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'Gayle's attitude doesn't help the team'

Geoff Boycott on why England's selectors need to look forward, and what makes a good No.3 batsman (12:45)

May 14, 2009


Bowl at Boycs

'Gayle's attitude doesn't help the team'

May 14, 2009

"Andrew Flintoff has tremendous heart and spirit, but quite honestly, the body is not up to it" © Getty Images

Akhila Ranganna: Hello and welcome to Bowl at Boycs. As always, with me is Geoff Boycott, who is ready to answer the questions that have come in for him.

The first question is from Johann from Leeds. He says seeing the way Ravi Bopara and Graham Onions have performed in the Test so far, is it goodbye to Michael Vaughan and Steve Harmison? He personally thinks England have to look beyond them instead of allowing nostalgia to hold sway.

Geoffrey Boycott: I think he's right. Vaughan can't make any runs for my county, Yorkshire. He has had four or five innings and hasn't really done anything. In fact, he hasn't made any runs since June last year, so I don't see how you can pick somebody on past form. And he has now picked up a hamstring injury as well.

Then you have Steve Harmison. I think the selectors are beginning to get frustrated with him. They know that he has got the height to create bounce, and he has got pace. But it is about putting it all together. You could see in the West Indies that they were picking almost any seam bowler ahead of him. I think Stephen has to go back to Durham and do what he did last year: get a lot of wickets to convince the selectors that he is worth going back to.

And in terms of Andrew Flintoff, whom Johann hasn't mentioned - I'm a big fan of Andrew; I'm sure everyone is. He has tremendous heart and spirit, but quite honestly, the body is not up to it. It keeps breaking down all the time. I've been saying this for months now. As much as we like Andrew and want him to play when he's fit, I don't think he is going to play much Test cricket now - maybe the Ashes if he is fit, but that's it. His spirit is willing but his body isn't. And I think the selectors are showing that they are going to move forward on the basis of: do you perform?

Ian Bell looks a very talented batsman, but they have got frustrated with him playing nicely for 20 to 30 runs and then getting himself out. If he is going to get back into the Test side, then he is going to have to put together quite a number of good scores.

Johann is right. I think they are going to move on, and in some ways that shakes up the comfort zone of the players, and that's not a bad thing.

AR: Robbie from Manchester says seeing West Indies' abysmal performance in the series so far, I think one of the reasons is that their mind isn't in this series at all. Gayle turning up just a day before the Test is a reflection of that - what do you think?

GB: I think Gayle turning up a day before the Test isn't necessarily right. It doesn't look good. Whether it had an effect on the players, I don't know. I think it just doesn't give a good lead. He's such a laidback individual - calls himself Mr Cool - and he tries so hard to give the impression that nothing bothers him. But when you are leader of the clan, it doesn't go down very well.

I watched him at fielding practice on the morning of the Test. He really didn't want to be there and neither did the others. Their fielding practice was appalling. They dropped more than they caught, so when they went out in the match, they dropped six catches. I think everybody follows him and his kind of laidback, laissez-faire attitude doesn't help the team at all.

I also felt, when they came to England, that they had about four or five very good players but the rest don't have the technique or the patience or the concentration to succeed in England when the ball is moving around. So I think they will struggle again in the next Test, in Durham.

AR: Karan Kalwani from India has a technical query. He says he is a right-arm medium-fast bowler. He recently played in a school 50-over match and fared pretty well, taking six for 41 in 10 overs. Out of the six wickets, four were caught deep. He wants to know: is being caught deep a mistake by the batsman or a good piece of bowling?

GB: If he, the bowler, together with his captain, set the field accordingly: put fielders where they felt if the batsman hit in the air he would get caught out, or they were set in the deep to save runs and they were caught there, then its very good cricket by the captain and the bowlers. But if they just got lucky, well, not so clever then.

Throughout the world now, the pitches are better in one-day cricket. So you are not going to get too many wickets caught at slip or gully. I suspect your pitches will be good at school or college level. After an over or two with the new ball, when you can get somebody out, I think it's really about bowling tight and defensive. If you can be a strike bowler and get people early on with the new ball, then it's very good. That puts the skids under the batting side. But most times you will see that people try to defend - make it difficult for the batsmen, so that when they do try to score they hit it down the throats of the fielders. I would pat myself on the back rather than be critical.

AR: Royden from Auckland says that spinners have bowled remarkably well in the IPL. Daniel Vettori said that spinners have adapted best to the Twenty20 format. Do you agree?

GB: I think it depends on the quality of the bowling. The IPL has some very good quality spin bowlers - Harbhajan Singh, Muttiah Muralitharan, Daniel Vettori, and quite a few others.

A lot of batsmen are quite all right when the faster men come on. They can use the pace of the bowling as it comes on; if they don't hit it perfectly, it slides off the edge. Also, they can play with pure instinct.

When spinners bowl, it is different. You have watch for the spin - whether it will spin or come straight on. You have to know where the fielders are and how to play it into the gaps. It's a different skill altogether. You have to do all the hard work, because there is no pace on the ball whatsoever. I think it is a great skill to be able to manoeuvre the ball into the gaps.

If you get pitches in one-day cricket that are a little receptive to spin, then it becomes more difficult for batsmen. They are not sure whether it is going to come straight on or turn, and nowadays with the offspinners bowling the doosras, it makes it more difficult if it is going the other way.

I don't think I have had any doubt that if the quality of the spinner is there then they are brilliant bowlers in one-day cricket. You see so many people going the aerial route and getting caught out on the boundary. I think the problem for spinners comes when it's a very flat pitch and it doesn't turn and the boundaries are short.

I have always been one of those people who believe that slow bowling is a craft, but to help them you need to have biggish fields. And if you look at cricket grounds over the past few years, the boundaries have come in more and more, and sometimes it gets hard on some of these smaller fields for the spinners to get their just desserts. But if you can make the boundaries big enough, spinners are brilliant.

AR: Up next is Neil Brown from Sydney, who says: Pakistan thrashed Australia in the Twenty20 match in Dubai; how does that bode for the Twenty20 world cup for both teams?

GB: I would put it this way - it was one game. And if you think about it, in the five 50-over games that were played between them, Pakistan won the first one comfortably. Australia played the spin very poorly. Shahid Afridi, Saeed Ajmal - with his offspinners and doosras - they didn't pick him and they looked all at sea. But they came back and won the next three and they won the series even if they lost the fifth one.

"Pakistan always produce very talented players. But you can never be sure about them mentally, that's the problem. When they turn up to play, how well will they play? Did they get out of the left side of the bed or the right side? One day they will be very good and the other day they will be rubbish. It's like being ruled by the moon"

One thing I will say about Pakistan, and it has always been the same and never changed: Pakistan always produce very talented players. But you can never be sure about them mentally; that's the problem. When they turn up to play, how well will they play? Did they get out of the left side of the bed or the right side? One day they will be very good and the other day they will be rubbish. It's like being ruled by the moon. They are dangerous; if they play at their absolute best they can beat anybody. But so often there is so much of political manoeuvring and infighting.

And always remember Twenty20 cricket is a sprint. Its not quite like Test cricket, where you can almost judge who will win the Test on the quality of the players. The course of a 20-over game can be changed quite easily by one batsman playing superbly.

AR: Now to the question that you have picked as the best one that has come in for you and it's from Rishan Wanniarachchi form Sri Lanka.He wants to know what makes a good No. 3 batsman in your opinion. He thinks a No. 3 bat should make a good opener as well. Do you agree?

GB: Yes, I do. I think the most important thing, irrespective of the position you are batting at, is that you have to make runs. How you make them is not that important, but you have got to make runs for yourself and the team. And I think that at No. 3 you have to be bit like an opener at times. No matter how good your openers are, they will get out occasionally to the new ball and then the No. 3 has to go out there and play the swinging and seaming ball. Sometimes he will go in when the openers have done a very good job, and he has to get in and play like a middle-order player who can move the score along. So it's a bit of both,

Some of the greatest players the world has seen have batted at No. 3: Don Bradman, Everton Weekes, Vivian Richards, Rohan Kanhai, Peter May, Wally Hammond, and even Greg Chappell sometimes batted at No. 3 for Australia.

I think Rishan is right. That is why England have struggled a bit. They seem to have two settled openers, but they haven't had a No. 3 for ages. And that's why the selectors are giving Ravi Bopara a chance, and we will wait and see the outcome.

AR: That's a wrap on today's show. Thanks for your company, Geoffrey. Don't forget to send your questions to Geoffrey using our feedback form. You need to select Bowl at Boycs in the subject dropdown. Until next time, it's goodbye.

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