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'Ponting's the right man for the job'
Geoff Boycott on Australia's leadership, Flintoff's legacy, and learning to bat attackingly (13:31)
September 3, 2009
Bowl at Boycs
'Ponting's the right man for the job'September 3, 2009
Akhila Ranganna: Hello and welcome to Bowl at Boycs. I have with me Geoffrey Boycott to answer the questions that have come in for him.
The first one is from James from Leicester. He says that in this Ashes, Australia had the top three wicket-takers; in the top five run-getters in this series, four were Australians. Yet they ended up on the losing side. What were the key moments that you feel swung the series in England's favour?
Geoffrey Boycott: I think the first Test at Cardiff was important. England were outplayed by Australia, yet Australia couldn't bowl out England's No. 10 and 11 even though they had nearly 12 overs. I accept that it was a pretty flat pitch; it started to turn at the end. But still, if you have nearly 12 overs and you can't bowl out the tailenders, it will hurt you. To come away with a draw was euphoric for England and quite disappointing for Australia. I didn't understand some of the bowling selections. Marcus North was bowling his occasional offspin at the tailenders. Normally the tailenders have been the rabbits for the fast bowlers. Mitchell Johnson didn't bowl much at the tailenders, so they have got to ask themselves some questions.
Once England got out of jail, the series see-sawed because I don't think there was much between the teams until The Oval. Normally The Oval can be flat, and I thought the seamers would be the order of the day. And what happened? Well the groundsman - rightly or wrongly - made a turning pitch. It was over-dry - like a third-day pitch - when the match started. Then we had dry, sunny weather, which dried it out even more. Winning the toss there was absolutely priceless. And then it was used well. Getting 300 was pretty good.
There is nothing in the laws of the game that says what sort of surface has to be provided for a cricket match. There are too few quality spinners around in the world today. I think England made one mistake in that they picked Steve Harmison as a fourth seamer - they should have picked a second spinner, whether it was Monty Panesar or Adil Rashid. They were worried about Andrew Flintoff's knee, so they packed another seamer in, but until the last day, when Harmison had an aggressive spell and got a couple of wickets, he wasn't really in the game and it wasn't his fault, it was because of the pitch.
Australia made a huge mistake in not picking their one spinner, even if he wasn't a great spinner. Any decent spinner bowling on that pitch would have done well. There have been too many flat batting pitches and they have all got sucked into that and were expecting a flat batting pitch, like I did. In my opinion, let's have more turners - it makes for exciting cricket.
AR: Nick from Sydney writes in asking: is Ricky Ponting's captaincy under threat after the Ashes defeat? He says he doesn't mind splitting the captaincy with Michael Clarke, but do Australia need a change in leadership at this point?
GB: For me leadership has always had two parts. One is leading the players: having the man-management skills and the personality to handle the players on and off the field. The other part of captaincy is tactical nous: knowing when to change the bowling, what side to pick, and having a feel for the game so that you are two steps ahead. I think Ponting is the right man at the moment. He has the personality, the leadership skills to handle the players; he is much respected and is so good a player that changing the leadership at this point would be wrong in my opinion. He has been a great ambassador for Australian cricket.
When it comes to tactical nous, yes, I think he is pretty ordinary, just like Andrew Strauss is with England. They are not in the same category as a Mike Brearley or a Ray Illingworth
AR: Kenny from Leeds asks: do you see potential in Stuart Broad to become a world-class allrounder? What does he need to do, if you think he can achieve that mantle?
|"Ricky Ponting has the personality and the leadership skills to handle the players; he is much respected and is so good a player that changing the leadership at this point would be wrong in my opinion"|
GB: I think he does have ability and potential. He has ambition, which is nice; I think he has good character and a nice brain on him. If he is going to become a proper allrounder, it is going to be hard work in international cricket now, because there is so much cricket happening. In the past when you had allrounders they played about five Tests in the summer, but now you play so much more. He is going to have to really look after himself and ensure that his body stays fit and rested.
He is young, but he cannot afford poor bowling days. He had a poor day at Edgbaston in the third Test, when the ball seemed to float out of his hand. Then he had a decent day at Headingley, where he got wickets. Then at The Oval he bowled fantastic, cutting the ball off the dry surface, making it swing in the air. Now you can have days when you bowl well and don't get wickets, but you can't really have days when you bowl badly. Consistency in his bowling will be key. But he is young and he should get better.
And when it comes to his batting, he is now batting lower down the order, with the tail, and if he gets a 30 or a 40 it's good, and if he gets a 50 it is excellent. But now he has to move up the order to No. 7. When he gets in, he is going to be batting with one of the batsmen. So he will have the opportunity to get bigger scores and he will also be under more pressure. There will be opportunities to stay in and score bigger and more vital runs. I think he has the talent. It will be interesting to see how he develops.
AR: Gareth from Cardiff wants to know how you would you compare the Ashes win in 2005 with this one. Which of the two England teams do you think is the better one?
GB: In my opinion it's a no-contest: it's the 2005 team. Batting-wise there was Marcus Trescothick, who was at his best; Michael Vaughan was there in better form. Kevin Pietersen played that fantastic innings at The Oval that created a draw when England could have lost. In this series he didn't have anything special in the first two Tests that he played, and then he got injured. I think the captaincy of Vaughan is far superior to almost anything around. He is certainly better than Strauss - there is no contest there when it comes to handling the players, and tactical knowhow.
And then you had the bowling of Flintoff, who was full fit. He was at his zenith in 2005 - very intimidating, fast and aggressive. He bowled swing and reverse swing around the wicket and he caused a lot of problems to the left-handers. This series there has been a lot about how they have had to nurse him through, and he didn't play in one of the Tests. I think Simon Jones was a factor. Jones at first change was quite slippy and skiddy, swinging the ball at pace. Matthew Hoggard was at his best. Sorry, for me, thrilled as I am that England have won the Ashes this time, 2005 was bigger. We hadn't won the Ashes for 18 years, so that was the better team.
AR: Mahmood from Lahore has this technical query. He says: I'm 16 and a budding top-order batsman. When we are taught how to bat, we generally tend to stop at the basics: practicing the defence and perfecting our foot movement. But we are never taught how to play the big shots. How does one make the transition from defence to power-play while batting?
GB: Simple. It comes down to practice and how you practise. Now, when batsmen have their practice sessions they usually try and bat properly, just as if they were starting their innings in a match, and then they would progress to playing a few shots as they got used to the bowling and the practice pitch. But what he should do is, halfway through his practice, tell the bowler: we are going to play a game now; tell me what field you would set if we were playing one-day cricket and I was going to attack you. Ask him exactly where he would try and set his fielders. Then you try and memorise them and try and attack the bowler just like you would do while playing one-day cricket. Try things out and invent shots and try not to get out. That is important, because that is what you would try and do in a match. You can't willy-nilly slog at the ball. You have got to look at areas where you can hit the ball, and that is what you have got to do at practice.
How do you think Pietersen played the switch-hit in a match? He practised it first in the nets. It just didn't happen one day in the middle where he thought he would try it out. You have to prepare yourself with different bowlers and think about where you will hit them. Then you will gain confidence as well as prepare yourself for that shot, so that when you play it in the middle you will have a good idea of what you are trying to do and have a good chance of success.
AR: And now to the question that you have picked as the best one that has come in for you this week. It's from Jason from California and he asks: what will Andrew Flintoff's greatest legacy be, now that he's retired from Test cricket? His overall record, Jason thinks, is modest and he's still often described as England's greatest cricketer after Ian Botham. Is he really that great?
GB: I don't think he is England's greatest cricketer after Ian Botham, I think he is probably England's best allrounder since Botham. England have had other great cricketers, both batsmen and bowlers. In terms of wickets and runs he isn't a great cricketer. And I think he would accept that because he has no ego. He is a smashing lad and is down to earth, and the public and people who watch cricket empathise with him. It's because of his personality and character, and he has the ability to lift people around him. When he is in the dressing room or on the field, if he performs well, he has that charismatic gift to lift other people, and that is a very special quality that not many people have. That will be his legacy as much as his runs or wickets.
AR: That's a wrap on today's show. You can send your questions to Geoffrey using our feedback form. And he will back again in a fortnight to answer them. Until then, its goodbye.
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