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'The other boards need to put pressure on the PCB'
Geoff Boycott answers readers' queries on the modern ailment of poor footwork, the problems of West Indies cricket, and what needs to be done about match-fixing (14:40)
September 16, 2010
Bowl at Boycs
'The other boards need to put pressure on the PCB'September 16, 2010
Akhila Ranganna: Hello and welcome to Bowl at Boycs. Joining me is Geoffrey Boycott, who'll be answering the questions you have sent in.
The first question is from John Sargeant from New Zealand, who wants to know: has the footwork of batsmen always been as bad as at the moment? Repeatedly one sees them hooking off the front foot, often unsuccessfully; the extra time available when hooking off the back foot would make placement easier and more accurate. Not to mention airy wafting outside the off stump, which is rife today…
Geoffrey Boycott: I think footwork is poorer today. Why is that? It's as simple as this. There is so much one-day cricket - too much, many of us think - that kids in the last 20 years or so have grown up with more and more one-day cricket. They have had a different apprenticeship from my generation. We were told to keep the ball on the floor and follow no-risks batting.
And we played on uncovered pitches. When it rained on the pitch it took on a different connotation. The pitch the very next day could be very different. It might be wet and skid on and turn and do all sorts of things. So it made it vital for youngsters to learn how to have a good defensive technique. So your footwork had to be good. Today kids, from an early age, whack it, because there is so much ODI cricket and the pitches are better than ever. They are covered with better covering than there has ever been and they are better for higher batting scores. So in some way we are all products of our upbringing. The first thought today while batting is to hit the ball, be inventive and score. Footwork becomes secondary.
Now John talks about people wafting outside off stump and it is true. Their footwork is pretty poor. But it is a result of trying to score off every ball in ODI cricket. And when you have been doing that, it is very difficult to change when you are playing longer-term cricket. Whatever we do at sport, we practise to do it so that it comes instinctively to us.
It's the same with hooking and pulling. Hooking and pulling without good footwork has come around because in the last 20 years or so players have become confident they will not get hurt. They are wearing helmets with visors, chest pads and arm pads. You even see tailenders playing hook and pull shots.
John, good question, but remember, we are products of our upbringing. The upbringing today doesn't necessarily mean better footwork. The game is as interesting as it has ever been, but footwork is much poorer.
AR: Up next is another technical query, from Sumit, who's written in from the United Kingdom. Sumit plays for a local league in London and has heard the phrase "batsman's head falling over". Can you please explain what does this exactly mean for the batsman and how can you practise to keep your head still while batting?
GB: Well, you can't practice to keep your head still while batting. The whole phrase is a misnomer. What happens is when a batsman, left- or right-hander, gets his foot on the wrong side of the ball - remember, if you are a right-hander you should put your foot on the on side of the ball so that the bat can come down next to the pad and hit the ball. Alastair Cook is a good example here: he gets his foot on the off-side of the ball - remember he is a left-hander - and then he is such a poor position with his foot that his body and head start falling over to the off side. Now his head is falling over with his body in such a bad position that people say: his head is falling over. But the problem that causes it is not the head but the foot. To stop it does not involve keeping your head still while batting as you put it. The problem is to get your foot correctly on the leg side, or if you are a right-hander on the left side of the ball and if you are a left-hander like Cook, then on the right side of the ball and the rest all falls into place. Your head will be upright, and your head and body won't be falling over.
|"I love all types of cricket but I have no idea and I don't care what is going on in that tournament in South Africa. And I don't think anybody does. There is just too much one-day cricket all over the world"|
AR: Up next is Wayne from Barbados who is a West Indian who has lost his hair trying to figure out his team - West Indies. And he wants to know what you would do with a Chris Gayle, whose talent, according to Wayne, is tremendous, but whose commitment to cricket is another matter.
Just taking that forward, what did you make of the WICB's decision to cut Ramnaresh Sarwan, Narsingh Deonarine and Jerome Taylor from the central contracts list - the first two on grounds of fitness and Taylor on his attitude. The right step forward?
GB: He has given me specifics there, in his question. But I will answer it in a general way. I wouldn't want the job; it is too difficult organising West Indian cricket. West Indies have now gone too long, producing poor cricket and very ordinary cricketers, except for the odd one or two. Their poor cricket is interspersed with some good stuff but it is too rare. And now trying to discipline players and make them more professional, or creating more talented players, takes a bit of time. And the whole organisation of West Indies cricket and its leadership has to come from the top.
There have been too many fallouts between the officials and the players and that is not good. That means there is an undercurrent of distrust. So how the hell can you run anything? And I honestly don't know where you can go from here. You have so few talented cricketers in the West Indies, so when you fall out with the few you have, or you drop the ones you have, like Taylor, or you don't give a central contract to the others, what the hell do you do then? You don't have that many. And unless you start from the top and organise development of the young cricketers and professionalism and the attitude right from the word go, it will go through.
You have Gayle, who is a lovely lad and a talented cricketer but he plays it in amateurish way. I am afraid cricket has moved on since then. It is much more professional. So trust me, it is not just about those specific incidents, it is the whole thing. I talked to the West Indian ex-players as well and they feel distraught at the way West Indian cricket is going.
AR: Retief Warden from Cape Town says the Champions League is upon us, but seriously, does anyone care? Granted there's a lot of money at stake, young cricketers get tremendous exposure… but he thinks there is too much of a disconnect with the fans and the tournament, unlike, say, the Champions League in football. Do you agree or disagree?
GB: Retief, I agree with you. You are pretty smart. I love all types of cricket but I have no idea and I don't care what is going on in that tournament in South Africa. And I don't think anybody does. There is just too much one-day cricket all over the world. The problem is, you just can't keep track of it all. And too much sameness creates apathy. That is what is happening. We need to make games and tournaments special. The problem is that TV stations all over the world are desperate to fill airtime and cricket can fill it better than any of the other top sports. The administrators think it is easy money and some of them are not bothered about the spectators. Eventually this novelty will wear off. Already you have more Tests that ever, but you see empty or near-empty stadiums for many. All over the world it is going that way because there is just too much and the administrators are just too lazy to get off their bottoms and sell the game. They just take the TV money. One day TV might find something else that it likes better and I don't know where cricket will go because the way it is going is not healthy for the game.
AR: We now move on to the question that Geoffrey has picked as the most topical one this week. Gyanesh Prakash from India wants to know: don't you think the authorities' - whether the ICC or PCB (as seen with bans, fines and then revoked bans) attitude of sweeping it under the carpet is the biggest problem with this fixing controversy? Had authorities taken some strong decisions (for example in 2000) and set an example, could things have been a lot different? Do you think justice will be done this time or will it be same old story? And specifically with the Pakistan scandal, how much blame rests with the PCB?
GB: I'm not convinced anything good will come out of this. So much has happened in Pakistan: you can ban somebody and they can come back playing in three weeks. You have a society which is very different; their standards are different. Whether we like it or not there is corruption going on. It is not the right way to go.
The best example that I can give you, what should have happened years ago, around 2000, is exactly what India did. India have sometimes been criticised but here they have to be commended. Sometimes, when trying to bring a criminal prosecution against people it is difficult to get evidence. You know people have done things but proving it can be very difficult. We saw that quite a bit in the Hansie Cronje affair. If the cricket boards like the PCB, or the BCCI or the ECB feel they have enough circumstantial evidence about players being guilty of various misconducts like spot-fixing or match-fixing that really hurts the game, what they can do is do what India did: don't pick those players. There were players in India who never played again. The board didn't have to say anything or give any reason for why they never picked them again. So their careers were finished. There was no big money playing for India, there were no big endorsements or TV commercials and that way you hurt them and get the game back on track.
Look what happened in Sharjah. I was there commentating and I loved it but there was a feeling that there was quite a bit of match-fixing going on. Proving it? Nobody could really prove it. So India stopped going there. They have to be commended for being strong. Now the PCB should do the same thing. If they feel there is enough circumstantial evidence, even if they can't bring a criminal prosecution, they should not pick these players. Full stop, just not pick them forever. That sends the best message ever to any young player or any other player playing the game: you don't have to be caught or found out or proven in court. You just have to be suspected enough by the authorities and you won't get picked again. That is the way to go in my opinion.
The national cricket boards are in the best position ever to force the PCB to do something really big and stamp it out. India won't play them, and that's where they make their most money, from TV rights. Secondly, they can't play international cricket in their own country because nobody will go and play them. They need the help of countries like England who set up Tests here to try and help them play in a neutral country. They played Australia at Lord's and at Headingley. We lost money at Headingley trying to put up a Test for Pakistan. They won that Test and it was fantastic. Now they need national boards like England to set up neutral Tests for them. So boards like England can say: we're not helping you unless you do something really radical and strong about spot-fixing and match-fixing. So the other boards have the opportunity to make it count and put pressure on the PCB.
AR: Thanks a lot, Geoffrey. That's a wrap on today's show. Do send us your questions using our feedback form and Geoffrey will be back in a fortnight to answer them. Goodbye.
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