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Have You Heard of the Whispering Death?

By Santo
Kemar Roach, the new West Indian pace bowler, sharing the honors of wrecking havoc on the Sri Lankan team triggers hopes of West Indian cricket revival, or is it a far-fetched dream? West Indies were once, the knightly rulers of the game, game-wise and otherwise. They were extraordinary mortals who played the game with such flamboyance, and they were never short of the sportive spirit that eludes cricketers of many other nations. But on the field, they were a ruthless force trying to decimate the opponents at all times, with all the tricks in the bag, and the gallant pace force that served the West Indian team was a cohesive unit that was skilled in planning and executing the downfall of even the skilled of batsmen with clockwork precision. Have you ever heard of the whispering death?
To most of the followers, this name might sound alien, but to sprint back down my memory lane, I still can recollect the wonderful run-up to the wicket, cutting through the breeze silently, and the pitch-perfect action to deliver those stinging leg cutters, which was the specialty of this man from Jamaica. Dickie Bird, a paragon of umpiring morals and ethics, couldn’t resist the temptation in calling Michael Holding as the ‘Whispering Death’ owing to his silent and gentle glide to reach the wicket and deliver those lethal deliveries, and no doubts, he also had another name tagged to his credentials, as that says, ‘Rolls Royce of fast bowling’ owing to the smooth and wonderful action that any pace bowler would dream to possess.
Many talk about the ball bowled by Shane Warne to dismiss Gatting as the ball of the century, but if the argument is still alive and kicking, I beg to differ from this opinion framed by many. I think there is another person who would agree with me on this front wholeheartedly, who happens to be none other than the productive England opener, Geoff Boycott, who was let into a nerve-wrecking over in the 1981 test at Barbados. Boycott was at his wits end to negotiate the first five deliveries from this lanky pacer, and the sixth delivery was one of the best bowled in test cricket, and Boycott was beaten neck and crop as the off-stump went cartwheeling to take a 20-yard tumble, and Boycott still hasn’t found the reason behind that dismal show.
If my memory serves me right, it was in the series against India in 1983 that Holding bowled another gem of a delivery to dismiss the industrious Ravi Shastri. Though Shastri can’t be called the most illustrious of batsmen to have ignited a spark of interest among the fanatics, he played well within his limits scoring most of his runs off his pads, and the delivery that got Shastri on a dry Indian afternoon at one of the dead Indian pitches was one of the best leg-cutters delivered by a bowler. Shastri was baffled, when the wicketkeeper had reported about the missing bails, as he, as well as many of the spectators were of the opinion that the ball which had pitched way outside the leg stump was going to travel further away, and instead, the delivery came in and kissed the leg stumps to send Shastri on a long walk back to reach the pavilion. Let’s rejoice in the art of pace bowling by digging out such splendid performances from the bowling greats of the past. Holding, is still holding on to that coveted group of pace bowlers, who were merciless in their operations.

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