John Holder on the Sabina Park pitch of 1998

3rd November 2015

Overthrows  – backing up strong returns

I had feedback yesterday from John Holder regarding our most recent edition of  Willow in the WIndies‘:

Hi David,

Yet another interesting, thought provoking blog but I must take issue about the comments from you and Reds about that disgraceful Sabina Park pitch when Steve Bucknor and his colleague abandoned the match. The pitch was POOR and DANGEROUS. The speed and hostility of Walsh and Ambrose were irrelevant. The problem was the grossly erratic bounce with balls whizzing past Atherton and Stewart’s nostrils then shooting along at ground level from the same length. Whoever prepared the pitch, or advised the groundsman and the WICB were to blame. I saw several close-ups of the surface which was corrugated. Having re-laid the pitch, the authorities should have made sure that cricket was played on it to check the trueness of the bounce. Clearly that did not happen, yet another example of maladministration, typical of the WICB.

We are presently having a glorious autumn, more of an Indian Autumn that an Indian Summer.

Best wishes


I replied:

Hi John

You are right!

In my natural, but hasty, desire to not disagree with Reds, I failed to reflect my own personal opinion (and that of other shrewd judges like yourself!) that it was indeed poor.

May I append your comments to the blog for the sake of balance? And of course because you are actually right!

Very best


To which he assented:

Hi David,

That is not a problem. You may do that. The other pitch in 2009 at the Viv Richards Oval was even worse in that the entire outfield was dangerous. I was there, working for ICC and went onto the ground afterwards with Winston Benjamin. There were patches with grass and others bare with just sand. Benjy pushed a metal spike which he was holding into a patch of sand. It was loose and the spike went in almost a foot. Had someone running stepped there, he would likely have twisted or broken an ankle. Neither team nor the referee and umpires has been allowed onto the field till the morning of the match. Someone should have smelled a rat. Yet another case of maladministration.

Best wishes


And I concluded:

Thanks John.

Will probably just publish this whole illuminating conversation!

Great to have your inside insights!



John Holder is a highly respected former international umpire, who stood in Tests & ODIs between 1988-2001, and in 1st-class cricket from 1982-2009. He was also the innovative mind behind the introduction of the ‘bowl-out’ to settle washed out one-day games.


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