Published: October 5, 2021


The Peter Smith Award recognises an outstanding contribution to the presentation of cricket to the public


Michael Holding has been presented with the Cricket Writers’ Club Peter Smith Award, which recognises an outstanding contribution to the presentation of cricket to the public.

This discretionary award, named after the late Daily Mail cricket correspondent, was determined by a panel of media members chaired by journalist Tanya Aldred.

The panel’s citation reads: “Michael Holding first became an icon of the game as Whispering Death, his potent combination of grace and menace epitomising West Indies cricket in the 1970s and '80s. He achieved similar stature as a broadcaster with his unmistakable voice and his trenchant yet fair opinions. In the last 18 months, his searing words on racism and the Black Lives Matter movement have opened eyes and ears around the world. He will be missed in his second retirement as much as in his first.”

On accepting the award from his home in the Cayman Islands, Holding has urged politicians to recognise what needs to change and to take positive action in order to achieve equality. “I wish the politicians would be a little more open minded and be a little bit more willing, because they are the policy makers. They direct policy and a lot of policies we have in place need to change. A lot of the curriculums in schools need to change to reflect everything. Not just what suits one set of people. I think that’s where we need to appeal to those people, and for them to recognise that things need to change.”

In September, England withdrew their men’s and women’s teams from the white-ball tour of Pakistan with less than a month’s notice. Holding finds the decision unfathomable: “Pakistan went to England before vaccines were available, for six or seven weeks. They stayed, they played their cricket, they were in this bubble, which I was in, and yes it wasn’t fantastic, but it was better than going out into society where we knew covid was and there weren’t any vaccinations for anyone.

“And yet they stayed, they played, they honoured what England had wanted them to honour, to save England’s butt, to put it mildly. So did the West Indies. And you have an opportunity now to try to repay to a small degree what Pakistan did.”

He was also critical of the way that the ECB communicated their decision: “That statement doesn’t wash with me. No substance. Nobody wants to come forward and face up to anything because they know what they did was wrong, so they put out a statement and hide behind a statement. It just reminds me of the rubbish they did with Black Lives Matter.

“I won’t go back into that because I’ve said enough about that. But what that signal sends to me, is the same western arrogance. I will treat you how I feel like treating you, it doesn’t matter what you think, I’ll just do what I want. Four days in Pakistan? I’m absolutely sure they wouldn’t have done that to India, because India is rich and powerful.”

Holding heads into retirement, optimistic about people waking up to the reality of racism, but unhappy with the direction that cricket is taking. “I am very disappointed in the people who are running [the game] and the people managing it, and I won’t miss it when I go. I’ll miss the friendships that I’ve made, I’ll miss the great people I work with, but I won’t miss the game, because this game is not the game that I started playing and the game that I knew. It’s different.”

This interview was recorded prior to September 28, when ECB chair Ian Watmore gave interviews to selected media on the Pakistan tour.