In an interview, former West Indian fast-bowler turned commentator Michael Holding analysed the ongoing Test series between England and India, discussed the reasons behind England's batting struggles, explained why India's fast-bowlers have impressed one and all, expressed his concerns about the future of Test cricket and spoke about his impressions of Indian captain Virat Kohli and all-rounder Hardik Pandya.
By Saj Sadiq (4th September, 2018)
PakPassion.net: Alastair Cook has been struggling of late, do you think we are seeing the end of a brilliant international career?
Michael Holding: It's difficult to remove Alastair Cook when you don't have much in the locker in terms of replacements. If they had people knocking on the door and doing well then that would be a different matter. Alastair Cook has been a constant in the England team for many years and many different people have been tried to open with him, so if they can't find a partner for Alastair Cook, then I don't see how they can find a replacement for Cook. That would mean the selectors finding two new openers.PakPassion.net: England's batting in the Tests this summer has come in for some criticism. What do you make of their approach and struggles?
Michael Holding: The batting has not been anywhere near as good as everyone expected. They have on paper what looks a pretty good batting line-up, but they are struggling to find an opening partner for Alastair Cook. You have Root and Bairstow and then the elongated batting order with Stokes, Buttler and Woakes coming down the order you would have thought that they would have been producing well over 300 runs in every innings. It hasn't done that so you have to say that the England batting line-up has not stood up as well as everyone will have been hoping.PakPassion.net: So what's wrong with the England batting line-up?
Michael Holding: They've come up against some pretty good bowling by the Indians. This Indian bowling attack has shown that they can produce in this country. England have pretty much ruled the roost over most countries that have visited England because their bowling attack has been pretty much superior to anything that has toured England most of the time. But this time the Indian bowling attack is proving to be equal and sometimes even looking better than the England bowling attack as a complete unit.PakPassion.net: What are your thoughts on the role of Moeen Ali in the England Test team?
Michael Holding: I think Moeen Ali played a good role in the England Test team when he was picked as a spinner who could bat. Now it seems to me that Adil Rashid is the preferred specialist spin-bowling option. It's difficult to see Moeen coming into the team primarily as a batsman. Now if Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali are both going to be picked then the selectors are thinking of playing 2 spinners which would mean getting rid of a seam bowler. But now as we approach Autumn, I expect the seamers to come into play more than the spinners. You can play two spinners in June or July in England but August going into September I would suspect that the seamers would be more valuable than two spinners. PakPassion.net: How impressed have you been with the Indian pace-bowlers on the current tour of England?
Michael Holding: They have done a very good job and that is even without one of their better bowlers Bhuvneshwar Kumar. They are producing more fast bowlers now because they are preparing better pitches back home in domestic cricket and for some international matches. For some international matches they play at home, they still produce turning pitches because of the opposition. If you don't produce good pitches to encourage fast bowlers, then you are not going to produce fast bowlers. Yes, the Indian pace-bowlers are doing a lot of hard work and people are speculating that they are now eating differently but the pitches play a huge part in the development of fast bowlers. In the Caribbean, we do not produce many fast bowlers in Guyana or Trinidad and that is because of the nature of the pitches in those countries. It's nothing to do with working hard or eating whatever you are eating, it's down to encouraging youngsters on pitches that say yes, if I go out and try hard I will get results and I can be satisfied bowling on these surfaces. If that is not the case, then forget it. India have changed their attitude to pitches at home and that's why they aren't just producing better fast bowlers, but they are also producing better cricketers because when they play on better pitches at home, then they go overseas, it's not a surprise or shock when they play on the pitches they are getting abroad.PakPassion.net: What are your thoughts on Hardik Pandya?
Michael Holding: Put it this way, he had a good performance in the third Test match but as the saying goes, one sparrow doesn't make a summer. But, he is young, that gives him every opportunity to learn and to develop. When I saw him in South Africa and people were telling me he is the next Kapil Dev, I told them give me a break. He's nowhere near the next Kapil Dev. But give him a chance as a young man to develop and let's see what happens. In the entire first Test match against England he bowled only 10 overs. In the second Test match he bowled only 17 overs in the whole match. Now if the captain or the hierarchy thought he was an outstanding all-rounder then he would have bowled more overs than 10 and 17 respectively. But they have faith in his skill and ability that he will grow in the job. Then what you would hope is that people given opportunities will grow into a job just like England's Ollie Pope who hasn't done much so far for England but people who have seen him in domestic cricket think they have the skill and the ability and the character to do well in Test cricket, so one would hope that he too will get the opportunity to grow into the job. So we will see how these youngsters develop, but people calling Pope the next David Gower or Graham Gooch would be ridiculous. Give them time to grow into the job and develop.
PakPassion.net: So much has been said and written about Virat Kohli, but what make him such a great batsman?
Michael Holding: There are many things you need to become a great batsman. One is that you obviously have to have the skill. Secondly, you have to have good temperament. He has both in abundance. He has a lot of skill and he has great temperament. Nothing worries him, even when he was batting in the first 2 Tests against England when his team was struggling at various points, he did not look worried and he looked as if he was in control of the situation. A ball would go past the edge of his bat and you would see him smiling because he has that great temperament to handle situations and the pressure and use his skills to produce the goods. He's a great player, he is confident, he believes in himself. He reminds me a lot of Viv Richards, his belief, on top of skill, with great temperament. He has all of those things.PakPassion.net: Do you believe that captaincy will get the best out of Kohli or will it be a hindrance to him?
Michael Holding: I don't think it will hamper him. I hope that he will grow into the job. He is very exuberant and emotional as captain very much like Viv Richards was on the field. He gave everything for West Indies and he always wanted West Indies do well, but as time went on, Viv tended to relax in the job of captain and I would think and hope that Virat Kohli will do the same. Because when you relax in a job, the people around you relax as well. If you as captain are on tenterhooks, then the people around you are also on tenterhooks and you don't want that in a team. You want people around you to relax and enjoy while they are performing at their very best.PakPassion.net: What are your thoughts on the introduction of 100 ball cricket?
Michael Holding: What on earth is that? I am not interested in this, I don't even want to know what this is. They can do whatever they like with this format, I have no interest at all in it.PakPassion.net: Are you worried about the future of Test cricket, given that so many other formats are coming on the scene?
Michael Holding: If people don't see that the future of Test cricket is in grave danger then they are either blind or don't want to see it. I warned about the future of Test cricket many years ago and it's obvious that there are huge problems with Test cricket. No Test match lasts 5 days any more, people do not know how to bat for long periods or how to build an innings. Look at Ollie Pope and the opportunity he got and how he was out. I would hope he would learn but in the past, people coming into Test cricket would not have to learn how to build a Test innings as they will have learnt that previously. They may have to learn how to adapt to Test cricket, to understand that this is another step up and how to adjust to that, but they would not have had to learn that they don't have to play at every ball.PakPassion.net: Is four-day cricket the way forward for Test cricket?
Michael Holding: No. I don't see how four-day cricket can be thought of as the way forward in Tests just because Test matches are ending early. All you are doing is catering for the slide that is already taking place. So if you are now having four-day Test cricket you are telling everybody you only have four days, so what is that mindset. All it will mean is that tours get shortened and more T20Is are added to the schedule. It won't be a case of players getting more rest due to four-day Tests, it will just mean more T20Is.PakPassion.net: What a brilliant servant James Anderson has been for English cricket.
Michael Holding: Jimmy Anderson in England is a very dynamic bowler. A great seam bowler who when he gets his conditions, he is a master. I've seen him develop over the years and I've not seen anyone better over the years that has been able to do it for as long as he has done it. I've seen a few good swing bowlers like Terry Alderman coming to England and bowling beautifully because he had such control and he swung the ball. But year after year, Jimmy Anderson has done it in England. After a while, you almost take what Jimmy is doing for granted because you expect him to do it and that just shows you how great he has been. When you have a water tap at home, you don't expect to wait for the water to come out, so you take it for granted that the water will come out. When you turn the tap on and there is no water that is a shock and that is the same for Jimmy Anderson. When he doesn't perform the way you expect him to, then it's a great shock. And that can be a good thing, but it can also be a bad thing. He has been a great servant for English cricket especially in England. He is the best bowler I have ever seen over an extended period of time, as far as swing bowling is concerned.PakPassion.net: Who do you see as the front-runners for next year's World Cup?
Michael Holding: One-Day cricket is so unpredictable, it's so difficult to tell. The top teams at the moment are the normal teams that you would expect to be at the top, Pakistan, India, England, South Africa and Australia. One-Day cricket is a matter of who plays well on the day. The last World Cup had a few shocks, the one before that had even more shocks. So it's really difficult at the moment to single out one particular team that is better than the rest.