Published: 16th July, 2017
Earlier this year, cricketing periodical the Nightwatchman published a special edition in honour of The Oval’s impending 100th Test, which is now less than two weeks away.
The issue is still available to buy for just £10, but over the next ten days we will be publishing short extracts from some of its finest articles, where some of the world’s finest cricket journalists have unburdened their soul on what makes our ground such a wonderful and special place.
Today, it’s the turn of West Indian legend, Michael Holding.
Our home away from home
Michael Holding reflects on the socio-political dimensions of the win in ’76
When we heard what Tony Greig had to say before the series, we decided to send him and the England team a clear message: what he thought when he used that word – grovel – was definitely not the case. He was trying to imply that when things go well for us, we are happy and jolly but as soon as things get tough, we crumble. As things went, West Indies had a fitting response for England, and we had won the series 2-0 even before we got to The Oval for the fifth and final Test. So when he went down on his knees after West Indies declared in the second innings at The Oval and it was England’s turn to bat again, he pretty much crawled off the field.
I was surprised when he did that, but it showed the nature of the man. He was responding to the crowd shouting: “Grovel, Greigy, grovel!” A lot of people in those days, including the West Indians and I, thought: Tony Greig – white, born and raised in South Africa, he must have been aware of the racist connotations of the word when he said it. But when he got down on his knees, he dispelled those rumours and thoughts. If he was being racist, he certainly wouldn’t have grovelled. Later on in life – in those days the opportunity never arose to have much conversation – he recognised and admitted that he had made a mistake and that he didn’t understand the full extent of what it meant.
The wicket I enjoyed taking the most in that game was Tony Greig’s. Every time we got Tony out in that series because of his comments it was very, very heartening. Lawrence Rowe didn’t play too badly in that Test match either [he scored 70], but nobody remembers the runs he got because of Viv’s score . Then, there was the second-innings partnership between Fredericks and Greenidge when we went back out there to get some more runs – that was fantastic batting by the two of them as well. We had some incredible performances in that Test.