John Holder on Chappell, Gayle and DRS

15th January 2016

Patrolling the Boundary  – a view from the outfield

It’s always a delight to hear from former international umpire John Holder. His views are always strong – and honest!

He dropped me a line recently in response to Ian Chappell’s remarks about Chris Gayle – which unfortunately got held up in the internet wires between him in Lancashire and me here in Islamabad – but they’re still a timely observation on the sort of opinions that emanate regularly from the ‘expert’ ex-player driven cricket media.

But before reading that below, I want to flag up an interview John did elsewhere this week with Alan Biggs for the football website You Are the Ref, which among other things regularly sets readers little posers about soccer’s laws. John is the adjudicator for the sister cricket-version of the conundrums, You Are the Umpire. John’s interview, in which he talks candidly about the game, and in particular his mis-trust of DRS (the Decision Review System) can be viewed here:

Interestingly, John refers early on to ‘an Australian blog’ which recently talked about the particular inefficiencies of DRS, and its use. He is surely referring to Dennis Freedman’s recent short video on the subject, which I recommend you watch here:

Interestingly, both Dennis and John are unhappy with DRS, and ball-tracking in particular. Ironically though, I think John’s major objection is a mistrust of the system’s accuracy, while Dennis highlights the mystifying halfway-house way (or could I introduce the term ‘Bob Cunis-way’?) of utilising it.

In any case, I agree with both that the current implementation of ball-tracking, and the whole Decision Review System itself, is hugely flawed.

Before leaving Dennis, and sharing with you John’s recent comments, I would like to provide a link to Dennis’ regular podcast cricket show, Can’t Bowl, Can’t Throw. Just before Christmas he had the legendary Henry Blofeld as his featured guest. This year began much lower-down the batting order: joining him for his first show in 2016 was me. We chatted about things including the Chris Gayle affair and the West Indies’ recent tour of Australia. You can listen to that show here:

Anyway, we return to John Holder, and with a brief little imaginary fanfare, here are his thoughts in response to Ian Chappell’s comments about Chris Gayle:

Ian Chappell’s outburst saying that cricket boards around the world should ban Chris Gayle from playing in their tournaments is an over reaction which is way over the top.

It also comes from someone whose behaviour at times was crude, leaving much to be desired.

One infamous incident occurred when he was commentating on a cricket match.

There was a break in play and not realising that the microphone was still live, Chappell made a foul mouthed outburst, as a result of which the TV company banned him from broadcasting.

In 1977 Chappell captained an invitation XI at St Anne’s Cricket Club in a benefit match for Clive Lloyd.

I played in the match which was against Lancashire XI. Our team batted second and Chappell batted at No 3. While waiting to bat, Chappell sat with his pads and gloves on. There were dozens of young children milling around looking for autographs. They repeatedly asked Chappell for his autograph but he refused, saying that he had his gloves on waiting to bat.

After the children continued to pester him to sign, he told them audibly to “F… Off”.

The children were taken aback and some went and complained to their parents. Chappell aggressively said to the complaining parents: “You can F… Off too”.

Chris Gayle is not one of my favourite people and I have no desire to defend him. His remarks to the female interviewer showed a complete lack of intelligence. His attempt to be a Don Juan publicly made him appear to be a complete muppet and the £5000 fine should be the end of the matter.

Chappell should remember that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

I replied to John:

I entirely agree with your comments!!

Isn’t it amazing how so many guys who get paid handsomely in the commentary box, or in the papers or on the internet, seem to conveniently forget their oh-so-often appalling behaviour when they were younger and more idiotic cricketers and men?

The obvious examples are Botham, Willis, Warne – and as you say, Chappell too. I’ve heard stories that he was quite an unpleasant piece of work, but hadn’t heard that story from you or elsewhere before. It does not surprise me!!

Personally, I entirely agree with Chappell’s comments – I’d ban Gayle. I think he’s an abysmal role-model for young players, and highlights the worst aspects of modern cricket and society.

It is of course highly ironic where this condemnation stems from, though.

Maybe ‘takes one, to know one?’

John responded:

You are correct about former players who behaved badly, now being holier than thou and being complete hypocrites. Part of the problem is that Sky encourages them to be controversial. One former manager said that controversy sells Sky dishes.

Much as I have no time for Gayle, I do not think he should be banned. He has recently been reported to have said that he wants to play Test cricket for the WI this year!! Not too many years ago he made that crass statement at a press conference here that it did not bother him if Test cricket ceased to exist and he was the captain!!

I concluded:

I can’t believe we’ll see Gayle play Tests again. To be fair to him (unlike DJ Bravo, Russell, Pollard, L Simmons etc) he just isn’t fit enough to play 1st-class cricket anymore. True, he’s done little to try and improve his fitness, but his back barely lets him take easy singles, let alone field for the WIndies for 2 days!

Good memory re his comments ahead of the WI tour of England (2007 I think?) – I think MANY attitudes towards proper cricket amongst young Caribbean men were reflected by, and influenced by, those cretinous comments.

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.

John is also, of course, the ‘adjudicator’ in The Observer’s hugely popular weekly column ‘You Are the Umpire’. You can find all of the 2015 season’s ‘posers’, which John skillfully gives his verdict upon, here.


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