Michael Holding’s Greatness Guides

An outstanding fast bowling career fueled by
a passionate enjoyment of playing cricket!
Michael Anthony Holding made his first-class debut for
Jamaica in 1973 as a nineteen-year-old teenager and his
Test debut just two years later at Brisbane during the 1st
test of the WI 1975-76 Tour of Australia. Mikey Holding, as he is
now universally and fondly known, eventually went on to capture
249 Test wickets in just 60 matches at an incredibly admirable
average of 23.68, becoming in the process one of the undisputed
greats of Caribbean cricket.
Holding’s progression, from a gangly 6 six foot four inch teenager
to the highest heights of international cricket, was at all times
fueled simply by his passionate love and desire to be actively
involved in any and all sports, including cricket.
“I have been involved with sport including cricket from the time I was
a kid. I played my first officiated game of cricket, with an umpire
involved, at age 10. My little home area, Dunrobin Avenue, had a team
that played in the Rankine Cricket Cup, and one weekend when they
had invited me to play that was the very first time I’d been in a match
that had an umpire. That was also the match for which my sister had
bought me my first cricket trousers, a “fancy dress pants! ” Holding’s interest in fast bowling specifically, was developed
directly as a result of the neighborhood cricket he played as a

kid. Initially, he used to try to do
everything bat and bowl. In the
type of cricket he and his fellow
neighborhood kids played though,
“ketchy shubby” as the game was
called, the only way you could get a
chance at bat was if you either caught
the batsman out or bowled them out
Further, there were no umpires
present so the only way you could get
a batsman out bowled was to make
sure that they weren’t using their legs
as a shield to prevent the ball from
hitting the stumps. “That attracted me to bowling fast for I
knew that if I hit them on the legs the
next time I ran in they wouldn’t be
wanting for that to happen again! That
was the very first incentive I received to
become a fast bowler!
Graced with one of the smoothest, most
beautifully graced run-ups international
cricket has ever seen, Holding says that
it was just simply his very natural way of
running. He doesn’t even recall ever having
to measure his run-up initially. He just
ran at the pace and the distance from the
stumps that seemed most natural.
The actual distance was, however, very
much influenced by the fact in street
cricket there were oftentimes as many
as three or four others with balls waiting
on their chance to bowl and no specified
order dictating who would be next either.
As such you couldn’t afford to take too
long a run if you wanted to bowl as
often as possible so as to give yourself
the best chance of getting batsmen out.
The resulting formula for him was just
having the exact number of steps that
would allow him to bowl as quickly as
possible. Incredibly Holding never held any
ambitions of eventually becoming a West
Indies cricketer. Initially, he played his
cricket as he did all the other sports with
which he was involved simply for the pure
enjoyment he derived from doing so and
“because it was there to be played!”

By the time he was a teenager he had also
begun playing for the Melbourne Cricket
Club. His father had been a Melbourne
Member for donkey years before Mikey was
even born. It wasn’t a surprise to anyone,
therefore, that his father had Mikey also
registered as a Melbourne Member just a
soon as he was born!
It was at Melbourne that Mikey was
presented with the opportunities to play
regular cricket against those who were
many years his senior. Melbourne back
then used to play regular Sunday “Curry
Goat” friendly matches against the bauxite
companies’ and other rural out-of-city
teams, for which Mikey with his rapidly
developing fast bowling skills soon became
a fixture.
He also played Minor Cup cricket for
Melbourne and had actually played
representative cricket for the club before
he’d done so for his school. It was only
after the school’s Coach had heard of
Mikey playing for Melbourne that an
invitation was subsequently issued
for him to also do so for his school.
At the time within Jamaica’s
established Club cricket
system, there were at least
four levels of competitive
matches. Minor, Junior, and
Senior Cup were the three
formal levels of available
cricket to which the Sunday
Curry Goat matches added
an informal fourth level. For a
developing talent such as Mickey
Holding was, whether or not he
had any such aspirations there was
definitely a clearly identified and
available pathway for his progression to
the highest level of Jamaican cricket.
At school, there were also three
available levels of cricket. Junior Colts
for the youngest students, Colts
for those aged under 16, and
finally the Sunlight Senior
Cup for all those school
cricketers, who were
the most talented,
regardless of
age. Mikey’s
Colts captain
was Sidney Headley, a son of the famous
Jamaican and West Indies Test cricketer
George Headley, who also played Sunlight
cricket simply because he was good
enough to do so.
There were, therefore “many avenues to
get into cricket” during Mikey Holding’s
schoolboy days!
Mikey’s meteoric rise through the various
levels of Jamaican cricket was again not
fueled by anything other than his love for
the game and the enjoyment that playing
provided. Not long after he started playing
for his school he was called to trials for
the Jamaican U19 team that would be
participating in the 1971 Benson & Hedges
Caribbean U19 Tournament, as a mere
seventeen-year-old. He represented
the National U19 team during Jamaica’s
hosting of the 1971 Benson & Hedges U19
Championships, then made his very first
overseas tour to Barbados the following
year for the Tournament’s 1972
Holding’s performances in
the 1973 Benson & Hedges
Tournament, hosted by
St Lucia, were good
enough to
warrant his inclusion to Jamaica’s Shell
Shield Squad. He was also that year
included in both the West Indies U19
and President’s XI for their respective
matches against the visiting Ian Chappell
lead Australian Test squad.
1973 was also the year that Holding
made his first-class debut for Jamaica and
by then his prodigious talents as a fast
bowler had become palpably obvious to
many. So much so that questions were
even being asked of the Jamaican Team’s
Manager and West Indies Selector, JK
Holt, as to whether he should not also
be included in the West Indies team to
England for the 1973 summer series that
was to immediately follow the Australian’s
visit to the Caribbean.
Even amidst all the excitement of his
meteoric rise through the U19 ranks
and into the Jamaican National Senior
team, Holding still wasn’t harboring any
ambitions of making cricket his career.
He’d started working in Jamaica at the
Barclays Bank and his inclusion to the
National Team for its overseas 1973 Shell
Shield “Away” Matches required him to
ask the Bank’s Manager for the necessary
time off to do so.
The Bank Manager’s response was to
advise Holding that he would have to
choose between cricket and his banking
career. As fate would have it, Holding’s
lack of any real financially binding
responsibilities at the time, choose
cricket, again simply because he was
enjoying playing the game that much.
His choice was in stark contrast to that
of his much senior Jamaican fast bowing
teammate, Rudolph Cohen, who having
been given the exact ultimatum chose
instead to relinquish his cricket career in
deference to continuing his employment at
the bank.
Holding was eventually selected to the
West Indies Squad for its 1975-76 tour
of Australia, By then the realization had
dawned on him that Test cricket would
require a much higher level of personal
fitness. During his debut appearance
for Jamaica, the captain Maurice Foster
had given him the new ball. Being fresh
out of school and wanting to impress
the large Sabina Park crowd present,
he ran in as quickly as he could. By the
time he’d finished his fourth over on the
trot however he was “dog tired,” almost
completely exhausted, and wishing
desperately that Skipper Foster wouldn’t
throw him the ball asking him to bowl
another over.
That experience helped him to appreciate
the association between fitness and fast
bowling. More importantly, it also helped
him to realize how far behind the required
levels of fitness he was personally! Even
before his selection for the West Indies
Tour to Australia, he’d started running
more and had also begun going to his old
school Kingston College (KC) regularly
to do some weight training under the
watchful supervision of Mr. Goldsmith,
known to all as “Mr.G”as a means of
becoming stronger.
I did gym training. I lifted weights to get
strong, but at the same time I did a lot of
running. One without the other doesn’t
make sense.You can be strong but you can
be unfit even if you are strong, because you
need to be running. You can’t just stand up
at the crease and bowl fast. You have to be
able to run to the crease to bowl fast. In
the gym, lifting weights is not going to help
you do that. ”
“I didn’t do a lot of bowling in the nets. I
bowled a little bit, obviously, but I was
more interested in running. I did a lot of
running, especially after Dennis Waight
came into the West Indies set-up. He
had the fast bowlers running uphill,
downhill, through the stands, up the
steps, everything. Because you had to
have strong legs. Because you are going
to be running a lot when you are bowling.
Yes, I went to the nets and bowled, but
not over after over after over. I would
perhaps bowl a five-over spell at the
top of the innings to whoever is batting
– Greenidge or Haynes. Perhaps later on
I would come off a few steps and bowl
again. I wouldn’t bowl quick.
His attitude towards needing to be as fit
as possible didn’t change, however until
the 1977 World Series and Dennis Waight
associated official appointment as the
West Indies Fitness Trainer. Waight took
the fitness levels of Holding and his fellow
initial “fearsome foursome” fast bowlers:
Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, and Colin Croft
to a different, much higher level altogether.
He routinely took them on “serious much
faster than jogging” runs at least once,
oftentimes twice, each and every day.
Waight also had them constantly engaged
in stretching and strengthening exercises.
As a result, the fitness levels of Holding
and his fellow fast bowlers were stepped
up quite a few levels as a consequence of
Waight’s training.

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