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'There is a fear of offending India'
Boycott on the DRS divide, phasing out senior players, how to combat short-pitched bowling, and the impasse in West Indies cricket (18:31)
Producer: Siddhartha Talya
June 23, 2011
Related Links » News: Countries should outvote BCCI on DRS - Boycott | The ridiculous resistance to the DRS | Katich shakes Australian cricket | Wright wins in New Zealand selection shake-up In Focus: Technology in cricket Players/Officials: Geoff Boycott | John Buchanan | Brian Close | Alastair Cook | Michael Holding | Simon Katich Teams: Australia | England | India | New Zealand | West Indies
'There is a fear of offending India'June 23, 2011
Siddhartha Talya: Hello and welcome to Bowl and Boycs. I'm Siddhartha Talya and joining me from his residence in Jersey is Geoffrey Boycott. Morning Geoffrey, the England-Sri Lanka Test series was a dampener but looking ahead to the ODI series, what do you think will be the talking point? Alastair Cook's captaincy?
Geoff Boycott: Yes, I think so. It's ironic. He couldn't get into the team for the World Cup, or England's ODI series in Australia after the Ashes. It's crazy. If you can't get in as a player, how the hell can you get in as a captain? We seem to do things differently in England. We seem to pick a captain and then a team. The Australians do it better. They pick the best team, and somebody has to captain. We've got two people at the top, in Cook and Jonathan Trott, who are not exactly fast scorers. In four years time, we're going to try for the World Cup in Australia and we've hardly picked any youngsters at all. We've picked the same team, more or less. We've dropped Matt Prior, swapped Cook for Andrew Strauss and it doesn't seem like we are preparing or looking to the future to the head as we should be.
ST: We'll move on to the questions now and the first one comes from Angus in Australia. Angus says: Simon Katich's axing from the contracts list and his subsequent outburst have dominated the news in Australia. The decision surprised many, since his recent record hasn't been too bad either. Agreed, he is one of the older players around. But should they be forced out in this manner to make way for younger ones?
GB: Good question. I've just mentioned that England need to plan for the next World Cup. Australia need to plan for England in 2013. They've got to try and win the Ashes back before we get to the World Cup. It's a hard task.
Questions need to be asked by the Australian selectors to themselves, not anybody else. In two years time, when Australia have to regain the Ashes in England, what team do they want to be playing? Who is going to be there? In sport, everyone has to be pragmatic, because runs, results and winning matches - that is the name of the profession. Yes, you get some leeway if you've performed well over a period of time, but with success comes huge rewards for each individual player.
If Australia are planning ahead, then is it hard to accept that a 35-year old in two years' time will be ready for Australia's tour of England? That is a question that they have to answer, not me. Then there is the other question about Ricky Ponting. Will he be in the selectors' team for 2013? If the answer to that question about Ponting and Katich is no, then move on now. Do not waste time. I know it's a harsh decision, but you have to [take them].
If the selectors make decisions that are hard, or even unpalatable for players like Simon as they get older, then it does mean that you have to deal with players properly and in a decent manner. Even if you have to face up to a decision that a player doesn't like, you've got to go see the player and explain to him, face to face, your reasoning. Do you need to do that? You don't have to, but it's a moral obligation. It's a decent thing to do. You go and see to him and say "we've sat down, we've had a view that in two years time we don't think you, Ponting, will be in our team for England". Obviously, he's not going to like it. He wants to play for his country. But you do have an obligation as a decent person in charge to go and have a face to face. And be honest, and deal with people properly. As a human being, you should always front up to people about whatever difficult decision you make.
ST: Controversies off the field have been hurting West Indies cricket for a while now and related to that is a question from Anam in India. Anam says: There is a standoff affecting West Indies cricket, with Chris Gayle and the West Indies Cricket Board at loggerheads. The players in the Caribbean have a strong representative body in the West Indies Players' Association, and the relations between the board and the players have been strained over the years. Are both sides to blame?
GB: The problem with West Indies cricket is that it has no money. Many of the countries around the world are in the same situation. It's very hard for people in India to believe this - they are the financial whizkids of world cricket. But Bangladesh have no brass, nor do Pakistan or Sri Lanka, or New Zealand or West Indies. That's five teams there struggling for money.
Now, the IPL has lobbed a huge bomb in the middle of international cricket. Nobody is totally sure what the fallout will be. We've seen some already, but it hasn't finished. The IPL gives players riches beyond their wildest dreams. It's an opportunity of a lifetime. Players who've played a number of Tests and ODIs, and have had the pleasure of playing for their country, fulfilled many of their ambitions, are suddenly confronted with something that is riches galore. They realise, that in a few years time, when they've retired, or pushed out, what do they do? What job do they get?
People love you when you are playing for your country, but what happens when one retires? It's all right in India. Many of them today get huge money, but even in the past there were endorsements that fetched them decent money. But once you retire, there is no pension plan for all these countries. They're not in the same position as India, with all its television exposure and advertising. In many of these places, there's no pension plan, no guaranteed job, and they don't know what the hell they're going to do.
I understand it. I feel sad and disappointed that Gayle is not playing for West Indies in every single international. I don't like it, I don't think it is good for the game, but more players may go like Gayle. But, can you blame them?
ST: James from Australia has a technical question. He says he watched a footage of Michael Holding hurling bouncers at Brian Close in the 1976 series, and was amazed at Close's courage. What are the key things to keep in mind for a batsman when tackling such vicious bowling?
And Geoffrey, with helmets and all kinds of protection available today, should fast bowlers be allowed to bowl more than two bouncers an over?
GB: Yes and no, I'll explain that. When Close was hit on the body, the balls bowled were not bouncers. Be absolutely clear about that. They were well directed, short balls at the body. They were fast, skillful, very accurate and very painful. A bouncer is when the ball goes over your head.
The way things are going today with all the protection, yes, maybe you should be allowed more than two an over. I've always had this belief: The old law, I thought, was better. Courage and technique against fast bowling is part of the game, not just the elegant front-foot cover drives. Bowlers should be able to attack batsmen, test their courage, see if they're going to flinch or back away or see if they're up for the challenge. It takes a lot of skill and courage to play fast bowling, and I think you should be tested. I don't think it should be a game for the namby pambys.
However, at the same time, you can't go all day with bowlers sticking to short-pitch bowling because the game will deteriorate. I always thought that when the batsman first came in, fast bowlers were entitled to test him out, test his courage with quite a few short balls into the body and some above his head. And then it was up to the umpires to say, "Right. That's enough. You've got a good go, fast bowler. Now, let's just settle back to the odd bouncer." I always thought that was a better way of doing it rather than regimenting three or four balls an over. You can't have that because the game will deteriorate.
This is a judgement call. People like Dickie Bird were brilliant at this. They understood that a fast bowler has an opportunity against a new batsman. Intimidation is the word. I don't have a problem with that, to try and intimidate him and test his courage. But then he said: "Alright, that's it. We're not going to do this all day. We've had three or four overs of that and it's enough." If the bowler doesn't want to accept the umpire's decision, then warn him. Two warnings and he can't bowl again in that innings. The umpire always has the way.
|"If a majority of the ICC countries believe that the DRS is a good improvement for international cricket, they should vote for it and say, 'Sorry India, you are in a minority.' It's supposed to be a democracy around the world, where the majority takes precedence"|
If I had to give advice on fast bowling, I'd say don't back away. That's the first thing. You need the technique, so you've got to practice that; play the ball instead of letting it hit you. Close showed a lot of courage but letting it hit you is not a good idea and not a smart thing to do. It hurts, let me tell you. And I wouldn't hook a really fast bowler early in my innings.
One thing I will tell you is really look at the ball. It is the most important, vital thing that really matters. Sounds simple, doesn't it? When it's coming at you at 90mph or 100mph, people don't do that. They flinch, look away and if you do that you've had it. The ball will hit you and hurt you, may hit the glove or the splice and go anywhere for a catch. You must watch it like a hawk.
Maurice Leyland, the great Yorkshire and England left-hand batsman, made the best comment I can think of. He said: "Nobody likes fast bowling. Some batsmen let on more than others." In other words, if you don't understand the Yorkshire of that, some batsmen show their fear more than others. Do not show you're afraid, because they'll come after you more.
ST: We move on to New Zealand, where there have been some major changes made by their new director of cricket, John Buchanan, and it comes from Puneet in India. Puneet says: Buchanan has come up with an interesting selection structure in New Zealand where he's done away with the selection committee, and allowed the head coach have the final say in who gets picked. Only two people - the head coach and the selection manager - have been given the responsibility of picking squads. Do you think it's a gamble, with too much power in the hands of one person? Or is it about time that coaches had a much greater say in team matters?
GB: I don't have a big view one way or the other. Most of the time, selection committees - I won't say they are a waste of time - are not as helpful as they could be. Why is that? They have the position and the power, but they don't use it. Selectors usually say that the captain has the final say, or the coach and captain want to choose a player so the selectors give in. If the selectors give in to what the captain wants, or the coach, what's the point of being a selector? You might as well leave it to the coach, captain or manager or whatever you call him. It's not the name that matters, but who is in charge. Chairman of selectors, captain, coach, uncle Tom Cobley, call it what you want. As long as you have someone accountable, it doesn't matter.
Selectors can be very helpful when they go around watching other matches and other players. A captain or coach of the national side, with so much cricket happening, can't go around and see every young player who is playing well or nearing selection. They can get selectors to go and do that - that's very helpful. When it comes to down to thinking if selectors actually have power, they only have power if they use it. They do have the right to say: "We're going to outvote the captain and coach because we want that player to play." But do they actually do that? Extremely rarely. And then when they do, the captain or coach will mutter to the press: "Well, I didn't get the team I wanted." So, I don't know what the answer is to that, but make someone accountable. Then we'll know who is in charge, who is to blame. And if he doesn't deliver, you can sack him.
John Buchanan has always come up with new ideas that capture the imagination and get publicity. Is it important? Does it really matter? I don't know whether it does. What matters is who is in charge and whether you know who is to blame when it goes wrong.
ST: We now move on to the question that Geoffrey has picked as his favourite for this show and it comes from Neil in England. It's a very pertinent question, given that the ICC annual conference will be held in Hong Kong at the end of the month with lots of things on the table. One of them, of course, is the DRS. Neil says: India has consistently opposed the DRS and it won't be used in the England series, which is a bit of a shame. Though many find India's decision hard to understand, is the ICC also to blame by not paying for the technology nor making the system mandatory? And is that the way ahead?
GB: I do think it is the way ahead. You've got to remember this: It's quite simple and may or may not be palatable to the Indian public. Many countries that play cricket are frightened to death of India's financial power. You've got to understand that before you get to voting on anything at the ICC.
Some of those countries - Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and the West Indies - are absolutely desperate to have India tour their country. When you play international cricket, every country has its own television rights with its home broadcaster. When India come, you've got a number of TV stations queuing up in India to get the rights to beam the coverage in India and they pay a lot of money for that. Other countries don't have the same financial buying power. England do to some extent with Sky - the TV conglomerate which is prepared to pay a fair amount to watch England - but most of the others don't spend any money. So nobody wants to offend India. Nobody wants to create a situation where they say, "We're not going to tour." I'm not saying India say that, and I'm not saying India are putting the pressure on and blackmailing; they don't. But, underneath, these countries are frightened to speak up.
If a majority of the ICC countries believe that the DRS is a good improvement for international cricket, they should vote for it and say, "Sorry India, you are in a minority." It's supposed to be a democracy around the world, where the majority takes precedence. But there is fear to offend, and some countries are totally afraid to offend India. The sooner they get around to it and say, "No. Since a majority of us believe it is good, we're going to do it," the better. Simple as that. India won't like it, but you can't be run by one country.
If you believe it was wrong earlier... and there are some people like my friend Sunil Gavaskar. He says that England and Australia ran the Imperial Cricket Conference, when it was called that, and he's right. They used to have two votes each, the other countries had one. That wasn't fair and it wasn't right. Now everybody has one vote.
If it wasn't right back then, two wrongs don't make a right. It's about time the other countries stood up and said, "We're going to have the DRS because it's made more accurate decisions for cricket and it's all players ever want."
ST: If the ICC was made to pay for the technology, instead of the boards and TV companies, would that make DRS' implementation easier?
GB: The ICC makes enough money on its various events, the World Cup, the World Twenty20 etc. It makes zillions. First of all, before you get to the financial things, it's a cricket decision, isn't it? Do we want to have it, and should we have it? That is the question you ask everybody. The answer to that is yes, because it's better for our game and then you work out the financial implications. First of all, don't get into the finance, don't put the cart before the horse. Not when you can't get past the first hurdle yet, which is to get India to say yes.
ST: There you go, Neil. Thanks a lot Geoffrey. That's a wrap on today's 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.
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