By Adam Collins
Have you ever heard Michael Holding compare and rank great bowlers of yesteryear? You haven’t and that is because he doesn’t.
It is one of his trademarks on commentary, arguing that is not fair to measure cricketers who were not contemporaries. Given Whispering Death is arguably the greatest quick to ever lace up the bowling boots (in the semi-finals at least), it is a view listening to.
So, that he told TCP this week that Jimmy Anderson is “top of the pile” of all the swing bowlers he has ever seen, it counts for double! The Jamaican legend was effusive that the skill Anderson brings to the craft cannot be taught; that he’s a truly unique cricketer who remains at the top of his game well beyond the usual sell-by date for seamers.
“He’s absolutely brilliant,” Holding began. “When you talk about swing bowling, he would have to be the top of the pile. He has such great control, that’s what I keep on telling people, it’s a matter of control. If you are swinging the ball a long way and don’t have the control it won’t really matter.”
But even swing and control can’t work on their own forever – especially when a bowler is the wrong side of 36. It’s the huge Anderson engine that completes the trifecta. “He has longevity,” Holding continued, citing the hills that the Lancastrian famously spends his winter running up and down, “because he keeps himself in good condition. He trains hard. Not too many people recognise what happens behind the scenes. So with control combined with his strength and fitness that’s why he has been able to do what he’s been doing.”
Holding’s secondary message is equally clear: don’t expect another Jimmy to arrive just because England is the best place to make the ball talk.
“If it was as simple as that, everyone would be him,” he said. “You either have it or you don’t. It is a matter of someone identifying what you have and building on what you get. It is something you cannot import or be manufactured.” In short: let’s enjoy him while we can.
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