Cricket legend at centre of bizarre commentary controversy

Michael Holding threatened to leave the Cricket World Cup after accusing the ICC of 'censoring' its television commentators.

The cricket great sparked headlines around the world when he slammed the umpiring during the West Indies' loss to Australia live on air.

He ridiculed a missed front-foot no ball that paved the way for Chris Gayle to be given out lbw and claimed the umpires were giving in to Australia’s bowlers.

"The umpiring in this game has been atrocious," Holding said on live TV.

He added: "Even when I was playing and you were not as strict as they are now, you were allowed one appeal.

"You don't appeal two, three, four times to the umpire. They are being intimidated which means they (the umpires) are weak. This has been an atrocious bit of umpiring by both."

Chris Gayle was given out three times, successfully reviewing two of the dismissals. Pic: ICC

The Times of India reported that the ICC subsequently sent a memo out to all commentators.

Huw Bevan, the production head of the ICC's rights partner, reminded the callers of "the importance of maintaining the highest standards and uphold the game’s best values and spirit while covering the tournament".

The ICC's duty is "not to cast doubt or negative judgement on anything associated with the tournament in our coverage", the email continued.

"Inherently in live television, there are occasions when on field decisions cause reason for discussion or debate, but as ICC TV host broadcasters, our duty is not to judge or highlight mistakes," it read.

"We had an incident in the (West Indies v Australia match where we highlighted on air during an analysis segment that a no ball should have been called. This is exactly the kind of thing we need to avoid putting on air.

Michael Holding was in hot water with the ICC over his remarks during the West Indies' loss to Australia. Pic: Getty

"Before the event, we went to great pains to explain to you all as senior production and commentary personnel of the need to avoid this kind of thing.

"It’s critical for us that we should never amplify umpires' mistakes by giving air time to those incidents nor show the umpires in bad light.

"We should also be very careful not to look to create controversy around an event or match at any time."

The memo led a number of cricket fans to point out Australia's ball-tampering saga, sparked by eagle-eyed South African cameramen, may have been glossed over under ICC rules.

Having been told to tone it down in future matches, Holding was furious.

"Commentators are being more and more compromised by controlling organisations to the point of censorship," he was quoted as saying by the Times of India.

"If those umpires yesterday were FIFA officials, they would have been told to pack their bags and head home. They would not have been given another World Cup game to officiate.

"As a former cricketer, I think cricket should be held to a higher standard. Is the objective to protect the umpires even when they do a bad job?"

He suggested if the 'censorship' continued then he would consider leaving the tournament "because I don’t agree with what is being suggested here and happy not being part of it".