'West Indian kids have new heroes to look up to'
Siddhartha Talya: Hello and welcome once again to Bowl at Boycs. I'm Siddhartha Talya and speaking to me today, as usual, from his home in Jersey is Geoffrey Boycott. Morning Geoffrey. We had a compact, short but exciting tournament, the World Twenty20. Enjoyed it?
Geoffrey Boycott: I watched quite a lot of the matches and I knew it would be a good tournament because it was kept on the shortish side. These tournaments can get too long and I thought it was just about right. It was interesting. I know the Sri Lankans love their cricket, and India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka were favourites because in the conditions in their own countries, they are pretty good, with the slow turn and with batsmen who are good against it. I'm not surprised one of them made it to the final. In fact, they were the favourites.
ST: Yes, we had a full house at the Premadasa for the final but unfortunately for them, Sri Lanka ended up on the losing side. Our first question is about the World Twenty20, it's from Jason, a happy West Indian writing from Guyana. He asks: What next for West Indies cricket? Their fans have been starved of success for many years. Where do you see the game going from here in the Caribbean? Surely, West Indies winning was a great result for the game.
GB: Jason, you are spot on. But I think we're all pleased for cricket that a side like West Indies, which has been down in the doldrums a bit, has won. Their Test cricket has been pretty ordinary in recent times. It hasn't been great probably over the last ten years. West Indies cricket needed a boost and it's got it. If it gets kids playing cricket more, because they see West Indies as world champions of T20 cricket, then that's great. If more kids take it up, that's fantastic.
I played Test cricket mainly, not a lot of one-day cricket. I'm not one of those who think cricket's just about Tests. In my opinion, if the youngsters of the West Indies see T20 and 50-over cricket as the cricket that they want to play in the future rather than Tests, in some ways it's a little bit sad but in another way, who cares. Above all, we want youngsters to start playing cricket. We want to see them enjoying the game, playing it, loving it, just like we used to as kids, instead of sitting watching television or being on computers all the time. We should never be picky about what type of cricket is played.
If you think back, when I was a kid, the first cricket I ever played was 20-over cricket. We didn't have time to play a Test match. It was a 20-over competition where a guy kept wicket and all the rest of us could bowl two overs each, which was brilliant because it got every kid in the game. The wicketkeeper's in the game all the time, and if you don't bowl first, you know eventually you're going to get your two overs. So it really was a team game where you all had to have a bowl, and then you had to retire after you made 25 runs.
It's a brilliant idea because the big thing about kids playing cricket is that you get two or three who are really good and they hog the bowling and hog the batting, and all some kids do is watch them bat and bowl and just field. There's no fun involved. You have to get kids involved.
And now, these West Indian kids, all over the islands, they've got heroes they can look up to. They've got heroes they can want to emulate. That's what we're all about. The guy I liked when I was a kid was Tom Graveney, the great English batsman with 120-odd hundreds. Now they've got guys who can hit the ball, play great T20 cricket. They've seen West Indies win, they've seen it on TV and they can rightly now say: West Indies are champions of the world in T20, and they're the best. That's what matters. All West Indies will rejoice and, hopefully, kids will want to get out there and hope to play 20-over cricket like some of their heroes.
ST: So much at one point seemed to depend on Chris Gayle, Geoffrey, but other players have come to the fore as well. Marlon Samuels won them the final…
GB: Samuels was brilliant throughout the tournament. He's always had talent, if you go back a long time. When he was kid, I used to commentate a lot in the West Indies like I used to commentate in India. He was a brilliant youngster. Then, somewhere, he lost his way but he's come back again. Look at Dwayne Bravo. When fit, he is a wonderful allrounder. Maybe he didn't have exceptional performances in this tournament, but he's a fantastic player. Then there's their spinner, Sunil Narine. They've got enough people to look out for, to like and look up to and want to emulate. That's what it's about. You just want heroes. That's why I think it's so important that the national game of each country is seen, in that country on television, for the kids to see their heroes and the national team.
ST: There's been some resolution in England cricket and related to that is a question from Noel in the UK. He says: Kevin Pietersen's back in the England fold, but there are now claims by the ECB that he was provoked by South African players into sending those messages that led to them being dropped. Cricket South Africa has denied this, but the saga seems to be continuing in the background. What do you make of all this?
GB: How do you provoke someone? Sorry, I don't believe it, but how do you provoke someone to send a text? In fact, I ask the question: Why are you texting the opposition? I don't get it. You are playing against the opposition. You are playing against South Africa, I don't care if you were born there. The opposition aren't your friends when you're playing against them. I'm not saying they're your enemies, but they are your opponents. They want to knock you out, they want to get you out.
It's not as if South Africa treated him really well when he was there. He was sacked, remember, when he played for Natal, because they thought he wasn't good enough. I'm sure that didn't go down too well, it never has. And when he first played for England, against South Africa in South Africa, he got boos and cat-calls and terrible things were being shouted by the public. I was there watching. I think he played brilliantly, he got three hundreds in the one-dayers. And certain South African players, one was the captain of South Africa, would give him a real earful or mouthful when he was batting. So, when he first played against South Africa, they weren't very nice to him. They were not his friends.
I do think it's possible, as we move on and he plays, he's played in the IPL in other countries… when you play in the IPL in India, you play with people from other countries in your team. So you get on with them much more as team members, because then you have to treat them as your colleagues. With so many international one-day tournaments around the world, I do get it that, particularly in the IPL, that players from other countries are going to become friendlier. And you can become team-mates at that moment when you're playing, in another country, in a different team.
But, surely, when you come back and play for your country, your national side, against somebody else, you don't fraternise much. Certainly, you don't share anything to do with cricket. If you met them socially at a function or a bar, you would say hello and what have you and have a drink but you don't fraternise about the cricket there, you're on opposite sides. Most cricketers would say, "Yes, I know him, I get on with him, a beer just now and again, but I keep it at arm's length. I'm actually on the other side." I really don't believe he was provoked and I don't believe how you can provoke somebody, not into saying something that's not nice about the England captain.
Remember, he did apologise about what he said about the England captain. He apologised to the England captain. He apologised to cricket lovers in England, to the officials of the ECB. If you apologise, you apologise because you've done something wrong. Whatever it is, you can all speculate, but he must have done something, else there's no point in him apologising.
ST: Next up is a question about captaincy and it comes from Mr Ramki in India. He says: Douglas Jardine was known to be an aggressive captain, so was [Mansur Ali Khan] Pataudi. Who are some of the modern captains in recent times that you thought have stood out for their attacking captaincy? Can you think of someone who didn't have the strongest of teams, but remained attacking against the best of sides?
GB: It's a good question, Ramki. Look, it's very easy to captain a great side. Look at West Indies, and that's not putting Clive Lloyd down, I love him to bits. I've played a lot against him - Yorkshire v Lancashire, England v West Indies. With respect, Clive did a brilliant job, but they were a brilliant side, weren't they? But you're not asking me that sort of question.
Somebody like Ian Chappell. He took over in the last Test match, when England were winning the Ashes, and they did win it, in 1970-71. He took over in the last Test, which we won in Sydney. That's the Test I couldn't play; I broke my arm a few days before, hit by a Graham McKenzie ball. He took them over, came to England in 1972, they drew with England. He took them to the West Indies after that, and they beat West Indies there. That was when [Dennis] Lillee broke down, in '72 in the first Test. He didn't take a wicket, broke down with his back. He had bowlers like Jeff Hammond, who was a decent fast bowler but played one or two Tests, Max Walker, decent medium-pacer and a good bowler, Max, and Kerry O'Keefe and Terry Jenner, the legspinners. Again, they were decent bowlers but not in the great class of Shane Warne. So he [Chappell] didn't have anybody there that was great as bowlers and they beat West Indies 2-0.
That was a pretty good performance, and they played against the Rest of the World as well. He did well there against a really talented side. The guy had something. He was a good batsman as well, was a positive captain and could lead his players.
Brian Close, for me, did great, in 1966 in England. Colin Cowdrey, being captain of England, we'd lost three Test matches out of four. West Indies were 3-0 up, one Test left, they gave Close the captaincy for the last Test at The Oval. Everybody was down a bit, we'd been beaten handsomely, they were a far better side with [Garry] Sobers at his best, a great player and others like [Rohan] Kanhai. There were five changes, changes he wanted. His attitude, right from the first time we met up the day before for nets, for a team meeting, he just believed we could win. Forget about the other Test matches, he said. Forget about the fact that Sobers was the best player in the world, "We can get him out." He just talked very sensibly about it, and we won handsomely. We really did win and that was a splendid effort.
Any question on captaincy for me, Imran Khan is my favourite, always. Everything he did, nearly always, trying for wickets… when he had the legspinner Abdul Qadir, he really didn't like to bowl him negatively, tried to bowl him to get wickets all the time. And quite frankly, he had to be so strong, aggressive and positive because anybody who's having to handle a Pakistan team is going to have to act like God. That is probably the toughest job in world cricket. When you get the job in Pakistan - they're so headstrong are many of the players, so many ex-players try to interfere, there's political interference from ministers and people - that's the most nightmare scenario to captain in Pakistan. I thought at the time he did it, he was absolutely and unbelievably brilliant.
ST: Many Indians would like to know what you think of Sourav Ganguly's captaincy. He had a good team, but he took over after the match-fixing controversy and Indian cricket was in some turmoil at that point in time. He's been credited with reversing the fortunes of the Indian team, so what do you make of him?
GB: You are right there. But I have to be careful mentioning Sourav because I deem him one of my best friends, like Sunny Gavaskar. I love him dearly. I think he did a fantastic job. People sometimes criticise him but I like him. There are miles more plusses in Sourav than there are minuses. None of us are perfect. We've all made mistakes.
Sourav did a brilliant job, and he did it without throwing his weight around. I always feel that with Indian people and players, you get more out of them with honey and sugar than you will with the stick and the carrot. Shouting at them and getting mad at them doesn't really work. You've got to use some commonsense, honey and sugar, I call it. He pulled them all together, showed he wasn't frightened of anybody else in the world as a captain. He was a good player without being one of the greats. He'd got [Rahul] Dravid and [Sachin] Tendulkar, who was magic at that time, [VVS] Laxman, who is a dream player. So he did have some very, very talented batsmen. Bowling - so-so, not bad, but he didn't have anything special. What he did was pull it all together in a way in which he showed great leadership qualities. That's the key.
Sometimes, you get people who get thrust into a job. Maybe they want the job, maybe it just happens. And they themselves don't know if they're going to be good at it. They hope they will be. We just had one, Andrew Strauss. Tactically, I don't think he's very good. I don't think he's ever been great at that. I can think of many people [who were]: Mark Taylor of Australia was brilliant, Ian Chappell got close, [Ray] Illingworth, [Mike] Brearely, Imran Khan, miles better. But when he got the job, he had the ability to get the best out of the players. They wanted to play for him, they didn't want to let him down. Now, that's a gift. If you get players who don't want to let the captain down, they want to do the best, that means they're going to get the best out of themselves and the team's getting the best out of them. That's a gift, you don't always know until it's thrust on you.
Sourav was like that. He wasn't the best player, by a long way. Not with Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman in the side. But he had this ability to pull people together and he did a fantastic job.
ST: Geoffrey's favourite question this show comes from Ketul in Hong Kong. He says: I saw a couple of spin bowlers stopping before delivering the ball, on occasion, in the World Twenty20. One is R Ashwin, the other is Mohammad Hafeez. It breaks the batsman's concentration. Is it the right thing to do, or is it the same, in a way, as a batsman shuffling back and forth before a ball is delivered to play on a bowler's mind?
GB: Well done Ketul, you've been watching very carefully. You're right. What's the difference between a batsman changing his stance or grip, to play the reverse-sweep or the reverse-hit. Not a lot, is there? You're right. Nobody stops the batsman from moving around in the crease when he's trying to upset the bowler. What about when you charge the bowler? When somebody suddenly charges down at him just as he's going to deliver.
Anything that gets the bowler or batsman the advantage, and it's not against the law or spirit of the game, in my opinion is okay. We have to remember that throughout history, cricket has always changed. It's not stayed the same for 200 years. Only a few years ago, nobody ever thought of the reverse-sweep or the reverse-hit. Or even the scoop. So you can't play these shots unless you move before the bowler bowls. If you wait for him to deliver, it's too late to get in position to do it, so you've got to be premeditating it.
Spinners used to bowl orthodox, didn't they? And all they had, which was something different, was an arm ball. But now, there are so many bowlers, from different countries, all over the world, who can bowl the doosra. So that's been the big development. Batting, bowling, they've always developed.
So maybe the next development is bowlers, like you've seen, changing their run-up, stopping, then starting, to put the batsman off. Think of it as football. What happens in football when you see some people take a penalty? They run a yard or two, they stop, see if the goalkeeper's going to dive one way and then just pop it into the side quite easily, don't they? Maybe we'll see more bowlers doing a, sort of, swerve in the middle, or trying to weave into the middle of the run-up, instead of running straight, just get behind the umpire and spoil the view of the batsman of the bowler running up. There's nothing in the laws that says you can't do that, is there? He loses sight of you a fraction, then you come in to deliver. If that upsets the batsman, too bad. It's up to him to deal with it.
Do you remember Jeff Thomson when he first came on the scene? When he bowled, his right arm, which held the ball, went back and it hid behind his body. Normally, when the arm comes over, you can see the ball coming all the way coming round to deliver it. Thomson had this slinging action where the arm, catapult like, went behind the body and you couldn't see it. Some batsmen - not all - found that distracting. And different. But it wasn't illegal. It wasn't wrong. It was his natural way of bowling. And again, there'll be things that will come along that we haven't even thought of.
It's a good question Ketul, but you want to think what's going to be the next thing that's going to happen in cricket. Not the scoop, we've got that, not the reverse-sweep or the reverse-hit. Not the doosra. What is going to be the next thing? I think it's going to be like that, that for a fraction of a second, the batsman will lose sight of the bowler running up. But whatever happens, there'll always be new developments and the key is to be the first on the block with it. That's the key, because then you bamboozle people.
I can't think of what's going to happen in the next ten or 20 years, but believe me, there'd be things happening in cricket that I'd never thought of. That's why I'm saying to Ketul and anybody listening: Cast your mind, try and think what you think is going to happen. What do you think is going to happen in cricket? What's going to be unorthodox, what's going to be different? There will be new developments, and if you are one of the first to think of it, do something and do it good, you'll become a superstar at cricket.
ST: That's something to ponder over Ketul. Thanks a lot for your time, Geoffrey.
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