Forthright with opinions, unafraid to show emotion, he brought the same grace to broadcasting as his run-up during his playing days
He began his commentary career in 1988 in the Caribbean, and quickly brought the same grace to the commentary box as his run-up during his playing days, an approach so smooth it earned him the nickname of ‘Whispering Death’. But Holding, 66, never held back from expressing some forthright opinions on the game, not least that he wouldn’t commentate in domestic T20 leagues because he thought it wasn’t cricket.
Modern viewers would have seen another side of Holding last year. Having been keenly aware that the significance of the West Indian teams he played for went far beyond the field of play, the Black Lives Matter movement in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd last year, became a moment for Holding’s voice to be heard loud and clear once again. His eloquent, heartfelt and personal piece to Sky’s cameras on racism and inequality became one of the broadcast highlights of year, eventually winning two broadcast awards in the UK.
Holding won the Royal Television Society (RTS) Award for Sports Presenter, Commentator or Pundit and the channel, the best Sport Programme award. The RTS said Holding “captured the mood of the event perfectly, bringing a personal perspective to bear on a moment of huge significance” when talking about Floyd’s murder and the movement it sparked.
That combination of insight, empathy and the gravitas of a celebrated career meant that Holding was one of those rare ex-players who was on air even when the national team he represented wasn’t playing. He was part of the panel for England’s recent Test series against India, but had already indicated last year that he was near the end of his broadcasting career.
“I am not too sure how much further than 2020 I will be going with commentary. I cannot see myself going much further down the road at my age. I am 66 years old now, I am not 36, 46 or 56,” Holding was quoted as saying by Press Trust of India on a radio talk show.
“I told (Sky) that I could not commit to more than a year at a time. If this year gets totally destroyed, I might have to think about 2021 because I can’t just walk away from Sky, a company that has done so much good for me.”