ICC’s attempt to censor Michael Holding’s commentary is a worrying sign

ICC and controversies seem to be going hand in hand these days. Even as the apex cricket body is facing criticisms in the ongoing World Cup 2019 over the use of the zing bails and the rain abandoned matches, they have now forced themselves into another needless controversy.

Earlier in the tournament, experienced commentator and former West Indian legend Michael Holding had lashed out at the shoddy umpiring in a game between Australia and Pakistan. Holding was on air during the match, and there were as many as four poor umpiring decisions that day made by the on-field umpires that eventually cost West Indies the game.

Holding, who has been an experienced observer of the game and has been commentating for a few decades, was fuming and understandably so. He said that the level of umpiring in the match had been shocking and “atrocious.” Many fans all over the world shared those exact sentiments.

The ICC, though, wasn’t too pleased with Holding’s comments and in an email that was sent to the former fast bowler, it stated that commentators should learn to hold themselves back when talking about umpires on air and shouldn’t be too critical of them. Interestingly, the mail was sent to Holding only and no other commentator.

Expectedly, this has not gone down too well at all with Holding who has retorted back immediately. In a scathing email, Holding has said: “I am sorry, but I am not going to be part of that. Please let me know if I should be heading back to my home in New-market instead of heading to Cardiff because I don’t agree with what is being suggested here and happy not being part of it.”

Holding’s comments have left the ICC red-faced and rightly so. It is rather unfair and bizarre of them to expect commentators to curb their thoughts, especially on umpiring standards. It is the job of the commentator to report on everything that happens on the field with no bias. If remarking on the miserable umpiring cause embarrassment to the ICC, they should try and correct the falling standards of umpiring rather than attempting to censor those putting forth their views against it.

The point is that if we want cricket to thrive and survive, we should allow the game to be held to a higher standard. If the umpires are doing a poor job, then should they be protected regardless? Just because the umpires are assigned by the ICC does that give them the leeway to get away with from any criticism by the commentators? Isn’t that unfair?

Unfortunately, cases like these are becoming regular these days. The Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) is known not to have suppressed voices that attempt to do so in matches organized by them.

Now that cricket’s governing body is showing traces of these bullying tactics, it is a worrying sign. On air, commentary plays an essential role in making cricket an enjoyable sport. If the known voices behind it are curbed from airing their views about the game freely, then the sport is heading in a gloomy direction.

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