It began intimidatingly far away. He turned, and began the most elegant long-striding run of them all, feet kissing the turf silently, his head turning gently and ever so slightly from side to side, rhythmically, like that of a cobra hypnotising its prey. Good batsmen tended not to watch him all the way lest they became mesmerised. To the umpires he was malevolent stealth personified so they christened him Whispering Death. No-one in the game has bowled faster. His over to Geoff Boycott in the cauldron of Kensington Oval early in 1981 has gone down in history as the finest, fastest, most ferocious gambit of all time.
Five years earlier, towards the end of the drought-ridden summer of 1976, The Oval had become a wasteland, parched beyond recognition, with slow flat heart-breaking pitches, and it was on this, in the final Test of the season, through the simple device of bowling ramrod-straight at high pace and to a full length, that he conjured 14 wickets for 149, the finest match figures ever by a West Indian. Now in the commentary box, he is gentle but fearless, a rational critic who beguiles with his deep fruity measured Jamaican twang.
Michael Holding travels from AustraliaAustralia
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