Geoffrey Boycott answers your questions on all things cricket. Send your questions in here.

Boycott: 'Umpires at fault, not the DRS'

Boycott on England's troubles, Kamran's wicketkeeping woes, the challenge of the batting Powerplay and questions surrounding the review system (18:25)

Producer: Siddhartha Talya

March 17, 2011


Boycott: 'Umpires at fault, not the DRS'

March 17, 2011

Kamran Akmal's wicketkeeping has been under the spotlight, Pallekele, March 13, 2011
'Don't let him hold the baby' © AFP

Siddhartha Talya: Hello and welcome to Bowl at Boycs. I'm Siddhartha Talya and I'm joined by Geoffrey Boycott, who'll answer the questions our listeners have sent in.

Hi Geoffrey, we're just almost a week away now from the quarter-finals and England's place in the top eight is still very uncertain.

Geoffrey Boycott: Everything else is easily predictable. It's that England are just unpredictable. They're looking to be the Pakistan of the western world, aren't they? You don't know what the hell you're going to get from them. We've had a tie, we've had losses to two of the minnows, we beat South Africa in a thriller… you just don't know what you're going to get.

They just don't look very good to me. There seem to be some poor selections. There are players who are decent Test players but ones I wouldn't say are good for ODIs. I think the selectors did a great job in picking the team for the Ashes. But the administrators are partly to blame for scheduling the ODIs in Australia straight after the Ashes, instead of the players resting. And the selectors then got it wrong with some poor selections for the ODI squad.

ST: England now face West Indies on March 17 in a virtual must-win game. What do you make of their chances?

GB: At the moment West Indies are favourites. I don't think you'd want to put your money on England. It'll be a surprise if they win.

ST: We move on to our questions now. The first one comes from Jim in Sydney, and it concerns Michael Hussey who's been recalled for the World Cup as a replacement for the injured Doug Bollinger. Jim's asking what you think of the decision. Shouldn't they have opted for a bowler, given that Australia's batting already has a lot of depth?

GB: It's a pretty smart move because Ricky Ponting wants Hussey in the middle- and lower-middle order for two reasons: His record in those positions in ODIs is very good, and he's a left-handed batsman. The only other left-handed batsman is Mitchell Johnson, who can hit it but isn't a proper batsman. Hussey, remember, would have been in the original squad but for a hamstring injury. Now he's proved his fitness. He's had some time to prove his fitness since the beginning of the tournament.

Although Bollinger has gone, Australia still have three fit fast bowlers, which is all they need in their XI. Two of Australia's last three matches in the group stages are against Kenya and Canada. They've just beaten Kenya, and Canada should be an easy win for them. By the time they play Pakistan, Australia will already be through to the quarter-finals. So Canada and Pakistan are not big matches. What they've done in the event that a fast bowler gets injured is, they've brought Dirk Nannes along, to train, practise and get used to the conditions. He'll be well acclimatised if one of the fast bowlers breaks down, and then they'll go straight to the ICC and get him drafted in. It's a smart move.

ST: On the subject of replacements, we move on to a question about England now. It's from Amrit in India. He asks: What's wrong with England? First Kevin Pietersen and then Stuart Broad. Each time England are on a major tour, injuries return to haunt them. Is this a fitness issue or are these just a couple of unavoidable problems? What's your take on the players replacing the pair - Chris Tremlett and Eoin Morgan?

GB: I don't think we'll miss Pietersen much - he's played a couple of decent innings and is a good player but not the force he was. He's played 27 games from the time of his last ODI hundred, and averages around 23 since in the top order. That's a pretty poor average when you've got the whole 50 overs to bat. Morgan is a very inventive player, has great hands and England wanted him all the time. They were disappointed when he didn't play because he's done marvellously well in ODI cricket. Tremlett's a good bowler, gets a bit of pace and bounce, but as well as he might do, we'll miss Broad. He's been England's best seamer in ODIs. He's been the go-to man for a long time now in ODIs.

I've mentioned that the team's not been the same since the Ashes. They've gone backwards. I had said at the time that I would have sent most of the Ashes-winning team home to get some rest, mentally and physically. The two Twenty20 internationals and seven one-dayers - they lost seven out of nine. They played pretty poorly in most of the matches. They had about four nights at home since they left in October, and I just think they're overtired, overworked, and it would have been better had they gone home early. They would have slept in their own beds, would have got more rest. The wives would have looked after them, they would have seen their kids, dropped and picked them up at school. They would have gone down to a local pub with their wives, or a football match - just done some normal things that would have rested them mentally. But when you're overtired and overworked, that's what happens - you get injured and you don't give your best.

I would have played a number of the England Lions players in the ODI series. They have all gone to the Caribbean now to play in the regional first-class tournament there. Quite frankly, a lot of those young kids would have been up for it. If you turn it around the other way, most of the Australian team in this World Cup didn't play in the Ashes. They are fresh and up for the World Cup, just as they were for the ODI series against England. They're fresh as daisies, and England, I think, made a big mistake there.

ST: Our next question concerns wicketkeeping, and it's from a disgruntled fan, Bilal, from Pakistan. He says Kamran Akmal gets worse with his wicketkeeping skills. Should Pakistan replace him with a non-specialist keeper, or are their problems with the bat just too serious, ensuring he keeps his place? Also, in terms of wicketkeeping technique, where do you think he's going wrong?

GB: He's selected in the team because he is a good batsman, there's no doubt about that. But he's been bad now for a long time. This hasn't suddenly happened. If you can't catch the ball with a big pair of gloves, you ain't any good. Full stop. He needs to do a lot of serious work with his wicketkeeping. He has to practice with another wicketkeeper and work damn hard because he's been bad for some time. It's a bit late to change now, because I don't think they have another wicketkeeper-batsman, and they'll have to go with him. They'll have to suffer it. There is one thing for sure. When he gets married and has a child, his wife wouldn't want him to hold it as he'll sure as hell drop it.

"When the BCCI or the Indian players complain about the DRS, it has to be taken with a pinch of salt because it's sour grapes. Just think about how many umpiring decisions in this tournament have been corrected by the DRS to provide the fairest, most correct and right decision for both sets of players"

ST: Our next couple of questions concern some trends in ODI cricket and the first comes from Roshan in India. He wants to know if the era of the pinch-hitter is over. There was a time when frontline bowlers were pushed up the order to whack a few. But now, even while chasing big scores, teams don't rely on them anymore. Why is that the case?

GB: Pitches have got flatter and better over the years. The covering is better, so the preparation of pitches has improved. The outfields are cut short and are faster. The boundaries are shorter. There are huge bats now, which hit the ball further and harder. There aren't as many grassy or wet pitches. There are more and more ODIs and Twenty20s. Then there's the IPL as well. Players are more used to chasing big scores - they're not scared or don't feel pressurised anymore. They've done it so often because they play so many matches. Old-fashioned players like myself or Sunil Gavaskar didn't play too many one-day matches; now they play 500.

The ODI game keeps developing and changing. It's no different to golf and tennis that have moved forward. The equipment is better in those sports. Remember those wooden racquets used by Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe? Now they've got these metal things and bigger sweet spots. And they hit it harder and faster. You can mis-hit it, yet hit it well. Look at golf, look at how far the balls go. You talk about Jack Nicklaus hitting it 260 yards, and Arnold Palmer. They are big men. Now you have Kapil Dev hitting that at the Delhi golf club. These guys are hitting it 300 yards. The balls and clubs are better, the shafts are better.

So cricket has gone the same way. The normal batsmen playing normal shots are hitting it harder, faster and better. Not that they are better players than those years ago but the equipment they use has improved tremendously. There is now the psychological advantage of chasing big scores more often. The one thing that players today are better at is that they are fitter. They train harder, do a lot of exercises on their body to build themselves up. That is also true in golf and tennis. So all these factors have come together.

Pinch-hitters, nah. That's gone. If you bat on flat, dry and really good batting pitch, with better equipment, and you are physically fitter than ever, then scoring 300 in a one-day match is no big deal. It's a run a ball. You don't have to hit one boundary if you take a single off every ball. Add to it a few no-balls and wides and you've got to 320 without trying.

ST: Greg from England has a question about Powerplays. He wants to know: what's the best approach for a bowling attack if the batting side takes the batting Powerplay before the final five overs? Should they go with their best bowlers - as Shahid Afridi and Umar Gul did against New Zealand - or should they hold them back for later?

GB: There is no best approach. A lot of it is instinct, feel and experience from the captains. I don't think any captain will get everything right in one-day matches. I just don't think they can. The game is purely a batsman's game. Every rule is made for the batsman, every rule is made against the bowler. You're only allowed one bouncer an over. You're only allowed 10 overs even if you're bowling brilliantly. You get wided if you bowl slightly down the leg side; you bowl wide on the off side it's the same result. It's ridiculous. It's gone too far in the batsman's favour. I would stop it. So whatever the captains or bowlers do, every bowler, some time or the other, will get whacked. I don't think you can stop that. If the captain gets more right than wrong, I think he's done quite well.

MS Dhoni calls for a referral when Ian Bell was struck on the pads by Yuvraj Singh, India v England, World Cup, Group B, Bangalore, February 27, 2011
"Dhoni would want to shut up about the DRS and start captaining his bowlers. They've been bowling tripe at times and won't win the World Cup until they improve" © Getty Images

But remember, no captain can legislate for a bowler bowling rubbish, like Shoaib Akhtar did at the end against New Zealand. How can you legislate for that? I've never seen such tripe bowled from someone who's supposed to be able to bowl at the death. You stand there mesmerised, don't you? You watch him and you think, "You're kidding me." How can you keep bowling full-toss after full-toss? Terrible full-tosses, ludicrous. One after another. It just belies everything we know about keeping your concentration and doing your thing. How do you bowl that badly? So, no, I don't think there is any one way of doing anything. Do what your instinct and experience tells you. That's why you are captain. And pray to God that you get more right than wrong.

ST: It's now time to go to the question that Geoffrey has picked as the favourite for this show. It comes from Nishant in India and it concerns the DRS system, which has been involved in a couple of controversial moments this World Cup. He asks, is the DRS a problem or is it the umpires? You've had the 2.5 metre rule, then some shockers including the decision against Gary Wilson in Ireland's game against West Indies. In hindsight, do you think the system should have been trialled more in ODIs ahead of the World Cup? Or is it just a problem of poor implementation by the umpires on the field and the third umpire?

GB: It's a brilliant question. It's the poor implementation of the system by the umpires. Don't blame the system, because it's human error. You can't legislate against human error or human incompetence, as in the Wilson decision.

Regarding the 2.5 metre rule, it's been here for a while and wasn't just made for the World Cup. As MS Dhoni and most of his team admit, they hadn't read the rule. That's their mistake, it's totally unprofessional and not smart. If you think the rule is a poor one, you have to understand it once and see if there is a way of improving it. You can then complain or send your views to the ICC and ask them to think about how to do it better. But when you haven't read the rules, how the hell can you complain about it? If you had read the rule, which has been in operation for a while, you could have suggested alterations and given opinions and observations.

It was appalling by Dhoni. He was miffed, quite frankly, because Ian Bell wasn't given out and India didn't win. The Indian players and the BCCI have been against the review system since its inception. When the BCCI or the Indian players complain about the DRS, it has to be taken with a pinch of salt, because it's sour grapes. Just think about how many umpiring decisions in this tournament have been corrected by the DRS to provide the fairest, most correct and right decision for both sets of players. At the end of the tournament, let's ask the ICC to give us the actual number of decisions that have been changed for the better. I bet you that when the ICC give it, you'll be flabbergasted. So take no notice of Dhoni and some of his players and even the BCCI. The BCCI have too much power.

I'm a great believer in this: If the rules are formulated before the tournament, you adhere to them all through the tournament. If you want to change the rules, change them afterwards. The 2.5 metre rule was introduced because they couldn't say with absolute certainty that it was definitely going to hit a particular place if it was 2.5 metres away from the crease. There was little margin for error and they were trying to be honest and fair about it. Dhoni would want to shut up about it and start captaining his bowlers. They've been bowling tripe at times and won't win the World Cup until they improve. He should stop complaining about the DRS because one decision didn't go his way.

ST: There you have it, Nishant. Thanks a lot Geoffrey. That's a wrap on this show. Do send in your questions using our feedback form and Geoffrey will be back in a couple of weeks to answer them. Until the next time, it's goodbye from all of us here at ESPNcricinfo.

Posted by Jim1207 on (March 18, 2011, 22:34 GMT)

@_NEUTRAL_Fan_: BCCI or Dhoni didn't ask to change the rule in the middle of the world cup, can you refute that please? They just criticized, everybody has right to speak in this world, Dhoni just spoke in press meet. If people just want to take this opportunity to blame BCCI, it's fine, but that is just not correct in this instance. Did anybody question ICC why they changed the rule, everybody just blames BCCI. Funny. Ian Bell must have been out - here is why. The ball is clearly hitting middle stump low. If the DRS is not going to predict for distance more than 2.5m, how do we believe its decision while the distance was 2 or 2.4m? If the ball hits leg or off stump and distance > 2.5m, we can give "benefit of doubt" to DRS, but not when hitting middle stump. If DRS is not sure about that, it means that the technology is unreliable. Let the manufacturers & ICC come up with improved system which gives fair justice to same delivery on different occasions. Right now, DRS is not accurate.

Posted by Jim1207 on (March 18, 2011, 22:22 GMT)

I beg to differ, Geoffrey. Dhoni has every right to complain. ICC only changed the rule in the middle of the world cup. BCCI or Dhoni didn't ask to change the rule at all, they just criticized the DRS which has been criticized by Bagai, Taylor, Porterfield too. Why do we ridicule only Dhoni? Before DRS, we can agree that batsman is not LBW if he is down the pitch. but DRS or introduction of technology must correct such indecisiveness now, if DRS is also not going to predict if the length is more than 2.5m, why do we use technology at all? Players have right to complain against DRS which have lot of things need to be corrected in that by ICC, Umpires & the manufacturers of DRS. ICC doesn't give actual stats as Geoffrey says. It always says 97% improvement because of DRS, ignoring all the wrong things that DRS could not correct. Dhoni is not lamenting against one decision that went wrong, he just speaks his mind on DRS. He knows how to captain too, nobody needs to remind him on that.

Posted by YogifromNY on (March 18, 2011, 3:31 GMT)

I love 'Bowl at Boycs'! Boycott does not pull his punches, tells it as it is, and hang who gets offended. I am an Indian supporter and think his comments about the BCCI and Dhoni in connection with the DRS system are brilliant and spot on! Keep 'em coming, Geoffrey!

Posted by Dashgar on (March 18, 2011, 2:40 GMT)

It's clear Geoffry hates umpires. If UDRS had been in play when he was around he would have used it every single time he went out and England would have wasted a lot of reviews. At the end of the tournament see how many decisions were changed? It'll be about 20% of all reviews. Umpires are right 80% of the time in borderline decisions. I reckon that's good enough reason to scrap the system and reintroduce the passion of when the umpire puts his finger up.

Posted by _NEUTRAL_Fan_ on (March 18, 2011, 1:11 GMT)

@Madhukar Sood. Boycott is right about what he said and he is right to be blunt. The rules were agreed to BEFORE the tourney and if the shoe was on the other foot is there a guarantee that Dhoni, the Indian Media, the Indian public would care? Due to their fickle history and one eyedness, I doubt.

Posted by   on (March 17, 2011, 8:47 GMT)

A must listen to for any serious cricket fan .This is Geoffrey Boycott at his best, fair unbiased and frank, He is like a vintage wine . Outstanding analysis.

Posted by   on (March 17, 2011, 6:32 GMT)

I disagree with Geoff boycott comment on Bell not given out and India's reaction later on. Umpires were wrong and so was review system because the impact was low. The 2.5 m distance should apply to balls hitting batsman's leg guard halfway and up.

I would like to hear his comments on above.

Posted by AndyZaltzmannsHair on (March 17, 2011, 6:26 GMT)

He doesn't hang around Geoffrey does he? Calls a spade a spade and doesn't care who's toes he steps on. Marvellous.

Comments have now been closed for this article

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