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'Too many bad matches for one surprise'

Geoff Boycott on the Associates debate, how they can be accomodated, the pitches used in the World Cup and the ticketing fiasco (15:32)

March 3, 2011


World Cup 2011

'Too many bad matches for one surprise'

March 3, 2011

John Mooney flings his bat in the air after securing a dream result with a boundary, England v Ireland, World Cup 2011, Bangalore, March 2, 2011
A memorable win for Ireland, but what about the spate of mismatches involving some of the other Associates? © Getty Images

Akhila Ranganna: Hello and welcome to Bowl at Boycs. I'm Akhila Ranganna, and joining me is Geoffrey Boycott, who's now in Bangalore. We're recording this show just hours before the start of the India-England game, so Geoffrey, looking forward to that game? Excited?

Geoffrey Boycott: Yes. I'm always excited when you play India in India because it will be noisy, especially if India do well, but from an Englishman's point of view, we're not favourites. We've got to quieten the crowd, play pretty well, our fielding has to be exceptionally good - it was lousy and the catching was pretty poor against Holland. We need to improve on that to help the bowlers put pressure on the Indian batting line-up, which is the best in the tournament. You don't want to let the Indian batsmen run away with the game and bat you out, the crowd will go absolutely wild and you won't be able hear yourself speak or shout.

AR: Before I get to the questions sent in by our listeners, a quick question of my own. Are you happy with the bowling form of one of your favourite cricketers, Shahid Afridi, who's been on fire in the games he's played so far?

GB: He's one of the best one-day cricketers in the world. He's more a bowler now, and I thought so for quite a long time. He's hitting will come good occasionally, he's always been a quickfire guy. He can't resist just hitting the ball, he can't go three balls playing steady. He's occasionally going to make an impact before he gets out. But as a bowler, he's very difficult to pick and hit. I'm impressed with his leadership. His leadership against Sri Lanka was fantastic. The way he encouraged his players; he didn't panic when they were dropping catches. Those lapses were awful. Pakistan had to get 16-17 Sri Lankans out, which is ridiculous. And yet, he kept his cool, kept on encouraging them. I thought he did a fantastic job.

AR: We'll move on to the questions that have come in for this show. First up, we have Mark, who's written in from Sydney. He says Australia's fast me have looked on fire in the tournament thus far. He wants to know if they can sustain it for the entire duration of the World Cup, or will the likes of Shaun Tait, Mitchell Johnson and Brett Lee come undone against better batting line-ups?

GB: Good question, Mark. First of all, Australia believe they have picked their best bowlers. They believe that a good fast bowler is better than an ordinary spinner, even in the subcontinent. We all know spinners are important but if they're ordinary, it's a bit different. I can't argue with that as Australia don't have quality slow bowlers. Nathan Hauritz was a good bowler for them, he has a good record, but he's injured. I don't know the answer but I am fascinated to wait and see. They have three genuine fast bowlers. If they bowl well and get the ball in good areas - they have real pace and they are pretty accurate with the short balls into the body - then it will be difficult for batsmen to hit them. But, if the fast men get the ball in slightly wrong areas - slightly wide, a bit too full, a bit too short, not straight enough - then it gives batsmen room to use the pace and whack them further. You use the pace of the ball and it goes off the bat faster.

I'm intrigued to see what will happen when they bowl against a good batting side like India, or maybe South Africa. Or what happens when Australia have to bowl on a slow pitch where it spins a bit. Then spinners are a very big factor in the game. A spinning pitch should hurt Australia, but will they encounter one in the tournament? That's a question I can't answer at this stage.

AR: Talking about the pitches, the next question from Jason in Sydney is to do with them. He wants to know what you make of the pitches used so far in this World Cup. The fear at the start was that the batsmen would dominate through and through. Have the tracks been competitive?

GB: I don't think they have been competitive for the bowlers. The only pitch that gave bowlers a chance was the one used for the Bangladesh-Ireland game, where it turned, was slow and produced a low-scoring contest. So far, most of the pitches have been flat. A couple have been on the slow side in the second innings, but not something that can prevent good batting teams from making 250. You see West Indies play South Africa the other night in Delhi. It was a poor show from the West Indies middle order, they should have made 250. Matches that are high scoring can still be competitive and interesting. But, so far, there hasn't been a true contest between bat and ball. That's something that has gone on now for a number of years. The ODI game has gone too far in the batsman's favour.

AR: We're going to step a little away from the World Cup and focus on a technical query from Norman, who's written in from Wales. He wants to know if being a fast bowler helps one develop a better and stronger throwing arm. You often see seamers fielding in the deep, could this be a reason behind that?

GB: I don't think so. The usual reason is that they don't have to keep saving singles. So they don't have to put them in the circle, having them running in quick over a few yards trying to save the single or diving to stop shots from the batsmen. You need to be very athletic, alert and alive when inside the 30-yard circle. Most, not all, fast bowlers are big and strong so they can throw long and fast. You don't really want your fast bowlers getting injured, diving around and stopping and starting, trying to save singles. They put in so much energy to bowl fast. If they go on the boundary, particularly around third man or fine leg, they can rest a little. Sure, they'll have to concentrate and expect every ball to come to them, but it doesn't as we know.

We all await that one surprise match when an Associate defeats a big team. That probably will happen, it's happened in the previous World Cups. But, let's be honest, that's not a good enough reason to include four Associates.

So, not having to run for every ball is a good thing so you can rest quietly and you're not stretching the hamstrings or the groins. And usually, on the boundary, when they have to run for the ball, they have to run fairly straight at it. In that way, it's a good place for them to be. And they're big and strong and have good arms anyway, so I don't think they have to practice it.

AR: Back to the World Cup again. The next question is from Rahul in Mumbai and it's to do with the ticketing fiasco during this tournament. Just 4,000 tickets for the general public for the final at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai? Seems really unfair, doesn't it?

GB: It's a good question. I don't understand it, it's bizarre. The ICC says it's going to look into this ticket situation and what happened in Bangalore where only 5000-odd tickets went on sale. Can you believe that? It's ridiculous for a stadium that holds nearly 40,000. Where the hell do all the tickets go? That's the question everyone wants to ask. For me, the ICC should have been doing something beforehand. Not after there's been a problem. They should make sure that the event in the cricketing world, the ODI World Cup, is all absolutely dead right beforehand.

Surely, all these tickets can't be going as complimentary to somebody. An explanation the public would be best. I've always felt that if there is a good reason, then you should be open and above board and explain it to people. Transparency and openness is the best way. When people start saying we'll look into this and we'll hold a get-together and see what happened - well, hang on. When the hell didn't you do that beforehand, have a meeting and make sure it was alright. Why wasn't it ensured at least two-thirds of the tickets went on sale in the city that's holding a major event? That makes sense. You want the local people to get involved. If you're not open and above board, and there are not many tickets available for the locals, then you begin to think 'Hang on. There's a bit of funny business going on here.'

AR: It's now time to move on to the question that you've picked as the best one for this show. It's from Naeem in Ireland. He says the ICC has planned a ten-nation World Cup which could deprive the Associate teams of participation. Haroon Lorgat recently said that the Associates would feature in the Twenty20 World Cup, though it's unlikely to see them in the 50-over version. Is this the right way to go, even after watching Netherlands push England so close?

A policeman tries to control the crowd after a mini-stampede broke out among people queuing up for tickets for the India-England game outside the M Chinnaswamy stadium, Bangalore, February 24, 2011
Boycott: "Why wasn't it ensured at least two-thirds of the tickets went on sale in the city that's holding a major event?" © AFP

GB: Netherlands, actually, should have beaten England. England did well to bat and chase down the 290-odd total. Netherlands were put under pressure in the end, and didn't quite have enough to win the match. For a match like that, where one of the Associates push one of the major sides, what we've had are too many mismatches. New Zealand bowled out Kenya for 69, Sri Lanka beat Canada comfortably, Australia annihilated Zimbabwe with their pace bowling, Pakistan defeated Kenya easily. It's not good enough to say there's one match out of a number that's good, because the rest are not interesting to watch for spectators or TV viewers.

We all await that one surprise match when an Associate defeats a big team. That probably will happen, it's happened in the previous World Cups. But, let's be honest, that's not a good enough reason to include four Associates. I know you're from Ireland and you're team's doing really good and I'm pleased for them. But that's not a good reason. There are too many bad cricket matches for one surprise.

What will happen in the next World Cup is that there'll be a chance for Associates to play a big team. What I'd like to see happen is that from the ICC rankings at a certain cut-off time before the next World Cup, the top six automatically qualify for the tournament. Then, the rest of the countries will have to play off with the top four, five or six of the Associates. That'll make it very much like the FIFA World Cup. If you're one of the major teams, you've got to play well against the Associates, and if you don't, the Associates get in. That way, they do get a chance to play the big teams and do have an opportunity to play in the World Cup. But they've got to come forward a bit more. A lot of money has been spent on Bangladesh in recent years but I don't think they've improved that much in the last decade. They're okay in their own country but the moment they get out of their own country, they're not very good . FIFA, for the soccer World Cup, have a qualifying tournament where everyone plays to qualify except the host country. And if you don't play well, you don't get in to the World Cup proper. So the Associates will get a chance to compete; in my opinion with two or four of the major teams.

As another point, the World Cup is too long. Six weeks is two weeks or certainly ten days too much. It just drags on. Soccer is much bigger than cricket, there are far more countries competing in the Soccer World Cup. That's about four weeks. And most of the time, there are two matches in a day. There are too many days going on here where there's just one game. There are three nations hosting the tournament. I don't care if it's a big one between England in India on a Sunday, there could be another one happening in Bangladesh or Sri Lanka.

There's no excuse. They're just spreading it out for television and the revenues from it. That's not good for the game. When you're negotiating for money, the first thing you should think is what is best for cricket. What type of tournament is the best for the game. Two matches a day, plan to get it done within a month and then sell the broadcast rights for television. Think of what is best for cricket first, and then make the money. Not how can we make the most money and fit cricket within that.

AR: Before we end this show, a couple of closing comments from you Geoffrey. We're a week into this World Cup, any team that stood out for you? Any performance?

GB: Pakistan winning against Sri Lanka was excellent, they haven't beaten them for a while. It was exciting, interesting and absolutely laughable. Can you believe all the catches that went down? The wicketkeeping from Kamran Akmal was atrocious. I could have stopped them better with my coat. It was appalling. They needed 16 or 17 wickets to win the match. If they had caught those catches properly, with 277 on the board, they could have won it easily. But they keep you on the edge of your seat because that's the sort of team they are - talented, interesting, exciting and then they do diabolical things, don't they?

AR: Thanks for sharing your thoughts Geoffrey. That's all we have from today's show. Do send in your questions using our feedback form, and we'll have Geoffrey back in a fortnight to answer them. Goodbye.

Posted by   on (March 3, 2011, 10:51 GMT)

The England - Australia ODI after Ashes was as many bad matches for one surprise. We need to count the number of close matches: Netherlands vs England for example.

Posted by   on (March 3, 2011, 9:42 GMT)

'Too many bad matches for one surprise'

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