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Cricket World Cup: Michael Holding responds to ICC 'censorship' following on-air umpire criticism

Sporting News logo Sporting News 13/06/2019
Michael Holding wearing a suit and tie © Provided by Perform Media Channels Limited

Michael Holding has fired back at the ICC, which requested the veteran commentator to soften his tone on umpiring at the ongoing World Cup.

Australia's narrow win over the West Indies last week featured a number of umpiring gaffes, which were amplified by the 15-run margin between the two sides.

The incidents were amplified further when Holding, in commentary, described the umpiring as "atrocious".

It came after Chris Gayle was given two reprieves and was given out a third time, all in the space of nine balls. It was later revealed that the eventual delivery that dismissed Gayle should have been a free hit, because a Mitchell Starc overstep had been missed by Chris Gaffaney

Windies skipper Jason Holder was also implicated in two howlers involving Ruchira Palliyaguruge.

After the Holder drama, Holding teed off with microphone in hand.

"The umpiring in this game has been atrocious," he said.

"For one, even when I was playing, you were not as strict as they are now. You're allowed one appeal, you don't appeal two, three, four times to the umpire. That's the first thing.

"They are being intimidated, that means they are weak."

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Chris Gayle © Provided by Perform Media Channels Limited Chris Gayle

According to the Times of India, Holding's on-air criticism prompted an email from Huw Bevan of Sunset & Vine, which is the ICC rights partner.

Holding and others were reminded of the "importance of maintaining the highest standards and uphold the game’s best values and spirit while covering the tournament".

"Inherently in live television, there are occasions when on-field decisions cause reason for discussion or debate but as ICC TV host broadcasters, our [Sunset & Vine] duty is not to judge or highlight mistakes," Bevan continued.

"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."

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In response, 65-year-old Holding defended himself and questioned why commentators are being "compromised by controlling organisations to the point of censorship".

"This just reminds me why I haven't been working on ICC tournaments recently and have been loath to work in India on cricket owned by the ICC as well," Holding said.

"I have been doing commentary for approaching three decades and I see where commentators are being more and more compromised by controlling organisations to the point of censorship and I do not intend to go down that road.

"We are allowed to analyse players' strengths and weaknesses, pick apart players' techniques and faults yet when an umpire makes a cock-up, he is supposed to be protected?

"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?"

It's believed Holding and the ICC have resolved the matter, with the former Windies quick to continue in the booth for the tournament.

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