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History doesn’t travel in a straight line: Why Michael Holding had to deliver his four-minute BLM masterpiece – Sydney Morning Herald

If only lessons, once learnt, would stay learnt.

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Michael Holdings passion emerged as much in weariness as anger. If history travelled in a straight line, Holdings West Indian cricket team would have resolved this issue a generation ago. For nearly 20 years the West Indies were undefeated around the world. In Australia, millions fell in love with the game thanks to those West Indians. Have we ever seen anything as beguiling as the sleek approach of the bowler known as “Whispering Death”? Has there ever been can there ever be a more inspiring sight on a cricket field than Viv Richards?
Australians even cheered for the West Indies against our own, and it wasnt just admiration for their athleticism. They had the most intelligent tactical brains and leaders in Clive Lloyd and Richards. Ruthlessly competitive, they outsmarted everyone. They produced post-career statesmen and leaders and, in Holding, the No. 1 broadcast analyst. They put sport at the leading edge of the battle against racism, just as Sir Frank Worrells inspirational leadership had done in the early 1960s.
For us Australian kids idolising the West Indians, why would we ask if black lives matter? Are you kidding? They were our heroes and to watch them was to learn from them. We would have traded anything to be Holding. We were aware of their political edge and respected it even when we didnt have the words for it.
Famously, the West Indian cricket flame was lit by a comment from Tony Greig, the South African-born England captain, in 1976, that England would “make them grovel”. England would not beat the West Indies for another 24 years.
Those West Indians oozed politics, which produced complications that we innocents could observe but never experience. Certainly we could never walk in the shoes of men like Holding and Richards, who continued to suffer from racism while we continued to idolise them as conquerors of the world. The ramifications went on, out of the public eye. West Indian cricket was ruptured when some cricketers toured apartheid South Africa. As Ashley Grey documents in his moving new book The Unforgiven, many of the “rebels” never overcame the stigma of having taken money from a pariah country.
Sports makes these two sides visible and dramatic. This month, the National Rugby League and Australian Football League will hold their annual Indigenous rounds. They and other sports restarting after COVID-19 have shown solidarity with the BLM protests.
Illustration: Jim PavlidisCredit:
They can point to their success in showcasing Indigenous players as being a step ahead of society, while also acknowledging the prejudices that follow them. The two sides of Adam Goodess career, the lash and the backlash, continue to be replicated for those, like leagues Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker, who have worn their political hearts on their sleeves. If history travelled in a straight line, these lessons would, once learnt, stay learnt. But it spirals and circles, its shadows squirming beneath the skin.
On Thursday, Holding was joined by Ebony Rainford-Brent, a 36-year-old cricket international who remembered the “constant drip, drip” of racism in her career. As with Holding, her words were permeated by weariness. This? Again? But historys illusion is that dramatic achievements and significant individuals can end the argument. Holding said, “We need to go back and teach both sides of history and until we do that and educate the entire human race this thing will not stop”.
He knows there is no such thing as educating the entire human race. History never arrives. In a month, the racist bear beneath Australian sports, poked again, will ask why we need an Indigenous round, why dont you get over it, and until they hear the words, “You never get over it”, they wont get over it either.
Malcolm Knox is a journalist, author and columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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