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Bowl at Boycs
'Don't take rankings literally'
December 10, 2009
Are India really No. 1? How good is Sehwag? Should Gayle captain West Indies? Boycott answers readers' questions
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Virender Sehwag was relentless in attack, India v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Mumbai, 2nd day, December 3, 2009
"I think on good batting pitches Virender Sehwag is a modern-day great because he can take the game very quickly away from you" © AFP

Akhila Ranganna: Hello and welcome to Bowl at Boycs. As always, with me is Geoffrey Boycott to answer all your queries.

The first question is from Jeremy Firth from Scotland who writes in saying that Paul Collingwood recently became the most-capped England cricketer in ODIs. What has been his biggest contribution to English cricket?

Geoff Boycott: Collingwood has been a credit to English cricket because he is not the best-looking player in terms of his play. He is not what you would call aesthetic. He doesn't use enough top hand, or left hand, on the bat. He is very much a bottom-handed player who works and shovels it to the on side. But he has an honest strength of character - he is someone you have to warm to over the years, because he has not been blessed with as much talent as some of the others. In other words, he makes the best of what he has got. He is a credit for youngsters to look up to, when they are hoping to play international cricket one day. He has shown that sport is not just about being blessed with talent. It is about character, mental toughness and hard work, and he, above anybody else, gets the best out of himself. He shows everyone that you can get to the top if you really want it bad enough.

I am one of those who has warmed to him over the years. I like cricketers who have got some guts and character, even though they may not be as blessed as some. On top of that he is an absolutely wonderful slip fielder; a wonderful outfielder, has got lovely hands and is a credit to the game and English cricket.

AR: Royd Hanmer from Sydney says many experts are critical of Chris Gayle's captaincy. There are suggestions of replacing him with Daren Ganga for the revival of West Indies cricket. Gayle has just scored a hundred in the second Test, but do you think a change in captaincy is necessary for a change in fortunes for West Indies?

GB: Gayle is a very good player and if a captain scores a hundred it has nothing to do with his captaincy. It is important, however, that a captain plays a role in the team, rather than doing nothing. If you are going to captain a side you have to offer something to it. If Royd is telling me that Ganga would be a better captain, then I think he would have to be excellent at leading players and he will have to be brilliant tactically.

Quite frankly his batting has been below average whenever he has played for West Indies. He couldn't cut it when he played. Why should we think that he can cut it now? He has always looked good for 20 minutes, and then he gets out. I just looked up his record and I think he averages just about 25 in Test cricket: sorry, that's just not good enough.

"The rankings can never be taken literally or accurately. Doesn't matter which country is at the top because there is no fair way at the moment, of all the countries playing each other the same number of times. So don't get sucked into believing that the ranking holds true for whoever is No. 1"

If you have somebody better than Gayle, then it's fine to change your captain. But you have got to remember that captains are as good as the players that are under them. West Indies have some very good players in Gayle and Jerome Taylor, and Dwayne Bravo is a fantastic cricketer, but they also have some very ordinary players.

You have got to be very careful when you are blaming the captain, and I don't see anybody that could do it better at the minute than Gayle.

AR: T Siddhartha from India writes in with this: by beating Sri Lanka, India have become the No. 1-ranked Test side in the world. Is this ranking justified?

GB: What you have got to be careful of is that it is a guide. It is done by someone at the ICC and it creates a talking point. I am not saying it is wrong or right. But it is not to be taken literally. It can only be taken as literal and accurate if all the Test-playing nations played each other home and away the same number of times. And we all know that is not going to happen. Top sides want to play each other because they want to make more money out of it. India, England, Australia and South Africa are going to play each other more than they do some of the other lesser nations.

I read somewhere that in the next 11 months or so India play only about two-odd Tests. How ridiculous is that? How can you judge India's performance over the next 11 months? You can judge them over the past few months - they have played very well and I have no problem with them being No.1. But it can never be taken literally or accurately. Doesn't matter which country is at the top because there is no fair way at the moment, of all the countries playing each other the same number of times. So don't get sucked into believing that the ranking holds true for whoever is No. 1.

AR: Michael from Wellington says the second Test between New Zealand and Pakistan here was a ripper. Don't you think games like this are the ideal advert for Test cricket? And don't you think such pitches should be prepared everywhere?

GB: Absolutely. I think most people watching the game - the public and ex-players alike - would like result pitches. When there is a bit in the pitch it brings everyone into the game - seamers and spinners. Runs are precious as well and they have to be made under pressure rather than lots of runs on easy, flat, batting pitches. When you get these flat pitches it makes the game tedious for spectators and commentators; there's a sameness about them, with a lot of runs being scored. Cricket is supposed to be a fair contest between bat and ball and these flat batting pitches provide an unfair contest. What we really need is variety and spice in the game so that it creates slight uncertainty for spectators and players to keep them on an edge. The game can ebb and flow and eventually one team will come out and top and what we will get is a really good game of cricket. And the Test in Wellington was a great game.

AR: It's now time to move to the question that you have picked as the best one this week. It's from Bheem Kumar from Mumbai, who asks: do you think Virender Sehwag is the most dangerous batsman in the game today? He is talking purely in terms of the dominating impact Sehwag has on the team and his ability to take the game away in a few hours. Would you call him a modern-day great?

Paul Collingwood was the one England batsman to show resolve as he continued his impressive run, 3rd ODI, Cape Town, November 27, 2009
"Paul Collingwood has shown that sport is not just about being blessed with talent" © Getty Images

GB: Good question. I know it is fun to watch him. I am not sure it is modern; it is more old-fashioned. If you read the history of the game, Wally Hammond made 336 at more than a run a minute for England against New Zealand in Auckland in the 1932-33 series. It took him just 318 minutes to get 336. That is very much like the way Sehwag plays.

Then you take the great Sir Donald Bradman, the genius batsman. He scored 300 and more, six times - not all in Tests. In Tests alone, at Headingley he made 304 in 1934, in a bit over six hours. In 1930, when he was about 21, he made 334 in six hours and 20 minutes. They were good batting pitches, like the one Sehwag bats on.

Now when the pitches are good for batting, Sehwag plays like the old-fashioned players. For people like myself, who grew up on uncovered pitches, it will be very difficult to bat like that.

He is a rare, special player. When the pitch is good he can take the game away from the opposition because he plays with a flowing bat and an uninhibited style. He has an uncluttered mind, which I like. I don't think he gets cluttered up with technique and foot work and he just plays in a wonderful, instinctive way, which is good.

I think on good batting pitches he is a modern-day great because he can take the game very quickly away from you. If it moves around, like it does in England and New Zealand, then I don't see him getting 300 so easily, but on certain pitches he is a fantastic player.

AR: That's a wrap on this week's show. You can send your questions to Geoffrey using our feedback form. He will be back here in a fortnight to answer them. Until next time, it is goodbye.

Geoff Boycott's website is at

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