FORMER Australian cricketer Robert Holland is being remembered as a gentleman of the game whose smile and calm demeanor belied a fiercely competitive bowler.
Holland, 70, passed away on Sunday after battling brain cancer.
Two nights earlier, Holland had sat “with a smile on his face all night long” as former team-mates, opponents and friends swapped memories at a benefit night in his honour at Toronto Workers Club.
There were many kind words said about the former leg-spinner, but it was a remark from former Australian cricket captain Mark Taylor about Holland that resonated with every cricketer in the room.
Toronto Workers Cricket Club president Aaron Gray said Taylor was taking part in a panel discussion alongside Paul Wilson, Michael Hill and Greg Singleton. Much of the talk had been about Holland’s gentlemanly nature and generosity of spirit.
“Mark Taylor then finished it off by saying ‘Yes, Robert is all of those things, but he was also a dogged and fierce competitor. He just did it differently’.”
Taylor explained that Holland wasn’t one for sledging.
“He said that Robert loved a challenge, loved taking on a batsman, and loved trying to get them out. He just did it differently. He did it with a grin on his face, and a wink in his eye, and he was very successful,” Gray said.
Holland’s was an approach that challenged the modern notion of what it means to play “aggressive cricket”, as his weapons were an attacking strategy, control, guile and talent.
Gray said Holland’s passing had hit the cricket community hard.
“People were shocked when they heard the news because they were still on a high from Friday night,” he said.
The club was in mourning, but already planning ways in which it could honour Holland forever, he said.
“The club just wants to acknowledge the profound impact that Robert has had on this club, and cricket in general. Our club wouldn’t be what it is today without him.
“And one of his many lasting legacies is our junior club, which Robert was one of the primary founders of.”