Michael Holding's commendation video transcript

Michael Holding

RUSS LANGLEY: Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Lieutenant, High Sheriff, Honoured guests, Graduands of 2023 and all of you here today, it gives me great pleasure to be presenting Michael Holding for the award of Honorary Doctor of the University.

Well-known for being one of the greatest bowlers in the history of cricket, Michael Holding is a true sporting legend. He represented the West Indies on more than 100 occasions over the course of 12 years and, on retiring from the sport, he became a popular and well-respected commentator and broadcaster. In recent years he has become a powerful voice on racism.

In 2021, after a distinguished 20-year career in broadcasting, Michael moved to the Cayman Islands to spend more time with his family.

We unfortunately haven't been able to tempt him back to Derby to receive this award in person, but we are delighted that he has sent over a recorded message which we will see shortly.

Born and bred in Jamaica, Michael was a keen sportsman in his youth, regularly playing cricket at school. In 1975, he was selected for the West Indies for the first time and went on to help the team dominate international cricket during the mid-1970s and 80s. His silent, light-footed run-up to the bowling crease earned him the nickname 'Whispering Death'. At one stage, his bowling speed was reaching a remarkable 97 miles per hour, making him one of the fastest bowlers on the planet.

He is still widely regarded as one of the greatest cricketers of all time. In 1976, early in his Test career, he broke the record for the best bowling figures in a Test match by a West Indian bowler, 14 wickets for 149 runs. That record still stands today.

In his domestic career, he played for Derbyshire from 1983 to 1989 and was Derbyshire's Club President in 2017. 

Upon retiring from the game, Michael became a broadcaster and International Cricket Council official. Friends with one of the producers for Radio Jamaica, he was recruited as a cricket commentator and before long, he had moved on to television presenting for Sky Sports and was a regular member of the SuperSport cricket commentary team in South Africa.

In 2020, during a rain delay in the England versus West Indies Test series, he delivered an impromptu, passionate speech about institutional racism which received international acclaim. Discussing the Black Lives Matter movement, he told how his mother's family had disowned her due to the darkness of her husband's skin. His powerful explanation of the realities of racism and discrimination resonated with reviewers across the globe.

His most recent book, Why We Kneel, How We rise, explores racism in sport and delivers a powerful and inspiring message of hope for the future.

Chancellor, in recognition of his outstanding achievements in cricket and his active support for the Black Lives Matter Campaign, we are delighted to award Michael Holding the honorary degree of Doctor of the University.

As mentioned, Michael unfortunately can't be with us today but he has sent a few words in response which we will play for you now on the big screen.

MICHAEL HOLDING: Pro-Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Honoured guests, graduating class of 2023, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.

May I start off by thanking all involved in deciding to honour me with this prestigious award of Honorary Doctor of the University of Derby. It is truly, greatly appreciated.

Who would have thought that when I was approached by Jeff Miller in Australia on England's tour of 1982-83 on behalf of Derbyshire County Cricket Club to join their staff that it would have led to this occasion.

I know the commendation read earlier talked about my overall cricketing achievements, but obviously my association with the county has had an influence on this moment.

I spent a number of years, 1983 through to 1989, at which point I retired from all cricket here at Derbyshire. During that period, each county was allowed two overseas cricketers on the books, but only one could be selected in the final 11 and John Wright and myself shared those duties.

Those of you familiar with Wrighty, as he was affectionately called, will know that he was a top class only batsman and of course with me an opening bowler it was obvious that our games would be enhanced by totally different surfaces.

So, because we could control the preparation of our home pitches, I played all our home games and poor Wrighty had to make out on whatever pitches were prepared for our away games.

Nevertheless, we both had a bit of success and although we weren't in a challenging position for the championship title at season's end, I think coach Bill Russell and the captain Kim Barnett appreciated all present in the team. That appreciation was shown to me quite a few years later when I was invited to be President of the club.

When I was given that honour of being the President of Derbyshire County Cricket Club for the year 2017, I thought I had made it to the top of the mountain here in Derbyshire, but this Honorary degree has truly elevated me much higher.

The commendation also made reference to me supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and again who would have thought that a bit of rain at the right time at the Ageas Bowl would have led to me saying those few words live on Sky and then leading to me writing my book, Why We Kneel, How We Rise.

And to be honest, if asked what I would like to be my legacy, it would not be my cricket or commentary, I would choose those few minutes before start of play at that West Indies England test match, what I have done since with my book and the many organisations and schools that I have addressed on the topic which I hope and believe has had a positive impact on people's minds and lives.

As I said in another television interview the next day, I don't expect to see perfection in race relations happening overnight, but I see movement in the right direction. Hopefully that movement will continue, it may be slow but once it continues we will be heading towards a better world. I have been asked on numerous occasions if I think things are getting better and I know there are doubters out there but to those doubters I say look at me now.

If what I said that morning, what I have written in my book, did not have a positive impact I would not be speaking now and receiving this honorable degree of Doctor of University of Derby. Thanks once again and good luck to all the Graduands as you go out into the wider world and make your impact.

Michael Holding's commendation video

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