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'Pietersen doesn't want to adapt'

Geoff Boycott on the crisis in SA cricket, and why Ponting needs to be circumspect while playing the pull (16:30)

February 4, 2010

Transcript

Bowl at Boycs

'Pietersen doesn't want to adapt'

February 4, 2010

Ricky Ponting goes for a pull, Australia v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Sydney, 3rd day, January 5, 2010
"I would not tell Ricky Ponting not to play the pull shot. I would just say, be a little more careful early on" © Getty Images

Akhila Ranganna: Hello and welcome to Bowl at Boycs. With me is Geoffrey Boycott to answer the questions that have come in for him this week.

Samir from India wants to know if you have noticed a serious improvement in the performance of Bangladesh since they were given Test status? India were predictable victors in the recent Test series, but there were phases of Bangladeshi dominance. What do you think are the problems facing Bangladesh's approach to the game?

Geoffrey Boycott: Yes, there are some things coming out from the players in Bangladesh. When you see one of their players do well you think there has been an improvement. If I was trying to be constructive and not hyper-critical, I would say that they play better at home on pitches they know and are comfortable with. That is fine. We all play well at home. But the true test for any player is how you play in other countries, on different surfaces. When you take them out of their comfort zone and make them play on pitches that are seaming, like in England, or bouncy, like in Perth, then you see that some of their technique is still naive. Having said that, I am well aware that England's recent batting against Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn in South Africa wasn't very clever. That was a bouncy pitch and it moved around and we were pathetic. It looked as though England just didn't turn up. I am aware that sometimes we can be surprised by players who ought to play better on these surfaces.

I think their bowling is too dependent on spin; quite rightly, because their pitches turn and don't help seamers. But if they can make pitches that are harder, have more pace in them, are receptive to pace bowling and encourage guys to bowl fast, then it will be better for their team because they will have fast bowling to go with their spinners. It will be better for their batsmen, who would come across these pitches in domestic cricket and be better prepared for conditions abroad. Yes, occasionally you do see some good things but there is still a lot of work to do to get up to the standard of other countries.

AR: Aakash from India observes that the UDRS [Umpire Decision Review System] has come in for criticism following the fiasco in the final Test between England and South Africa. What's your take on the entire Daryl Harper episode? Also, do you think there has to be uniformity among all broadcasters to use the latest technology available to make UDRS work? Shouldn't the ICC, and not the broadcasters, pay for the implementation of this system?

GB: Aakash, you are very smart.

Straight after the series I went into this issue in some detail on my website. Uniformity all over the world in all Tests would be ideal. But we don't live in an ideal world. Unfortunately Hotspot and Snickometer are very expensive. I know that Channel 9 in Australia and Sky TV in England can afford it and it is better. But there are a lot of broadcasters across the world who can't afford to pay for them. Why should they pay? That is the question you are asking and I agree. The ICC doesn't want to pay but eventually they will have to, and they do have the money.

But I am saying we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that whatever system we use, we humans make errors and we will always cock up. That is what happened here [in the fourth Test in Johannesburg]. Harper made a cock-up. He didn't turn the volume up, and the match referee can try all he wants to cover it up. When the ICC have the inquiry they will try and come out with a statement that will exonerate Harper but we all know by now that he made a mistake. It would have been better for the game if he had put his hand up and said he had made a mistake, he hadn't turned the volume up. Also, don't lose sight of the fact that the on-field umpire made a mistake. So without technology Smith would have been given not out because he was given not out by the on-field umpire. How come the umpire didn't hear Smith's nick when everybody did? That is what the ICC should be asking. Harper made a mistake, but why did the guy 22 yards away not hear the nick? That is the human error - from the on-field umpire and the third umpire.

AR: Stefan Hemmings from West Indies says the recent exclusion of Pakistani players from the IPL has enraged the PCB. Do they think they have any right to protest to the ICC? What are your views on their snubbing by the IPL teams?

GB: Look, it is certainly odd. Nobody can deny Shahid Afridi is one of the best Twenty20 cricketers in the world. Umar Gul is a wonderful bowler at the death. Mohammad Aamer has taken everybody by storm. They are all very talented, we know that. But there is history between India and Pakistan. Historically they don't get along. They have had wars, they fight and are somewhat distrustful of each other. Nobody can deny that.

 
 
"You have to remember is that the IPL is an Indian domestic competition. The ICC can do nothing about it. They run international cricket and they can't tell India what to do or make these eight franchises pick any particular player. These are eight privately owned teams. These wealthy individuals have the right to do what they want with their money. So nobody can make them buy certain players"
 

But putting that aside, what you have to remember is that this is an Indian domestic competition. The ICC can do nothing about it. They run international cricket and they can't tell India what to do or make these eight franchises pick any particular player. These are eight privately owned teams. These wealthy individuals have the right to do what they want with their money. So nobody can make them buy certain players. Although they can scream and shout, and it does look odd, the fact is it is a domestic competition. They are rich guys who want to pick who they want for team spirit, skill and to bring in the public. It is their choice and their money. If it were my money, I would like to have a say in who plays for me and wouldn't like anybody else telling me who to pick.

AR: Hammond from Brisbane is very happy that Ricky Ponting has been voted the player of the decade by Cricinfo. But of late, Ponting has been getting out to the pull and hook shots that used to be his stock shots. Why do you think that is happening? Some people have advised him to put that shot away to prolong his career, but do you think that is advisable? Won't it be more risky to curb what is your instinctive reaction - in Ponting's case, to play the pull shot?

GB: Hammond has a good point there. It has been a very effective shot for Ponting. He usually picks the length of the ball up very quickly and if it is fractionally short, he pulls it. He is not a hooker, he is a puller. When it gets big on him he lets the ball go. He has played the pull shot for years with great control. The beauty of it is that if you pick the ball up early from the seamers and you are on to it, you score runs. What it does is, it makes the bowlers a bit wary. They pitch it up a bit more and you get more balls to drive.

If Ricky stops pulling, maybe he won't get as many full balls to drive. It is a dilemma. What I have seen of him on TV, on the various highlights packages, is that he looks to be trying to pull the ball very early in his innings. Sometimes when you get a bit older, the hand-eye coordination is not as quick. Then if you get out once or twice, you lose a bit of confidence and form and are not spending much time in the middle.

I don't think I would be telling him not to play it. I would be telling him to be careful about playing it early on: play straight, keep it simple, between mid-on and mid-off, get your eye in and get yourself 10-20 runs. Then go back to playing your normal way. In other words, he might have to graft a little longer. It might take him longer to get his first 15-20 runs and from then on he can play his natural game. I would not tell him not to play it. I would just say, be a little more careful early on.

AR: Johnathan Baldwin from Leeds says: Kevin Pietersen really struggled on the tour of South Africa, didn't he? Apart from mentally not being there, he thinks Pietersen has a problem with his technique - he walks into shots. Is he right? What can Pietersen do to change that? Was this similar to a problem that Ponting had early on in his career, when he would "walk into" lbws?

GB: Well, Jonathan, I can't remember about Ponting that long ago. It seems that in the last few years all he has done is score lots of runs. I can't remember when he was not in form.

Now Pietersen had a long time out of the game with injury. He didn't play county cricket and had just one warm-up game before this series. Somehow, whether it is his confidence or his ego, he only wants to play one way. He doesn't want to adapt. I don't think that is very smart. He is trying to play right from the first ball as if he was playing without injury, in top form, scoring lots of runs. That hasn't been the case. So he has been walking into shots. His right foot is coming around. He doesn't have a base and he is not still when he is playing a shot. When you play a shot, you need to be still, to have a base so that your eyes can be still and you can focus better. It is not about your head or your body, it is your eyes. They are the ones that tell you what length or line it is and they give your brain the chance to judge what to do. I don't think he is staying in. I don't think he is prepared to graft and work hard and spend a bit of time in the middle. He is trying to play too many shots too soon in his innings. He always says: that's the way I am.

My view is that the great players in the game have been able to adapt. They adapt to situations, pitches, the needs of their team and what their batting needs at that time. It is quite rare even for the greatest players to go through their whole career in the best form. Somewhere they have a little dip; the better the player the lesser the dip. At the same time he is in a dip now, with three or four months off due to injury, no real runs behind him, and he doesn't seem to be prepared to adapt, and that is what is causing him problems.

AR: And now to the question that you have picked as the best one for you this week. It's from Ronan from Cape Town, who says Mickey Arthur's resignation and the sacking of Cricket South Africa's selection panel are part of the latest crisis affecting cricket in the country. Did you see this coming? What's the way forward?


Mickey Arthur in pensive mood during a press conference at the Wanderers, England tour of South Africa, 11 January, 2010
"It is quote obvious from the statements and interviews that there is a difference of opinion about the way forward for Mickey Arthur and the UCBSA... but it can't be cricketing differences" © Getty Images

GB: I don't know anybody who saw it coming. It is quite obvious from the statements and interviews that there is a difference of opinion about the way forward for Mickey and Cricket South Africa. I am guessing here - and there is no statement that has come out - but it can't be cricketing differences. South Africa are doing well and they are one of the top four teams along with Australia, India and England. Smith is still there and he says that he and Mickey get along well. If Cricket South Africa thought their cricket was a problem then there would have been a change in captain as well as coach. But maybe it is a political thing. The government of South Africa has a policy of promoting or fast-tracking coloured and black South African players in all sports. They want to make up for the many years that these races were disenfranchised under an apartheid government. It is called affirmative policy and in a democracy we all have to accept that. Makhaya Ntini has gone - he was the only black player in the team - and there could be a conflict of views between picking the best players and promoting certain races.

It's not just Arthur who has gone, upset with behind-the-scenes problems. The selection committee has been sacked. Mike Procter has gone and the chief executive, Gerald Majola, has taken over. It is quite obvious that Cricket South Africa wants to have full say in everything that goes on in the team because they have put their chief executive in charge. Any chief executive is a paid employee of the board and the board can tell him what to do. It is an odd situation. You rarely ever find in a cricket country that the chief executive - a paid employee of the board - is in charge of the selection committee. It has to be that the board wants its policies to be implemented. They don't want to leave it to the selectors. I am guessing it has something to do with that, but I am only guessing. Nobody has given a statement and nobody will. But I think it has something to do with more than cricket.

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.


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