Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Follow the Trace | That Miller vs Holding debate

Published:Thursday | April 20, 2017 | 4:00 AM
Michael Holding
Nikita Miller
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Respect is due, and accolades are in order for Jamaica's cricket captain and left-arm spinner, Nikita Miller, who continues his impressive run of form as a regional wicket taker. Miller is the first bowler in the history of regional cricket to hit the 400 mark. He has also surpassed the 50-wicket mark this season, and his wickets have come at below 16 runs per wicket.

Over the past several weeks, however, some pundits and fans have got totally carried away in their blanket declaration of Miller as the greatest regional bowler ever, implicitly suggesting that the Jamaican is the best bowler to have played regional cricket. That is a false interpretation of the statistics and is thus a totally incorrect conclusion.

Things got even worse when the moot question was posited that with Miller's regional numbers so comparatively brilliant, in a hypothetical scenario of a regional cricket game to save one's life, if given a choice between selecting Nikita Miller or Michael Holding, which bowler would you choose to play in this life-and-death encounter? Some pundits and fans actually affirmed they would select Miller ahead of Holding.

Aside from implicit suicidal path in that choice, that dynamic also took the discussion into the realm of blasphemy. The very thought of selecting Miller ahead of Holding for any form and level of cricket is downright imbecilic. Having seen the folly of their argument the perpetuators of this nonsense attempted desperately to shift the goal post by hastily adding the clause that the choice must be based on regional bowling statistics only. Thus forget or ignore all we know about Michael Holding, another desperate clutching at straws.

Fundamentally, Miller's wicket-taking exploits are by and large in regional cricket in an era when batting in the region has been embarrassingly pathetic, which explains the inflated and exaggerated effectiveness of the regional bowlers, especially the spinners, who led by Nikita Miller, have snared the lion's share of the wickets over the last decade and a half. With all due respect to the Jamaican skipper his wicket-taking returns is more an index of the inept batting skills of the batsmen of this era, than is of his brilliance as a bowler.

 

SIGNIFICANT DISPARITY

 

Holding's exploits as one of the greatest fast bowlers in the history of the game, saw him ending up with 249 Test wickets achieved in an era when regional and international batsmen were significantly more highly skilled and productive. The key factor in that hypothetical life-and-death game scenario is that Holding's success was at the superior international level while Miller's success was the lower regional level with a significant disparity in the batting skills between the two eras. It then smacks a lack of basic understanding of sport generally and cricket in particular that any sane person would look at Miller's regional figures in isolation and then opt to select Miller ahead of Holding on that basis.

Contextually as well, it must be remembered that comparatively, Holding never played much regional cricket while at his peak, he was busy on international duty and subsequently playing county cricket in England. The majority of Holding's regional appearances were early in the developmental stages of his career and then at the back end of his playing days when he was well past his peak, and retired from international cricket.

This entire debate has once again proven how misleading and overrated statistics can be in sports analysis. Otherwise well-thinking pundits have descended to the level of self-induced ridicule after indulging in another dangerous exercise of Google analysis, resulting in some of these embarrassing and blasphemous pronouncements.