Michael Holding ... his presence in Karachi is a huge boost for Pakistan cricket.
Michael Holding ... his presence in Karachi is a huge boost for Pakistan cricket.

In an ever changing world of ours things are not only moving at a brisk pace but also with caution, keeping in focus the constraints that we encounter in our day to day life.

Freedom of movement, travel plans, a political rally or a sporting event are all dependent on the priorities which could get you past things without much fuss. Amongst those, the first thing that comes to mind is one’s personal security or that of a group with which one is attached with.

No matter where you go in the world, be it a departmental store, an airport or a sporting event, a security check is the first thing one goes through. The fear of the unknown is always at the back of the mind.

The most a country has suffered in the recent past is our own country where after a terrorist attack on the visiting Sri Lankan team during the second Test at Lahore in March 2009, Pakistan as a cricket playing country had become a no go area. This is all the more reason we should highly appreciate the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team who are here for a series of one-day games and T20 matches.

After that tragic event of 2009 this is the second visit by a Sri Lankan team to lend Pakistan and the PCB the support they need to let the world know that things are safer and also well secured from security point of view to host international teams and matches.

The gesture by captain Lahiru Thrimanne and his team to support Pakistan and its cricket need not only be seen as precursor to other teams’ visit to this country in future but also to assure the cricketing world that Pakistan is not much different from other parts of the world where unpleasant incidents have happened too.

PCB’s effort in this direction cannot discounted for a moment and deserves praise for convincing to the world that Pakistan is now in a position to host an event without much fuss or incident.

Besides the Sri Lankans’ visit, Pak­is­tan has received another fantastic news that one of the legendary figures of the game, West Indian fast bowler Michael Holding, is also in town on a private visit to let the world know that the tell-tale stories of problems in Pakistan are not true and the atmosphere is a lot safer than people could perceive.

I met the great fast bowler from Kingston, Jamaica at lunch on Saturday and he told me, ‘If I had any apprehension or fear of security, I wouldn’t have come to Pakistan. I have no problem here. It is good and an encouraging news that the Sri Lankans are here to play international matches.’

“Pakistan should not be isolated from the game just because something had happened ten years ago,” he said. “It is useful to have security precautions which obviously is every country’s priority and Pakistan is not any different.”

Athletically built, Holding was one of the most fearsome fast bowler of his time and a key member of the West Indian pace battery who kept his team on top of the world in every format under great skipper Clive Loyd and colleagues Viv Richards. Andy Roberts, Malcolm Marshall, Colin Croft, Joel Garner who in unison were a handful for any batting line-up around the world.

I shall never forget the Test at The Oval in 1976 when on his first visit to England, Holding pulverized Tony Grieg’s England team to grovel, taking 14 wickets for 149 runs which to date is considered among the best and most fierce exhibition of pace bowling.

His silent and smooth run-up to the wicket and his lethal pace earned him the brand of ‘Whispering Death’ which is also the name of his autobiography.

Holding told me that one of the best things that happened to the game was to have ‘neutral umpires.’

When I told him that it was Imran Khan, the present Prime Minister of Pakistan and a former skipper, along with PCB chairman Air Vice Marshal Nur Khan who had initiated the move, Holding said: “Of course they were the ones who did it and the ICC took heed from them.”

A man of principle who is widely respected in world cricket, Holding resigned from the ICC cricket committee in 2006 because he was unhappy with the ICC’s decision to change the result of the 2006 Oval Test between England and Pakistan from a forfeited win for England to a draw.

Holding was also in agreement of having ‘Concussion substitute’ that we recently saw in the Ashes series. “It should be like for like,” Holding said. “If a batsman is injured a batsman is concussed, a batsman should replace him and likewise for the bowlers.”

Holding, an ardent admirer of Pakistan cricket, is one of the ace cricket analysts and commentators who enjoys respect from every quarter for his ability to describe the game in a positive, unbiased and informative manner.

His presence in the country and that of the Sri Lankans no doubt gives us hope that in future, others will also take a leaf from their courageous gestures and will help Pakistan resume full-fledged international cricket activity at home.

Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2019

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