West Indies versus England in Southampton today. Carlos Brathwaite swings at Jofra Archer and England appeal for a catch at the wicket. Up goes the dreaded finger from Kumar Dharmasena.
Michael Holding, on commentary with Nasser Hussain, remains silent. The replay seems to suggest that the nick was off the batsman’s shoulder rather than his bat. Still, Whispering Death declines comment.
The slo-mo shows feathered contact with the edge of Brathwaite’s bat. Fortunately for the former West Indies pacer, he has jumped to no premature conclusions.
Precipitation, however, has been the name of the game at the World Cup in England in the last week. Rain reigned.
Water, water everywhere, to adapt the poet, and many hopes did shrink.
The skies’ incontinence may represent a threat to slow bowling, turning everything into farce.
“Sensible decision to not play,” said Virat Kohli on Wednesday after his team’s game against New Zealand was called off, “given the outfield wasn’t fully fit. One point not a bad thing for sides that have won all their games so far. So we’ll take it.”
Did he really say ‘sides that have won all their games so far’? Surely he meant ‘these two sides, which have won all the games so far’? Surely the supremely confident Indian captain does not want the weather to be the major determinant of who qualifies and who does not?
Speaking of supremely confident, here is Holding responding to a not-so-veiled threat from the ICC, forwarded through their rights partner, Sunset & Vine (S&V).
“As a former cricketer,” his response said in part, “I think cricket should be held to a higher standard. Is the objective to protect the umpires even when they do a bad job?”
You’d better be aware, the S&V message had warned, that toute vérité nest pas bonne à dire. (Translated into Trini, that’s “Because is true doh mean yuh have to tell the whole world.”)
Judge for yourself: “There are occasions when on-field decisions cause reason for discussion or debate,” the communication says in part, “but as ICC TV host broadcasters, our duty is not to judge or highlight mistakes.”.
He was advised further not to, “cast doubt or negative judgment on anything associated with the tournament in our coverage.”
Holding, for those not yet in the know, criticised as ‘atrocious’ the umpiring in the WI vs Australia match when, on four occasions, reviews overturned decisions that had gone against the WI and a missed no-ball call had also cost Chris Gayle his wicket.
S&V learnt that were barking up a grugrubef tree. It was not just his bowling, they discovered, that had earned him his Whispering Death moniker. Referring to “commentators being more and more compromised by controlling organisations,” he raised issues of unwarranted censure and unacceptable censorship.
Diplomatically, oh so diplomatically, he told them where to get off because he, Michael Anthony Holding, does not need their frigging job.
“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 Newmarket instead of heading to Cardiff because I don’t agree with what is being suggested here and happy not being part of it.”
Interviewed later by a major Indian newspaper, Holding said that ‘the matter has been resolved’.
I’m not sure. I suspect that if there had been no contact of ball on Brathwaite’s bat today, we would have had little test. Holding, you see, always calls it as he sees it. A spade is a spade and he will not call it by any other name.
Unlike several others who are prepared to avoid all criticism. Or anything that even resembles it.
Kumar Sangakkara, whose command of English is unimpeachable, continues to call Eoin Morgan “Ian” instead of “Owen.” The rules apparently forbid his colleagues from correcting him. Maybe not explicitly.
Which makes Holding’s point.
The battle for the one semi-final spot ought not to be decided in the meteorological headquarters but on the playing fields of England.
Against India, because their game is rained out, New Zealand get a point they are unlikely to have got otherwise. As Kohli noted, the Kiwis will take one rain point from India any day—especially as they already have six from wins over Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Despite losses to England and New Zealand, Bangladesh are playing good cricket and still fancy their chances. But not if the weather is going to intervene again.
Why should Sri Lanka be out of contention merely because the luck of the draw exposed them to the vagaries of the elements?
West Indies have South Africa reeling on 29 for 2 after eight overs. The heavens open. WI ‘lose’ a point.
It’s just wrong! So if the composition of the final four is ultimately determined by the weather and the Kiwis sneak through ahead of the WI, expect a full-throated criticism of the arrangements that make that possible.
And even if the WI are not again affected by the weather, I think the straight-taking Jamaican will still complain.
But if Holder and his merry men can somehow find some space between the showers to put one over New Zealand and another over Bangladesh by the end of next week, we may well see, in the words of David Rudder’s anthem, “a sunbeam cutting through a raging past.”
And Holding and the WI will still have a chance to turn water into wine…
…instead of whine.