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'Broad and Bresnan are priceless'

Geoff Boycott on what's gone right for England, Dhoni's decision to reprieve Bell and how to address the problem of over-rates (19:14)

Producer: Siddhartha Talya

August 5, 2011


'Broad and Bresnan are priceless'

August 5, 2011

Stuart Broad crashes one through extra cover, England v India, 2nd Test, Trent Bridge, 4th day, August 1, 2011
A touch of Garry Sobers? © AFP

Siddhartha Talya: Hello and welcome to Bowl at Boycs. I'm Siddhartha Talya and it's a pleasure, as always, to be speaking to Geoffrey Boycott.

Geoffrey, India are 0-2 down in the series now. Did you really expect them to capitulate as badly as they did at Trent Bridge? You had said at the start of the series that they would struggle against the swinging ball, but to see the Trent Bridge Test end in four days… were you surprised?

Geoffrey Boycott: Very surprised. I didn't even check out of my hotel [on day four]. With iconic players like Laxman, Tendulkar, Dravid and Dhoni, I thought India would bat quite well. I thought they might lose a couple of wickets with the new ball - it's the new ball that does the damage on our pitches with bounce - but when the ball gets soft, these players are pretty good. Somebody's bound to get in, like Bell did, and get a decent score, and you expect to be coming back on the fifth day. I expected England to win because there were at least five sessions to bowl. I didn't even pack. I was quite surprised that England ran through India, very surprised.

ST: You mentioned Ian Bell, and our first question of the day, from Aswath in India, deals with a controversial moment involving him before tea on the third day at Trent Bridge. He says: Bell was out according to the law books and everyone is praising Dhoni for recalling him and withdrawing his appeal. Are you among those who would praise him for upholding the spirit of the game or do you, like me, think Bell's carelessness should not have been spared?

GB: I have mixed feelings. One part of me thinks Bell was dozy, naïve, careless, even stupid. I'd like to think that when somebody's that daft, they ought to be given out and stay out because you know from being a child playing cricket at school that you wait for the umpire to make a signal - be it for a four, or lunch or tea or end of play, when the umpire has to say, "Time, gentlemen." That's when we all know that the ball is dead.

Then there is another way. Rahul Dravid got it right. We've always got to put ourselves in the situation. If Tendulkar had been given out the same way in India, all hell would have broken loose. The tour would not have continued and there would have been bitter relations between the teams. That's what would have happened here. There would have been very poisonous relations between the two teams. So you always have to turn it around and think, "If that was me, or an Indian player in India, how would we feel?" I'd like to think England would have done the same if they had run out an Indian player. We'll never know until people are put in these situations about how they'll react. I understood that Dhoni reacted the right way.

Dhoni said he's out and when the umpire asked if he would take back his appeal, he said no. It was a lucky thing that they had the time to think about it in the dressing room during the interval. I suppose if it hadn't been an interval, Bell wouldn't have run himself out. But they had 20 minutes to watch the replays and see that he wasn't really attempting a run - he was just daft - and thought that this is not good for relations. The most important thing about all this is that eventually, when Bell got round to it at the end of the day, he accepted the blame and that he was in the wrong. There was no criticism towards Dhoni or his team for the run-out, because they had acted properly.

I would always be a tough competitor. But I never want to win in any manner that would be deemed unfair or would be held against me as against the spirit of the game, or if anybody thought I'd done anything underhand. I always want to win properly, and that's what Dhoni did in the end.

ST: Do you see this incident setting a trend? For instance, will some batsmen now walk when they know they're out, or is this incident just a one-off?

GB: It was a one-off. I played in the Port of Spain Test in 1974 when Tony Greig ran Alvin Kallicharran out on the last ball of the day. We reinstated him the next morning. Donald Carr was the manager, Mike Denness was the captain. Greigy ran him out. He wasn't trying to take a run, he was like Bell, careless and silly, just walking off at the end of play - he was thrilled he had made a hundred, like Bell was. Since he wasn't trying to take a run and for the good of the game, we reinstated him. It was a one-off that will occasionally rear itself from time to time.

ST: Let's move on to a slightly technical question. It comes from Nilesh in India and it concerns Dhoni's wicketkeeping this series. He asks: Why is wicketkeeping in England such a difficult job? Dhoni is usually a good keeper, but he's struggled a lot behind the stumps, fumbling the ball regularly. What's been his problem and how does one combat it?

GB: Dhoni's keeping so far has been shoddy. He's been dropping the ball, letting the odd bye through and not getting it cleanly in his gloves. There is a problem in England, if you watch carefully. The Duke ball - not the SG or the Kookaburra - has a more raised seam and it does swing a bit more. It not only swings late down the pitch and in the air towards the batsman, it also tends to swing after it passes the stumps. Now that can be quite alarming, because obviously it does not have to travel very far from the stumps to the keeper taking it. When it alters its line very quickly in eight or nine yards, it can be a problem when you're not used to it.

Also, what makes wicketkeeping in England difficult, particularly at Trent Bridge, is that we get pitches where the ball keeps low. Some bounce alarmingly past the batsman's chin and others bounce twice and pitch on the half-volley before getting to the keeper. When it's swinging and pitching on the half-volley in front of the keeper, it's pretty difficult to take. The most important thing is Dhoni didn't miss a catch. Being sloppy with his glovework - it's not clever, doesn't look good or aesthetic, it looks clumsy - but the most important thing is to take the catches, and he hasn't dropped one yet.

ST: Our next question comes from Ashwin in India. He says: At the start of the series, you said India would find it difficult to cope with the bowler-friendly conditions in England. What have the batsmen been doing wrong? Should they leave the ball a lot more, or are they pushing at it too much? Was the quality of the bowling too hot to handle? And conversely, what did England do right with the bat?

GB: Good question. It is swing, but there is a difference between the pace of the swing. England's bowlers are quicker through the air and off the pitch, even eight or 10 miles an hour is a lot. It gives batsmen less time to adjust to the swing. Also, England's pace bowlers make it bounce a great deal more. So again, it's more uncomfortable for the Indian batsmen with the short balls on bouncy tracks.

The Indian bowlers, Sreesanth and Praveen, unfortunately are too military-medium. They are eight or 10 miles an hour slower. On bouncy pitches, with slow pace, it's a great problem. Although England's bowlers are quicker than India's, put it a different way: if Michael Holding, Jeff Thomson, Lillee at his pomp, were bowling at England's batsmen, these bowlers are quicker than Bresnan, Broad and Anderson. England's batsmen would have more difficulty then than when facing their own or the Indian bowlers. I say this because I've been there. I faced those West Indian bowlers in their pomp, in 1980 in England and in 1981 in the West Indies. They were genuinely fast. These bowlers are what we call, "lively fast-medium". Anderson and Bresnan are not out-and-out quicks.

"The bowlers in India are really medium-pacers, at least at our level. They try and work hard and swing the ball, but you have much more time at their pace to watch it swing. And they can't knock it in and get the extra bounce that's going to worry the England batsmen"

The bowlers in India are really medium-pacers, at least at our level. They try and work hard and swing the ball, but you have much more time at their pace to watch it swing. And they can't knock it in and get the extra bounce that's going to worry the England batsmen. When Anderson, Bresnan and Broad had the ball, they were bouncing it around the ear of Yuvraj and Raina, and the batsmen were struggling. It's the pace of the swing and the extra bounce that is causing the problem.

ST: I'm happy to be reading out this next question because it comes from Li Rui in China. It's good to know that we have listeners there as well. Li Rui says: We often saw Dhoni trying to speed up the over rate, using part-timers. I'm concerned that the system of suspending or fining captains for slow over rates risks depriving viewers of key players and forcing farcical bowling choices. Is the current system an effective one to handle this problem? Why do captains struggle so much to get their overs in in time?

GB: In my opinion, no it's not a good system. When the over rate is slow, I believe that the match referees and people, because they are so close to the players, are going to try whatever, to find allowances to get the over rate up. For instance, a wicketkeeper has a problem with his hands, so there is a stoppage for a minute; [the captain] decides that a short leg has to come into the on side, so they send for some pads or shin pads and he pads up, and that takes a minute. And then you move the sightscreen. They add on these stoppages, the match referees, to get the over rate which is slow, up to somewhere near 15 [per hour]. So they try to help the players in every single way, and I think that's wrong.

If you think about it, since cricket has been played, there has always been the moving of the sightscreen, somebody who's got a knock on the hand, somebody on the boundary edge who has fallen over, has to pick himself up and take a minute to dress himself down. There's always been a batsman hit on the hand and shaking it for a minute. These are not new things, they have been going on since cricket was played. In the years gone by, over rates were 17 and 18 an hour.

The problem is not the bowling of the overs. It is the messing about by players and captains in between overs. The setting of fields takes ages. There's no urgency in players moving into their fielding positions. You see sometimes that wicketkeeper and slips will run from one end to the other but when they get settled, they are still waiting because of a couple of other players who are meandering around and messing about.

There are these interminable stoppages for drinks. Why not have no drinks intervals? We didn't use to have drinks intervals, you know. Do like Rugby League. Fielders run to the boundary for a quick drink if they need one, from the 12th or 13th man, who is on the boundary at certain parts with liquids. The bowlers at fine leg can get a quick drink from them without any stoppage in play. For years there were no drinks intervals and you only had them in exceptional hot weather in England.

Teams who slow the game down, in my opinion - we shouldn't have this put on the captain because it doesn't work - should be penalised in that match, because it [should] hurt them in that match in which they are slowing the overs down. I would award 10 [runs] penalty for every over below 15 an hour to the other team. I said this 20 years ago: if you are five overs short at the end of your bowling period, you give 50 runs extra to the opposition, and 80 if you are eight short.

Otherwise, it's a cheat's charter. If you have been outplayed as a team, all you have to do is slow down your over rate. And if you slow it down enough, seven or eight a day, it might save the game for you. That can't be right, so you should be penalised in that game. If they penalised the captain and dropped him - as the rules are now - it's in the next game but in that game they got away with cheating. They shouldn't be allowed to do that.

Penalising runs would concentrate the minds of everybody. Nobody would want to give away 50-80 runs to the opposition, and the most important thing is no allowances, for any reason, for the bowling side, unless in very exceptional circumstances, as in somebody's got hit on the head and down he goes for five minutes because he's had a concussion and is seriously hurt. But people get hit in the midriff, in the box, and it hurts. They have been hit like that for years. You think nobody's been hit facing Lillee, Thomson, Holding Roberts, Garner, Croft, Trueman and Tyson? Of course they have. It's ludicrous.

ST: It's now time for the question Geoffrey has picked as the best one for this show. It comes from Ed in the UK and it deals with the Man of the Series so far for England. Ed says: Stuart Broad has bounced back superbly from the Sri Lanka series, both with ball and bat. Is he a genuine allrounder now in your estimation, and does he have the potential to match Andrew Flintoff?

Much to the surprise of everyone at the ground, Ian Bell emerged from the pavilion after tea, England v India, 2nd npower Test, Trent Bridge, 3rd day, July 31, 2011
"The most important thing about all this is that eventually Bell accepted the blame and that he was in the wrong" © Getty Images

GB: Ah, good question. He is very good at the moment and he is a bowling allrounder, just like Tim Bresnan from Yorkshire. The men we had before that were Ian Botham and Trevor Bailey. [Broad's] very good at the moment but I have my doubts he'll be as good as Flintoff. However, he's young, there is room for improvement, and time is on his side.

Allrounders like Broad and Bresnan are priceless in a side because they add balance with that lower-order batting. They lengthen the batting to a point that… if you look at these two Tests, England's middle and lower orders were making almost twice as many runs as the Indian middle and lower orders. It can be a game-changing situation, having these middle- and late-order players.

Broad's batting, when you watch it, has a touch of Sobers about it. Now don't misunderstand me. I don't mean he is as good as Garry Sobers. He ain't and never will be. Sobers is the best batsman I have ever seen. But Broad's batting has just a touch of him when he drives through the off side. He has a big flowing back-lift, and it comes flowing through as well. It's very clean, he strikes the ball beautifully, and it's very aesthetic. That was Sobers at this best. Just now and again, when [Broad] plays through the off side, on the floor, in the air, off the front and back foot, he's very good at that and I just see a little bit of the great Garry Sobers.

For India, and all teams - unless you have six high-quality batsmen up front, really high-quality - then it's advantageous to have people like Broad and Bresnan, Swann even, who can bat in the middle and late order and change the game for you, as Broad did. He did well at Lord's and at Trent Bridge. And he's still got his bowling, so they are priceless are those people.

But Flintoff? Flintoff as a bowler, ooh, he hit the deck so hard. He was fearsome. He was quicker than Broad - aggressive and nasty. Bowling round the wicket to the left-handers, which is very hard to do when you're bowling quick because you tend to run on the pitch, Flintoff got off the pitch and he destroyed those Australians when they came. Remember Adam Gilchrist and how good he was? He couldn't get a run against Flintoff when he was bowling round the wicket. He hit the deck in England with a bit of movement and was fantastic. So aggressive, so intimidating. That was his strength.

ST: And finally, Geoffrey, where do you see the series going from here? Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Zaheer Khan are expected to return for the third Test. Do you think India will be able to bounce back as we head to Edgbaston and The Oval?

GB: No. You can send for whoever you want. If the pitch is bouncy - England will ask for a bouncy pitch I'm sure, whether they will get it is a different matter - they are going to beat India again. The pitch at The Oval is the flattest in England, so there is a chance India might draw that game. But if the pitch bounces, England are better than India. It's the bowling, India's bowling isn't good enough to threaten. Only Zaheer Khan can get India out of trouble. But can he stay fit?

ST: Well, thanks a lot for that Geoffrey. That's all we have for 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.

Posted by Bomaru on (August 6, 2011, 14:55 GMT)

All the findings of Mr. Boycott should follow Dhoni

Posted by Stripey82 on (August 6, 2011, 2:21 GMT)

Typical Boycott dismissive bluster. India are a good side who haven't had great luck with injuries at crucial times in this series. There will be some sort of fighback and- whilst I still expect England to win- it's disrespectful to say that a team with the calibre of players India can call on are out of this one.

Comments have now been closed for this article

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