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Bowl at Boycs
'Today's players aren't cricket-fit'
April 3, 2008
Why players are injury-prone, the need to rotate umpires, and why sledging isn't good for the game
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'On flat batting pitches, Sehwag's hand-eye coordination and flair make him a destructive player but he will struggle on pitches that are a bit up and down' © AFP

Akhila Ranganna: Hello and welcome to Bowl at Boycs. As always, I have with me Geoffrey Boycott to answer your questions.

The first question on today's show comes from Aniruddh and he wants to know: do you think that injuries are too frequent in the modern game considering the fitness and training facilities available to the players these days? And do you also agree that most of the top players who get injured, are rushed back into the playing XI by the team even thought they are not 100% fit?

Geoffrey Boycott: I think it's an excellent question. What has happened in the last 15 years is that we have seen the development of more training facilities. The players are now physically fitter. They do lots of gym work, lots of stretching and strengthening, but quite frankly I don't think they are cricket fit. They are running around the park and doing all the fitness work but I don't think they [the bowlers] are bowling enough overs, and I don't think the batsmen are batting enough. India is the only exception as they seem to be playing a lot of cricket.

You see the players play football, or a rugby-style game - all these are fine, but they don't actually make you any better for bowling, and that's why they are getting injured. Today you see the English players bowling 300-400 overs in an English summer. For five years Freddie Trueman bowled over 1000 overs every English summer - I've just checked the statistics - plus what he bowled on a winter tour for England. He was bowling twice as much.

When it comes to injuries, I have always believed that an injury will be fit when it's ready. You can't make an injury ready just to suit a big match which is around the corner, which is what players are often trying to do to these days.

AR: The next question comes in from Arvind. He says that he has a habit of playing across while batting, as a result of which he doesn't play full-pitched deliveries on the stumps well enough and gets bowled many times. What can he do to improve his batting?

GB: He has got to play straighter but the problem is, the modern game is the modern disease. Youngsters over the last ten years are playing a lot of one-day cricket. They start playing across the line right from their formative years because in one-day cricket everybody has to improvise. You can't just play dot-balls because you only have 50 overs to score. So people have got to try and make something out of a good ball, and playing across the line is a result of improvisation in one-day cricket. It's not so much the player's fault; it's the nature of the modern game. All I can say to him is that he has got to try and play straighter, to mid-on instead of to midwicket - he's got a better chance of hitting the ball that way.

AR: Glenn wants to know what you think of the ICC taking a stand and formally announcing that teams need to avoid abusive behaviour on the field. He wants to know whether such restrictions will help the game or take the thrill away from the game.

GB: I don't think there is a thrill at any time in foul-mouthed abuse. I think it will help the game but umpires have got to be stronger. When we are playing, I'm sure all of us don't mind funny, amusing stories or little asides from bowlers to batsmen - that's good. But I think that foul-mouthed abuse is unacceptable. If it is not acceptable in public life, why should it be acceptable on the cricket field? A swear word or two when there are no women or children around is not a big deal in the middle of a cricket field. We are talking about players abusing umpires, abusing other players. Sorry, I don't think it's acceptable.

AR: Boris says that Virender Sehwag's 319 against South Africa in the first Test in Chennai was a thoroughly entertaining knock. He wants to know what kind of a batsman you would classify Sehwag as. For instance, Rahul Dravid is a viewed as a technically correct batsman, while Sachin Tendulkar is a described as a genius. Where does Sehwag fit in?

GB: I think Sehwag is a flamboyant, outrageous batsman. On flat, batting pitches, his hand-eye coordination and his flair make him a destructive player. When you get pitches that have bounce, a bit of swing and seam movement, he has got limited footwork - he will always be mercurial and struggle on pitches that are a bit up and down. That's why his form fluctuates so much and is up and down.

Boris says that Sehwag's knock was thoroughly entertaining. I suppose it was, in a way. But what good was it, really? It was a drawn Test; lots of people made lots of runs and bowlers were just cannon fodder for batsmen. It's great to make 300 but I don't think that that match was a great advertisement for Test cricket. I like a contest between bat and ball, and in the end that's what the public want. So although it was entertaining, there wasn't a contest between bat and ball - it was just a batsman's paradise.

I have always believed that an injury will be fit when it's ready. You can't make an injury ready just to suit a big match that is around the corner, which is what players are often trying to do these days

AR: Here's the question that you've picked as the best one that's come in for you and it is from Srikant. During the just-ended India-South Africa Test in Chennai, we saw the heat getting to umpire Asad Rauf apart from the cricketers and the spectators. So Srikant wants to know: is it possible to substitute an umpire, at least during matches in the subcontinent where heat and humidity are so high? What are the constraints in implementing this rule?

GB: There are no constraints. If an on-field umpire isn't feeling well, the third umpire or the fourth umpire can come on. I think it's a good idea. When it gets very humid and hot, then we ought to rotate the umpires before they get tired, because the umpires have to be on the field for all the five days for about six-and-a-half hours everyday. Even if a player bats well, it's probably only for a day, and very few actually go and bat through the day. And they get a rest in the pavilion before they go out and field.

I think it would be a good idea because the third umpire doesn't do much. He sits there watching the television technology the whole day, and the fourth umpire just hangs around - he just brings the box of balls out when they have to be changed, checks the pitch in the morning or during lunch to see that nobody does anything to it. It would be a good idea to swap the third and fourth umpire around and put them on the park for a little bit. Swap everybody around so all the umpires are fresher.

AR:That's all we have time for today. Don't forget to send your questions to Geoffrey Boycott using the form below. He'll be answering them right here on Cricinfo Talk in a fortnight. Until then, it's goodbye.

Geoff Boycott's website is at

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