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'Neutral Tests aren't a good idea'

Geoff Boycott on why Pakistan playing in England doesn't work, Afridi's decision to retire from Tests, and how to play forward correctly (13:27)

July 22, 2010


Bowl at Boycs

'Neutral Tests aren't a good idea'

July 22, 2010

Shahid Afridi announced he was quitting Test cricket after Pakistan's defeat, Pakistan v Australia, 1st Test, Lord's, July 16, 2010
"I don't see anybody else that is going to be any better as captain than Afridi" © AFP

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

The first question is from Derek Brown from the USA, who says: Haroon Lorgat has hinted at a Test Championship in 2013. Do you think the ICC are doing the right thing by introducing a new championship? And do you think it will benefit the game?

Geoffrey Boycott: Let's put it this way. First of all, the idea came from Martin Crowe of New Zealand. He put it to the MCC World Cricket Committee last year. I am on that committee. There are a lot of very well-known players there. It has some of the great names in cricket, some umpires and administrators. Now these people discussed it and this is the point: something has to be done to rejuvenate people's interest in coming to Test matches. If you have studied the crowds, they have been diminishing for years.

Now don't look at the iconic England v Australia series that are sold out, or if we could get India and Pakistan to play Tests, another iconic series, that would be full as well. You wouldn't be able to get tickets. But in the other Tests, crowds are down. The interest is all right, but if you keep playing to empty stadiums then the game is dying. And this [the Test Championship] idea was the one Crowe came up with, and we put it to the ICC, telling them they had to start spending more money on the advertising of Test cricket and do more things. And one of those things was the Test Championship to try and find out which is the best team in the world.

Will it help? I don't know for sure but we think it might help. But it will only help if you do other things as well. Like, in most countries where it is hot, why not play Tests at night - day and night Tests? There is nothing wrong with Test cricket, it is a wonderful advertisement for the game; it is being played by some very fine players. But people are just not coming in vast numbers. And if it carries on, in 50 years' time we will be playing to empty stadiums.

This is an idea to introduce some more interest. But you have to couple it with other things. You have to couple it with moving the game along in terms of the over rate. The runs scored per over is good, but the over-rate keeps going down. So you have got to sell the game. And this is just one way.

I think it will help, but only if the ICC puts in place some other things as well to encourage the public to come along and watch it more.

AR: Ganesh from India writes in saying, recently Kumar Sangakkara the Sri Lankan captain, called for the UDRS scheme to be made mandatory in Test matches, while MS Dhoni was opposed to the idea. Do you think it is a fair comment from Sangakkara?

GB: Yes, I do agree with Sangakkara. The ICC want the UDRS in place as soon as possible. Dhoni, a lovely man and wonderful cricketer, is trying to hold progress back. But it will happen sooner rather than later. The haggling at the moment is not whether to have it or not. The ICC have confirmed they want the UDRS. It is about the cost. It is quite expensive to put it in place. The ICC wants it to be uniform but it is costly and the home cricket boards don't want to pay for it because they can't afford it. The TV people say: hang on, it is not our problem, so why should we pay for it? Though the ICC want it, they are not ready to pay for it, even though they have pots of money.

You can stick your head in the sand and try and hold progress as much as you want, but it won't work. TV is so good now that if you don't use TV aids then umpires will become more and more embarrassed, just like the linesman and referee did in the football World Cup [in the game between Germany and England]. TV can get so close up now that you can actually tell, on nearly every decision whether someone is out or not.

But when people like Dhoni say that they don't want the UDRS, you have to remember this: years ago when TV wasn't this good and an umpire made a decision and the player thought it was wrong, there was no way you could check whether the umpire was right or wrong. TV wasn't that good. Now you can see every decision over and over again. Unfortunately that wasn't available to umpires and players years and years ago but now it is. So to try and pretend that you can go backwards is absolutely stupid.

"There is nothing wrong with Test cricket. It is a wonderful advertisement for the game; it is being played by some very fine players. But people are just not coming in vast numbers. And if it carries on, in 50 years time' we will be playing to empty stadiums"

AR: Kannan from India says, Australia and Pakistan are playing Pakistan's "home" Test series in England due for security concerns in Pakistan. Wouldn't it be good to have Test series for different countries on neutral soil from time to time?

GB: The answer, simply, is no. In theory, yes, I would love Pakistan to play their Tests at home - we know they can't - and everywhere around the world.. They are very talented and nice people. But quite frankly, the problem is crowds. We have a Test this Wednesday at Headingley in Leeds between Australia and Pakistan. We have a huge Pakistani community in Leeds and you think they would want to come and support their team, since they probably haven't seen them play a Test in years. No. we sold 5000 tickets for the first day. So what is the point? There are even less sales on other days.

The tickets were not sold out at Lord's even though Australia are one of the best sides in the world. People will come to Lord's because it is the Mecca of cricket, but even then it was just half-full. And that is the problem. People won't come. When cricket is played all over the world, people come to see their own national team. Yes, they are interested in the opposition, but they want to watch their team.

The only series with two neutral sides which will work for sure is India v Pakistan - the Third World War. It just has so much emotion and passion; it is like Australia v England. It is not difficult for Pakistan to play in a neutral country, but it is difficult for whoever is holding that Test to make it work financially. There is every chance Yorkshire will lose money on this Test. We have put this Test in Leeds for the benefit of Pakistan cricket. But nobody can help them put together a Test in a neutral country if you are going to lose money. Therefore it will be difficult for them to do it again. People want to help, but they don't want to go bankrupt.

AR: Marley Brown from Sydney says: I am a right-hand middle order batsman playing for my school. I am 16 years old. Of late I am noticing that when I play a defensive stroke on the front foot, I tend to leave a gap between bat and pad and have even got bowled on a couple of occasions. What could be the problem? And how can I solve this?

GB: Simple. When you are playing forward-defensive, either the bat is not close to the pad, so you are leaving a gap, or you are late on the defensive shot. By the time you are through with your shot, the ball has gone through and bowled you. You think: how did it get through that gap - I have a bat and pad together. If you are late on it there is a gap; the bat comes down too late and it looks as though it is close to the pad but it is late because by the time it comes in, there is a gap. So you can look all right with the bat and pad together when you are looking, but you have to ask your friends whether you were late on the defensive shot, because there will be a gap for the ball to sneak through. It is not how you finish up, it is at the exact moment the ball is about to pass the bat. Are the bat and pad together at that precise moment, when the ball passes the bat and pad? That is what you have to ask your friends to look for.

Andrew Strauss requests a review after Graeme Smith was given not out, South Africa v England, 4th Test, Johannesburg, 15 January, 2010
"TV is so good now that if you don't use TV aids, umpires will become more and more embarrassed" © Getty Images

AR We now move on to the question that Geoffrey has picked as the best one that's come in for him. Amir Mir from United Kingdom says that after one Test Match in charge in the series against Australia, Shahid Afridi has decided to call it a day from Test cricket once again. Do you think he has made the right decision? Amir for one thinks he has, because with this team Afridi has to lead by example by playing maturely, and with this inexperienced side he will be unable to do that…

GB: I disagree with him. I have said before that Afridi is one of my favourite cricketers. In the heat of the moment after losing the first Test, he has lost his head a bit; he was upset and emotionally down. But if he doesn't do it then who the hell will do it? Whoever takes charge, Pakistan's batting will remain technically deficient because they play on some of the flattest pitches of all time in Pakistan. The ball bounces about stump-high, and what it does is, it makes average players look brilliant. But as soon as they come to countries like England, where you have overcast conditions and the ball moves around, you can see they are technically all at sea. Their foot goes only about a foot-and-a-half forward - instead of taking a big stride forward, about three feet, to get to the pitch of the ball. This is the problem: the batting isn't good enough, though it is very talented. Also, the whole team doesn't have discipline and concentration. So they will get beaten by Australia. I like their bowling; Mohammad Aamer is a fine young bowler and Mohammad Asif is very good bowler as well. But the fact is, if you don't have enough runs on the board, you will get beaten.

They haven't had any proper opening batsmen in about 15 years. Their best two players, Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan, have disappeared off the scene. There is always something going on in Pakistan cricket that destroys them from within.

Will it help the captain to resign? Yes, it will. It will be better for Afridi. He will be able to sit back and play lots of ODI cricket and become the superstar again with a lot more peace of mind. But will it help Pakistan cricket? No. I don't see anybody else that is going to be any better than him. At least he is a focal point and a hero. He is a damn good bowler and a useful batsman. I think they have to talk Afridi into staying because the PCB have hurt themselves by letting the best players like Younis and Yousuf go. I don't see any other way or any other guy who is going to make things any better.

AR: That just about does it on this show. You can send in your questions to Geoffrey Boycott using our feedback form and he'll be back in a fortnight to answer them. From all of us here at Cricinfo, it's goodbye.

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