RISHTON clearly has a thing about fast bowlers. Aussie seamer Jason Gillespie and former South African paceman Allan Donald have both appeared for the club while even the legendary Sydney Barnes, regarded as one of the greatest of all time, once called Blackburn Road home.

But 40 years ago this summer it was the turn of a 27-year-old Jamaican who arrived in Lancashire fresh from bowling what many regard as the finest over ever to England's Geoff Boycott at the Kensington Oval just a few weeks previously.

"I had some good times at Rishton," said Michael Holding, thinking back to his unlikely spell at the club. "There were more good times off the field than on the field because everywhere I went it was just so wet.

"It was certainly not comfortable playing a cricket match in the Lancashire League."

Michael had been tempted to Rishton by then-chairman Wilf Woodhouse who had promised him £5,000 to turn out for the club every weekend.

It was a huge sum of money for a professional and the West Indian agreed to leave his job with the Jamaican Government and join fellow internationals Andy Roberts and Franklyn Stephenson in the Lancashire League that season.

Making his debut against Ramsbottom, before the following week's fixture against Colne was called off due to snow, the man nicknamed 'whispering death' had to make a quick adjustment to his change of surroundings.

"Even when it did not rain you would turn up at the ground and it would still be wet because I think they thought if they kept the pitches wet I would be less effective." said Michael, who finished the season with with 86 wickets at 10.74. "I'm not complaining about how I did but I'll complain about the conditions under which I played.

"But the chairman was a good man and he and his wife looked after me well and I had great times with the wicketkeeper Frank (Martindale) and Ian Whalley who came to Jamaica to spend time with me and my parents - that was the kind of relationship we had."

Regarded as one of the greatest bowlers in Test cricket history, Michael is now known to whole new generation as a commentator for Sky Sports and it was in this capacity that he hit the headlines across the world last year after giving a powerful and personal testimony of his experience of racism in the response to the Black Lives Matter movement and the murder of George Floyd.

"I had no idea about the reaction," he said. "I didn't know if people were going to be accepting of what I said or be sceptical.

"What I know was that I was speaking facts and as I kept saying these were things that could be searched on any search engine you wanted and you could get to know about them."

As the 67-year-old spoke, he sought not only to educate but to propose a way forward that inspired and within minutes, he was receiving calls from famous sports stars from around the world offering to help him to spread the message further.

An idea for a book quickly materialised and now sees the publication of Why We Kneel How We Rise in which the former cricketer explains how racism de-humanises people; how it works to achieve that end; how it has been ignored by history and historians; and what it is like to be treated differently just because of the colour of your skin.

"To say I was surprised at the volume of positive feedback I received from around the world after my comments on Sky Sports is an understatement," said Michael. "I came to realise I couldn’t just stop there; I had to take it forward – hence the book, as I believe education is the way forward.

"I hope when people read this book they absorb the content and realise that this is about educating people and letting them know that the education that I got as a young man was totally false.

"We need to educate the entire world about what is happening because this world is sick and it needs fixing."

Featuring conversations with sporting legends, including Usain Bolt, Michael Johnson, Thierry Henry , Makhaya Ntini, Naomi Osaka and Hope Powell, the book shares Michael's story together with those of some of the most iconic athletes in the world.

"Thierry got in touch with Sky and asked for my number because he wanted to talk to me," he said. "We had a good long chat and that point there was no talk about book - it was just two sportsmen who had shared similar experiences. His were much worse than mine.

"If I was just going to write about these people's experiences I could fill five encyclopaedias but what I wanted people to understand was that it doesn't matter about your background or your fame or how rich you, once you have black skin you have similar experiences.

"The skin is the commonality with it all but I also want people to learn about this history of mankind and why there is racism. Why did it start in the first place and what forced this same false narrative to continue?

"The only time fame matters is when the people around you know who you are. Thierry talked to me about when he went to play in New York and he went straight back to just being another black man."

Interestingly Michael says he has no memory of experiencing racism during his time in Lancashire neither with Rishton or in the appearances he made for the county.

"I didn't experience any racism at all," he said. "In fact I experienced less racism up north than I did down south."

Something of a reluctant spokesperson, Michael is looking forward to getting back to the day job with Sky where he'll be commentating on England's Test series with India later this summer.

"The publishers have organised a whole load of interviews up until August when I go back to being a cricket commentator," he added. "I've told them after that I don't want to hear anything about a book.

"I want to get back to doing my job and I think it'll be an interesting series. India have had a taste of English conditions in the World Test Championships so they should be a bit more prepared.

"I just hope the sun will shine and we have proper weather for cricket!"