West Indian great Michael Holding doesn’t like what he sees. The fearsome fast bowler reckons his nickname Whispering Death fits the future of Test cricket.
“I definitely fear for Test cricket,” Holding told AAP.
“Test cricket may be around in five years time but it will become insignificant, it will not be relevant.”
Holding is in Australia to promote a compelling film, Fire In Babylon, documenting the West Indies’ rise to world cricket domination.
And when he reflects on the state of cricket, it saddens him – saddened by Twenty20 usurping Test cricket, by West Indies cricket, by Brett Lee.
Holding believes the Twenty20 format is causing irreparable damage.
“When you see what is happening all around the world with all this Twenty20 cricket – Australia have now gone to two months of Twenty20 cricket, solitary Twenty20, nothing else,” he said.
“The format is not good because you cannot produce good cricketers from Twenty20, but also because it is so highly biased financially.
“Kids all around the place want to play Twenty20 because they can earn in one season of Twenty20 what they earn in four or five years of Test cricket.
“And if I was a young man today, I would want to do that myself. I might get $800,000 to go and play six weeks in India – done.
“I don’t blame the cricketers, I blame the administrators.”
Holding, an awe-inspiring express paceman who took 249 wickets in 60 Tests, was also concerned for the future of his craft.
“It is pretty ordinary,” he said of current fast bowling stocks.
“You don’t have too many fast bowlers around the world these days and I think there is so much cricket being played, it’s difficult to keep on producing fast bowlers.
“And even when a fast bowler comes along, he’s not going to last.
“Look at Brett Lee – Brett Lee is one of the saddest stories as far as I’m concerned.
“Last year I was here for the Ashes, I saw Brett on the street and asked him why he wasn’t playing.
“He said `Mikey, I can’t be bothered with this Test cricket, Twenty20 is the go’ and that is because of the workload.”
Holding also cited Australian Shaun Tait and New Zealand’s Shane Bond as evidence.
“The ICC, in coordination with the different boards around the world, they need to recognise that you cannot kill the goose that laid the golden egg,” he said.
“You have to have quality instead of quantity.
“People talk about Test cricket dying – because the quality of Test cricket is sinking, because there is too much of it.
“People don’t want to see mediocrity, they will turn up for the big series yet the rest of it, they will say `well, why should I?’.”
Holding believed many Australians will turn up for the film Fire In Babylon, tracing the climb of West Indies cricket from the mid-1970s to ruling the world for a 15-year period when they didn’t lose a Test series.
The documentary, which starts an Australian season next month, placed race as a central factor in the Windies’ rise, purporting a motivation of one-time slaves to beat their colonial masters.
The theme doesn’t sit well with Holding.
“It is very powerful, very political,” Holding said of the film.
“I can’t say I’m 100 per cent with the final product to be honest, because I think the race thing was overplayed a little bit.
“But I can understand when people are making documentaries they perhaps need to make a greater impact so they overplay certain things.
“Some of the interviews they did with some of the Caribbean personalities didn’t really reflect how we as cricketers thought, but perhaps we are the sidelines.
“At no time that I played in that team did I ever get the impression from anybody that we were playing against these people because they were former colonisers, I didn’t get that impression.
“We were just playing cricket.
“We wanted to beat everyone and whether they were white, black, green, pink, Australian, English, Pakistani – we just wanted to beat them.”
Holding described the Windies’ ascension from entertainers to world beaters as “a perfect storm”.
“World Series Cricket contributed a great deal … West Indies had always produced a lot of great cricketers but we, on very few occasions, produced great teams.
“Under the Packer banner, because we were all banned from international cricket, we moulded more as a family and as a team.
“We also got a lot fitter because we trained a lot harder and did a lot more physical things.
“And of course there was some talent there as well.”
Now, Holding was “very much” saddened by West Indies cricket.
“West Indies need a plan … we are still sitting around and waiting for things to happen and waiting for it to turn around, instead of putting things in place to make things turn around,” he said.
“Every time I think about the West Indies cricket board and the people sitting on the West Indies cricket board, I get even more upset.
“Because I know a lot of them roll up just to say they are directors of the West Indies cricket board and they are not there for the game itself, they are there for themselves.”