RAJESH KUMAR - Cricket Statisticians
Test of Character - The story of John Holder, Fast Bowler and Test Match Umpire
Test of Character - The story of John Holder, Fast Bowler and Test Match Umpire by Andrew Murtagh

Published by Pitch Publishing Ltd.
A2 Yeoman Gate, Yeoman Way, Worthing, Sussex BN13 3QZ

Web: pitchpublishing.co.uk

Hardcover 352 Pages
RRP: Sterling Pounds 18.99
ISBN 978 178531 1772 

Andrew Murtagh, who had written A Remarkable Man, The Story of George Chesterton, short-listed for the MCC Cricket Society Book of the Year, Touched by Greatness, The Story of Tom Graveney, England's Much Loved Cricketer and Sundial in the Shade, The Story of Barry Richards, The Genius Lost to Test Cricket, has just brought out his latest book on John Holder.

The Barbados-born Holder, who had appeared in first-class cricket for Hampshire as a right-arm seamer between 1968 and 1972, stood in eleven Tests and 19 ODIs between 1988 and 2001.

His best season as a bowler was in 1970 when he claimed 55 wickets at 23.27 runs apiece in fifteen first-class matches. His most remarkable performance had come in June 1972, capturing 6 for 49 in the first innings followed by 7 for 79 for Hampshire against Gloucestershire at Wagon Works Ground, Gloucester - a match lost by Hampshire by two wickets. His match figures of 13 for 128 are his best ever in first-class cricket.

A month later in July 1972, playing against Kent at County Ground, Southampton, Holder had dismissed Graham Johnson, Asif Iqbal and Bernad Julien to accomplish a hat-trick.

A back injury and loss of form hastened his retirement brought his county career to a close. What better way to stay in touch than to become an umpire?

Michael Holding, West Indies fast bowler and TV commentator, in his foreword, says: "There aren't too many umpires out there that can claim to have given Sachin Tendulkar batting advice. John Holder did that in Tendulkar's debut Test, on a green top in Karachi in 1989 - "Take your time" was the gist of it. Those were the days when umpires not only officiated but saw themselves as nurturers and I can say I have been the beneficiary myself of advice as a young man from umpires in those long-ago days. Those four India-Pakistan Tests were the high watermark of John's white-coat career, as he and John Hampshire became only the second set of neutral umpires to officiate in a Test series."

In a question as to 'were you ever approached, in your role as an umpire, to influence matches for financial reward?', Holder's answer was in affirmative but he regretted not to have reported the matter to the authorities. "I really wasn't sure what to do. There wasn't the mechanism in place then to report something like that, as there is now. And in fairness, I believed it was a one-off, a rogue element at work in that part of the world."

Off the field, John was possibly the most popular member of the Hampshire playing staff, according to Andrew Murtagh. "The supporters loved him too, because he was prepared to sign autographs, at length and willingly, always accompanied by a friendly word. He would engage in cheerful banter with them on the boundary edge and chat to them patiently whenever he was buttonholed. Groundsmen, gatemen, dressing-room attendants, office staff, pub landlords, hotel doormen, receptionists, maids, cleaning ladies, all fell under his spell. He was one of those rare charmers who appealed to both sexes. Men admired him for his athletic prowess and liked him for his engaging and humorous company. Women just swooned. And everyone recognised his booming laugh, audible at a hundred paces."

After reporting the ball tampering incident by one of England players to Graham Gooch, England Captain during the Oval Test between West Indies and England in 1991, he got an opportunity to umpire after a decade - in his eleventh and final Test in 2001 - England vs Australia at Lord's.