjoy.”
When his playing days were over in 1989 and he was trying to figure out what to do, some of the great friendships that Holding made over the years came into play.
Former Shell West Indies Ltd. head Howard Hamilton encouraged him to get into the petrol business. While running Michael Holding’s Service Centre that was operational until 1976, another friend – Ed Barnes was a Radio Jamaica producer – suggested in early 1988 that Holding consider doing cricket commentary.
“Hesitant at first, I was only convinced when he told me that Tony Cozier (he died in May 2016) and ‘Reds’ Perreira would be doing the ball-by-ball commentary and I would be called upon to make some comments in between overs,” he recounted. “I thought that was easy and I agreed. To be working with people like Tony, who was the doyen of West Indies cricket broadcasting, and Reds was quite an honour and I thought there was nothing else better to do but join them in the commentary box.”
In 1990, cricket was televised for the first time out of the Caribbean to the rest of the world.
Trans World International (TWI), which had the contract, was obligated to have a minimum of two West Indians on the commentary panel.
Cozier recommended that Holding, who took 249 wickets in 60 Tests, join him.
When the West Indies hosted Australia the following year, TWI produced the pictures and Channel Nine relayed them to Aussie audiences.
John Gayleard, then a Channel Nine producer who Holding had met in the Caribbean, invited him to join the Australian television network.
Gayleard joined Sky in 1993 as its executive producer and successfully coerced the Kingston College graduate to join Europe’s largest pay-tv broadcaster.
Twenty-one years later, he is still with Sky Sports.
“It has been a great part of my life and if I had not played a bit longer after Kerry Packer, I would not have got that opportunity,” Holding, the youngest of four children who conducted coaching clinics for Ontario’s top players in 1992 in Toronto, said. “It has brought a lot of joy to my life and I have travelled a lot because of it and, of course, I have made great friendships all over the world.”
Holding’s sisters – Rheima Hall is the wife of former Jamaica governor-general Kenneth Hall and Dr. Marjorie Holding-Cobham is a public health specialist – attended the convocation ceremony. Their brother – Ralph – passed away last year.
This is Holding’s second honourary degree.
In 2013, the University of East London bestowed him with an honourary degree and Lifetime Achievement Award.