International cricket chiefs say they do not want to gag commentators after West Indies great Michael Holding hit out at “censorship” following on-air comments that were critical of the standard of umpiring at the World Cup.
The former pace bowler, a high-profile TV analyst, labelled the officiating in the match between West Indies and Australia at Trent Bridge on June 6, as “atrocious”.
Holding criticised umpires Ruchira Palliyaguruge and Chris Gaffaney in the group game in Nottingham for caving in to pressure created by constant appealing by the Australians, who won the match by 15 runs.
Chris Gayle was out to what should technically have been a free hit after Mitchell Starc overstepped the crease on the previous ball, which was not spotted by the umpire.
West Indies skipper Jason Holder was also at the receiving end of an umpiring blunder after being adjudged lbw off Adam Zampa but replays suggested the ball had pitched outside leg stump. The decision was overturned on review.
According to the Times of India, Huw Bevan, the production head for the International Cricket Council’s (ICC’s) rights partner Sunset and Vine, wrote an email to Holding on June 7.
“Inherently in live television, there are occasions when on-field decisions cause reason for discussion or debate, but as ICC TV host broadcasters, our (Sunset & Vine) duty is not to judge or highlight mistakes,” he said.
Bevan added: “It’s critical for us that we should never amplify umpires’ mistakes by giving airtime to those incidents nor show the umpires in bad light. We should also be very careful not to look to create controversy around an event or match at any time.”
But Holding wrote a strong reply to the ICC, the Times of India reported.
“Commentators are being more and more compromised by controlling organisations to the point of censorship,” he said.
“If those umpires yesterday were FIFA officials, they would have been told to pack their bags and head home,” he added. “They would not have been given another World Cup game to officiate.
“As a former cricketer, I think cricket should be held to a higher standard. Is the objective to protect the umpires even when they do a bad job?”
“I am sorry, but I am not going to be part of that,” he said. “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.”
But an ICC spokesman told AFP the matter was now closed.
“We only want them (commentators) to be fair. We have got the best experience on board to provide quality to the viewers. And we in no way want to gag anybody on their views,” an ICC source said.
“The matter with Holding has been settled and there are no hard feelings between the ICC and Mr Holding.”