Michael Holding Q&A: “Give me live sport and I’m happy”

The legendary fast bowler and commentator on Lawrence Rowe, learning from his elders and being an observer.

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Michael Holding was born in Jamaica in 1954. As a fast bowler for the West Indies he was nicknamed “Whispering Death”. He is now a commentator.

What’s your earliest memory?

Pretending that I wanted to listen to cricket on the radio at night, and using that as an excuse to snuggle up between my parents as they listened to the transistor radio placed at the head of the bed. I was asleep before I knew what the score was.

What book last changed your thinking?

I haven’t read a book that has changed my thinking. My philosophy of life has been formulated by life experiences and learning from my seniors.

Who are your heroes?

As a teenager I was fixated with Lawrence Rowe’s batting skills and his dedication to training and practice.

Which political figure do you look up to?

There are two. One is Michael Manley, the former Jamaican prime minister who changed the Jamaican landscape by broadening the opportunities for the less privileged of the land. The other is Nelson Mandela, for obvious reasons.

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

I think I’ll stick to the time and place I live in. I have been able to see a lot of icons that are considered the greatest of their sport and I’ve seen a few great politicians, along with scientific advancements that have changed the world for the better.

What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

I think I would rather be an observer of Mastermind than a participant. I much prefer analysis of a particular scenario or subject than studying the subject itself.

What TV show could you not live without?

I can live without them all. Give me live sport and I’m happy.

Who would paint your portrait?

No one: I wouldn’t be standing still long enough for it to be done. I do not like it when the focus is on me personally so I would not be interested in anyone drawing, painting or doing a bust of me. I don’t even like posing for pictures and prefer them to be taken without me knowing.

What’s your theme tune?

Bob Marley’s “War”, an adaptation of a Haile Selassie speech.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

My mother advised me to get an education. There has been no better advice.

What’s currently bugging you?

Two things have bugged me for a long time. One for decades: racism; and the other approaching two decades now: the destruction of the noble game of cricket. I have moved on from the latter.

What single thing would make your life better?

There is no silver bullet.

When were you happiest?

I was happiest at high school when there were very few responsibilities and I was ignorant to the way of the world.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

I was previously a computer programmer, so perhaps that’s where I still would have been. I much prefer this life though.

Are we all doomed?

We are not all doomed. Mankind has a way of adapting and younger minds deal with what they know and are not tied down by what took place before them. That’s why no one lives forever.

“Why We Kneel, How We Rise” by Michael Holding is published by Simon & Schuster

This article appears in the 23 June 2021 issue of the New Statesman, How Brexit changed us

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