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'England's batting has been shocking'
Geoff Boycott on Pakistan's resurgence, the challenges ahead for England and Sri Lanka, the Woolf report, and Yuvraj's illness (16:32)
Producer: Siddhartha Talya
February 9, 2012
Related Links » News: Pakistan's finest hour | The Woolf report is well-meaning but naïve | Yuvraj Singh diagnosed with cancer | Board games | Woolf report looks to shake up old boys' club Players/Officials: Geoff Boycott | Misbah-ul-Haq | Yuvraj Singh Series/Tournaments: England tour of United Arab Emirates Teams: England | Pakistan | Sri Lanka
'England's batting has been shocking'February 9, 2012
Siddhartha Talya: Welcome once again to Bowl at Boycs. I'm Siddhartha Talya and it's a pleasure as always to be joined by Geoffrey Boycott, who's speaking to us from Dubai today.
Geoffrey, England have been whitewashed 3-0. Are you shocked? Depressed? Surprised? What's your reaction?
Geoffrey Boycott: No, I'm not depressed, because the cricket was fantastic. I enjoyed every second of it. It was just riveting. I was surprised. I thought England would make a much better fist of it. You expect talented players to be able to adapt to conditions, and they didn't. They were found wanting. They were as bad as India are when India travel abroad. And they were bad in the subcontinent, were England.
ST: We do have a couple of questions about the England-Pakistan series and we'll come to those shortly, but let us start with a question from Dustin in India, and it's about the ICC's latest governance review, the Woolf report, which has made several recommendations about how the ICC should be functioning.
Dustin says: The Woolf report, looking into the ICC's governance of the game, has called for an overhaul of the existing structure in an attempt to make it more independent and less dominated by bigger and more influential countries. It has suggested appointing five independent directors, having four representatives in all for the ten Full Members and two representatives for the Associates. Is such a change, aimed at redressing the balance of power in the ICC, wishful thinking?
GB: Yes, it is wishful thinking. You can have all the reports in the world but you have to get past the ten major countries, and you have to get them to vote for something different. And turkeys don't vote for Christmas, you know.
Can you see any chairman of any of the top countries, or even the lower countries, giving up power? All the ten major countries at the moment have a say at the top table. So there is a vested interest. They all can put their own points of view for their own countries. So how the hell can you get the big boys - India, Australia and England - to give up their say? They have the most say in the ICC because of the power of television income, and that helps other countries. When India go abroad, somebody wants to buy the live rights to go back to India. So they get extra money when India play abroad.
Four representatives out of ten - that will only go through if three of the four are India, England and Australia. So I hope you get it, Dustin. It's wishful thinking. These people are not going to vote themselves out of power.
I think MCC, the private club, would do a very good job. It's an independent club. It has no vested interests - all right, it's based in England, it has 18,000 members, but it really doesn't represent English cricket anymore. MCC is just a private club now, it's not the MCC we know that, used to do tours. The only thing they have is Test cricket at their ground, Lord's, which they loan to the ECB to play Test matches, and they hold the laws of the game. Every member, every committee member or otherwise, doesn't get paid. You serve on committees for the good of the game, simply that.
ST: Coming to the Pakistan series, the big question from Roshan in India is: What next for England? The No. 1 ranking doesn't seem to carry a whole lot of weight now. What changes would you like to see by the time England play their next Test match, in Sri Lanka?
GB: First of all, the plus was that the England bowling was terrific. Yes, the spinners did have a say. Swann and Panesar were very, very good. But our batsmen were poor. The bowling of Broad and Anderson, you would have thought, would be okay, and that on turning pitches they wouldn't have a big say. But they did. They were a handful for the opposition batsmen.
The only thing the England batsmen can do is improve. You can't win Test matches unless you make runs. I've said all along, it's no secret, that bowlers take the 20 wickets. But no matter how good the bowlers are, if you don't have runs to bowl at, you have no chance of winning, and that's what happened.
I think there are youngsters crying out to be given a chance. But I'm not sure they're that ready for Test match cricket. When I look around English cricket, I don't see any youngsters that are actually ready now. Bopara was the reserve here. He deserves to get a go instead of Morgan. In my opinion, Morgan doesn't cut it for me when the pressure is on. His technique, body language, everything about him needs a great deal of improvement to convince me that he's a Test match player. One-day cricket is different. Spinners are just slow bowlers in one-day cricket. But when it actually turns in Test matches, that's a different ballgame. And that's what found England out. Bopara will get a go in Sri Lanka. I feel comfortable with that.
Sri Lanka is funny in that you can get turning pitches there but you can get very flat, easy, good batting pitches. You've had some huge scores there at times. England only play two Tests, in Galle and Colombo. So we don't know what they'll get. If they're flat, they'll be okay; they'll get lots of runs and we'll get two tedious draws. But if it turns, then they've got Mendis to deal with, and Herath, and Dilshan will bowl a few.
We could get a few funny results because they don't look in three Test matches that they've made much headway. I thought, for odd moments, that Pietersen was better, but then he went back to his old way of leaving a gap between bat and pad and playing across the line to midwicket. But at times he looked good. I saw some improvement with Cook and Strauss in the last innings. They got right forward with the footwork, bent the front knee, got the nose over the ball and let the ball come to them than going after it. They let it come and played it with the spin, and I thought, "Hey, this looks like improvement." But there wasn't much to shout about. I still don't think Bell picks the spinners very well; he certainly didn't pick Ajmal.
ST: Well, staying with Sri Lanka, we have a question from Hiran Peiris, who's writing from there. Hiran says: There were some encouraging signs for Sri Lanka in South Africa. They won a Test and the final two ODIs. They now have Mahela Jayawardene return as captain and their next big series is at home, against England. Are things looking up for them?
GB: I'm not sure about Sri Lanka. I know it's nice to say, "Well, okay, they won in Durban." That was marvellous. I actually enjoyed that; they really outplayed South Africa. But South Africa came back and beat them. And it's about winning, isn't it? It's about winning the series, whether it's Test matches or ODIs.
England are going to be a big test for Sri Lanka because after losing to Pakistan in the UAE, they'll be upset, smarting, with something to prove. They got a lot of bad publicity from our English media, and they deserved it. They really played badly. If they had played well and just got beaten by Pakistan playing better, then you put up your hand and say, "Well, we did good but they did better than us." Everyone knows that we batted appallingly. The batsmen, if you look at their figures, were shocking. They should be really hurting and will have something to prove.
There will be some talking going on, some practising going on. So for Sri Lanka, they need to show their home fans that they're a good team without Murali and Malinga in Test matches. England will want to pick themselves up.
I think a two-match series is pathetic. It's going to be very difficult for Sri Lankan people, or English people, to see whether England have improved or Sri Lanka have got better, because you can't tell in two-Test series. You must have three minimum. Five is the best, or even four. With two, you've hardly got time to get into the series. I still think Sri Lanka have a long way to go.
ST: Moving on to the question that Geoffrey has picked as his favourite for this show. It comes from Umair in Pakistan, and it's about Misbah-ul-Haq. Umair says: Misbah seems quite understated. He averages 65 as captain with the bat and the team has picked itself up under his leadership. What is it about his captaincy that stood out in the England series?
GB: He is a calm, self-assured, confident but quiet guy. He goes about his business unassumingly but yet in charge. He's intelligent - you can tell that by his statements when he talks to the media. He doesn't make outrageous statements, he doesn't say stupid things, he's a very good, calming influence and a very common-sense person.
|"I'm actually thrilled for Pakistan. I'm thrilled for their cricket. After all the spot-fixing, trials and jail terms last year, what a tonic it must be for the people of Pakistan who love their cricket"|
He is worth his place in the team as a run-getter. That's very important. His batting has improved. Since he has been captain, he's been a different player. When he wasn't captain, he used to average in the early 30s. Now he's averaging twice as many. Some say he bats steady. It doesn't matter whether you bat quickly or steady, the important thing is: make some runs. It's like a bowler. All I want you to do is take wickets. I don't care how you do it - long hops and full tosses will do - as long as you get wickets. Same with the batsmen. You've got to get runs, you can't win without runs. A captain's job is much harder if you don't make runs or can't make runs or if you can't take wickets. You must make a reasonable contribution. You don't have to be the best bowler.
And here's an example of how calm and controlled he is. In the heat of battle, in the match against England, with all the shouting going on, that little wicketkeeper [Adnan Akmal] who shouts for everything… he wants a decision review every time the ball hits an English batsman's pad. He chatters on and makes noise all the time. Misbah said to him one time, "Pipe down, you. You are making my job harder." That's very telling, isn't it?
Great guy, fabulous with an ordinary side - and I don't mean that to be disparaging. It is an average-to-ordinary side because of some of the great players that Pakistan have had, like Javed, Zaheer, Asif, Majid Khan, the Imran Khans, the Wasims, the Waqars. This is a decent team. But as a team, they are pulling together, working hard, are fitter than they've been. You can see them in the field, running like hell for everything. There seem to be no conflicts, no rows, no undercurrents in the team. And the nice thing is, the ex-players in Pakistan are not piping up. Usually they like to undermine a team by piping up in the newspaper, telling them so and so shouldn't be picked, somebody else should be picked. They usually have politicians piping up in the media. And it's a mess.
I'm actually thrilled for Pakistan. I'm thrilled for their cricket. After all the spot-fixing, trials and jail terms last year, what a tonic it must be for the people of Pakistan who love their cricket. They absolutely adore their cricket. And they are playing good cricket. It must be marvellous to watch their lads playing well, and they play with a smile on their face, don't they? Look at Ajmal, what a character he is. He smiles when you hit him for four. He's a fine bowler, he gets wickets. All I can say is, "Well done to Misbah, well done to his team and long may it continue."
ST: Geoffrey, before we finish, there has been an unfortunate development, in that Yuvraj Singh has been diagnosed with cancer and will be undergoing chemotherapy in the US. The doctors reckon that he will be able to recover and make a return to cricket at some point. What would your advice be for Yuvraj at this stage? For a sportsman, especially, how important is mental strength to recover from a situation like this?
GB: First of all, it must have come as a shock to him. Not that he had a tumour, because he was told it was benign. But it must have been a shock when they finally said to him recently that this is a problem, this is cancer. Anybody who's heard of cancer - all of us have - it's a death sentence at many times to many people. It hurts. You think it could be the end of your life.
Get your crying over with, that's all I say. It makes you cry, even grown men. Get it over with in two or three days and say, "What do I do about this? I'm going to be strong, I'm going to fight it as best I can, I'm going to follow all the medical advice I can and try to get well." So the best thing is to pick yourself up, stay strong and say, "I'm going to give it my best shot. I'm not going to be a crybaby for too long. I'm going to get rid of the tears for the first two or three days."
And it's not going to be easy. I've been through the treatment. It's not fun, I can tell you. You think you've had bad times until you've had chemotherapy. Now, I don't know how long it'll be before he gets back to playing. The main thing is to stay alive and not think about playing cricket, and not set any dates on playing cricket, because when he's had the treatment, he'll probably feel quite weak for a while. So I wouldn't think about him making an early return. I had my treatment of chemo and radiation, and it was a year and a half before I returned to commentary, never mind playing cricket.
So I wish him well. Everybody's going to be thinking of him because it could happen to any of us. Look at me, I wasn't a drinker, I didn't smoke, I got cancer of the tongue. I don't think he drinks or smokes. I don't know for sure, but it can hit everybody, not just smokers and drinkers. It can hit anyone who's listening to this.
Our thoughts are with him. Certainly my thoughts are. Stay strong, be as positive as you can but don't rush back to cricket. Just get well. That's the most important thing of all, because the most precious thing in life is living.
ST: Here's wishing Yuvraj all the very best. Thanks a lot for your time, Geoffrey. That's all we have for today's show. Please don't forget to send in your questions using our feedback form and Geoffrey will be back in two weeks' time to answer them. Until the next time, it's goodbye from me, Siddhartha Talya.
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