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'Does anybody really care about the Asia Cup?'

Geoff Boycott on players' need for rest, South Africa's chances in New Zealand, mankading, and how best to tackle indiscipline (19:38)

Producer: Siddhartha Talya

March 8, 2012


'Does anybody really care about the Asia Cup?'

March 8, 2012

Dale Steyn bowls in Sri Lanka's second innings, South Africa v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Cape Town, January, 5, 2012
South Africa will be aiming for No.1 © Getty Images

Siddhartha Talya: Hello and welcome to Bowl at Boycs. I'm Siddhartha Talya and I'm happy to be joined by Geoffrey Boycott, who's in South Africa now and is speaking to us from Cape Town. Morning, Geoffrey. How's it going?

Geoffrey Boycott: I'm having a rest. After seeing England play brilliantly in the one-dayers and play terrible (laughs) in the Tests, I need a rest after that. We've got Sri Lanka coming up, so I'm just having a few weeks here in the sunshine and I'll be off to Sri Lanka, which I'm looking forward to.

ST: Is it a bit of a letdown that they're only playing two Test matches?

GB: I think that's poor. You need three as a minimum. It just sounds right. New Zealand have got it right, three T20s, three ODIs and three Test matches. It sounds nice and it's good for the players. This long series of one-day matches, especially after you've played three or four Test matches as India have done in Australia, can be so debilitating. Look at England before the World Cup; they won the Ashes and then in the one-dayers, they were absolutely pathetic. They just had it, they just wanted to go home.

You keep telling administrators this but they don't listen. It's just money, isn't it? All the cricket associations around the world want the money - to spread it out underneath to people, to counties, to states, all kinds of things. There's always an answer: we need more money. And sometimes we're getting brilliant cricket, and then we're getting tired cricket.

ST: New Zealand are playing South Africa at home. They've been beaten in the Twenty20 series and were whitewashed in the ODIs recently. We have a question about that tour, it comes from Chetan in India.

Chetan asks: Do you see South Africa winning the Test matches comfortably as well, despite the presence of Daniel Vettori?

GB: Yes, I do, no question at all. I think their seam bowling is so strong and so good. Dale Steyn, with Jimmy Anderson, if you get conditions with swing and seam, he is world-class. They've got other people as well: Philander has just come along and bowled really well for them and Marchant de Lange - I like him, a 20-year-old, big, strapping kid, a high action from a long way up there and down, I think he's good - Morne Morkel, they've got plenty.

I'd be amazed if there was a big spinning pitch somewhere during the Test matches. Quite honestly, the pitches in New Zealand are pretty good. They're good cricket pitches, there's a bit in it for the seamers sometimes. It swings and seams. It's very much like English conditions. You can get very good conditions to bat on but you can also get very good pitches where there's movement for the seamers. It's not often that you get big turning pitches. You can, occasionally. Unless there is rain around, or some funny pitch that turns a lot, I believe South Africa have a goal. And that goal, that mission, is to win all three Test matches and go above England to become No. 1 in Test cricket. That's their goal, and quite honestly, I think they can do it.

I believe they are at equal best with England on pitches that favour seam bowling. They haven't got great spinners, haven't South Africa. You know you're going to get spin when you go to India, the UAE, which has slower-paced surfaces; it nullifies the seamers a little bit, it's easier to bat for the subcontinental batsmen who are used to lower bounce. So, except for those countries or that type of soil, I think South Africa have it.

They have a great fielding side. They are a very fine catching side. [In fielding] they are equal to New Zealand, who I know are good. I am a big fan of New Zealanders. With five million people, you've heard my view before, man for man, population-wise, they do brilliantly at the big stage of world cricket. Their fielding is good but so is South Africa's.

And the South African batting, that's much stronger than New Zealand's, on paper, miles stronger. New Zealand are doing good. They play as a good unified team, but they don't really have any world-class players. For while now, for a few years, they've had good cricketers but not world-class, so I'll be amazed if South Africa don't win.

ST: We'll have the IPL start in less than a month's time but before that the teams from the subcontinent play a tournament in Bangladesh, the Asia Cup. And we have a question about it from Ashwin in India.

Ashwin asks: Would you say Sri Lanka are the best bet for the Asia Cup? And what about India's chances?

GB: Look, outside of the teams playing the Asia Cup, and even the teams playing, does anybody really care? I mean that, honestly. I'm not trying to insult all the people in the subcontinent who I love - India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Many of these players, in India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan could do with a rest. Not more cricket.

Sri Lanka have been in South Africa, they're now in Australia, and with the IPL coming up, do they need an Asia Cup? They need an Asia Cup like having a hole in their head. They want some rest, man.

And what about the Indian players? They need a rest. They had West Indies at home before Christmas, they've had a long tour of Australia which has been tiring - more than tiring, it's been debilitating because they've played so poorly, even badly at times - and it's probably got a lot of the guys down. And the IPL is around the corner and about to start, so why the hell do they want to go and play in the Asia Cup?

Pakistan could do with a rest too. They've just played Sri Lanka before Christmas and then England. Fortunately for them, or unfortunately in some ways, they don't play in the IPL so they don't get the big money but also, they get the rest.

Bangladesh, well, they need all the cricket they can play to be on TV. Their association wants to get TV money, yet their cricket is still poor. Quite frankly, more ICC money has been spent on Bangladesh than any other new country trying to make it into the big league. Bangladesh have not delivered. Playing at home, they do reasonable. But playing away, they are still poor. And the money that's been poured in has been wasted.

ST: Our next question pertains to a newly introduced rule in cricket and was taken on board during the ICC conference in Hong Kong last year. The question comes from Vijay Rajan in India.

He asks: Do you see a contradiction in the law dealing with the non-striker backing up too far? The law says that the non-striker can be run out while backing up too far, many others say the spirit of cricket must be upheld. There was a recent incident when India allowed a batsman to stay in after "Mankading" him out. What do you make of this law?

GB: Personally, I think cricket laws, or any laws relating to a country, should be a guideline. Common sense should always apply. If any of us had to live strictly by all the rules put in front of us, we wouldn't survive a week. How many people can put their hand up and say they've never driven a car or a motorcycle over the speed limit. We're all slightly guilty. You'd have to be a saint to live your life perfectly. None of us are perfect, driving a little faster than we should. But it doesn't make us criminals. Yes, we're wrong a bit, but we don't rob banks, we don't mug people or commit murders. There are degrees to everything, aren't there?

Conscience plays a part, and each individual has to say to himself, how badly do I want to win? Do I, or my team, want to be remembered for winning by running out a non-striker backing up. I don't want to win like that and I never did. I would have warned him, I would have spoken to the umpire - I know it's not in the laws - but I would have said, "Look umpire, you've got to get involved here. I can't have him jumping out of the crease and gaining two or three yards. I've told him but you've got to get involved here." Get the umpire involved in the dialogue.

For example, look at that great batsman Greg Chappell. All his career, he's played wonderful, been a great slipper, but one of the things he's remembered for is ordering, insisting, requesting, whatever it was, his brother to bowl underarm in a one-day match against New Zealand to make sure they couldn't hit it for six and win. Because if you roll it along the ground, there's no bounce and you can't get it up in the air for six. It's a great shame. Greg, he's a good guy, I've known him reasonably, but it's still a stigma on his résumé and his cricket career. And it will never go away. It's a real shame, it caused an enormous rift between New Zealand and Australia. You had the New Zealand prime minister calling the Australians yellow by the colour that's on their emblem, the politicians got involved. It was messy, unnecessary. I think Richie Benaud at the time said it was the worst thing he'd ever seen on a cricket field.

Do you want that? India were smart. Some of the players got involved after that incident and said, "Hey, whatever it is, we can't win like this. I know it's wrong with the guy backing up, maybe we've told him as well…we're good people and don't want to be remembered for winning this way." I think the people who said similar things to that effect were dead right. I don't know which senior players, many of you will have seen newspapers in India, I'm sure you would have written lot's about it, different people said what.

But the ones that said, "Hey, we do not want to win like this"… it's like the situation in England when Dhoni - when he had a minute or two to think about it - said, "We don't want to win like this, we don't want to be remembered like that." I am in full agreement. The player may be wrong backing up but you really don't want that on your conscience, on your résumé, on your cricket career, and I think the Indian lads in Australia and England were smart, they were clever, they were sensible, they used their brains and the spirit of cricket, whatever it is I'm not quite sure… but it was good for cricket that they thought exactly like I do.

ST: So if you're allowing the batsman to stay in, Geoffrey, don't you think it's sensible to just do away with the law then?

GB: I think you've got to get the umpire involved. I think the laws probably need to be changed. It probably needs to say, "Look, get the umpire involved. If the umpire thinks the player is backing up too far, to tell him"… and maybe, you know, you're asking me on the spur of the moment, I've got to think this through, but maybe there has to be a penalty. A penalty of runs against the team if he's backing up too far the second time. Just like there's a penalty if the fielding side has put their helmet down, there is a penalty of five runs if the ball hits the helmet.

"Authority always has a right not to pick a player and any employer always has the right to withdraw a contract if a player abuses his position and brings the game into disrepute. These sort of rules apply to any job. There are standards to be upheld everywhere."

At the moment, there's no sanction. You can warn a player backing up. This is the problem for the bowling side, to say, "Hey, I don't want to run you out. I want to be a good guy, but stop backing up and leaving the crease long before I have delivered." Once you've warned him, he can still do it again and you can warn him again, and warn him a third time. And you've got no sanction, do you? The umpire has no sanction, no penalty. This is where the law needs looking at. In the modern era, if this is happening occasionally, I don't know how often, but if it is, there ought to be something where the umpire can step in and say, "Hey, I'm telling you know that's the last warning. If you do it again, I'm going to tell him he's allowed to run you out, okay?" Maybe he's been warned, once or twice, after that he can be run out or there is a penalty of runs.

Better brains than me ought to be able to work this out but there has to be some sanction, some penalty to stop people doing it. I can hear the brains ticking, all these people who listen to Cricinfo, saying, well, "There has to be some sanction, else he can keep on doing it." You can talk to him but the guy can keep backing up and backing up, and you've got a stalemate then, haven't you?

ST: Let's move on to the question that Geoffrey has picked as his favourite for this show. It comes from Andrew in the UK and it concerns the issue of player discipline.

Andrew says: Jesse Ryder was given a one-match ban for going out drinking while still recovering from an injury - thereby breaking team protocol. It's not the first time Ryder has got into trouble. There have been some who've said the punishment isn't as harsh. Just generally, is player discipline something that has been taken much more seriously by teams in recent times? How was it dealt with earlier, and are bans or loss of contracts the best way of dealing with indiscipline?

GB: Yes, you're dead right. They are the best way. England had a problem with the left-arm spinner Samit Patel, a lovely lad, but too weighty, too hefty. They didn't think he was fit enough to play international cricket. So they told him they're not picking up until he sorts himself out. So he slimmed off, he trained and he plays in the team.

Discipline and fitness is a big issue now in all sports, and it has been in the modern era. There's been a trend for more nutritional drinks, people who watch what their intake is. You take football in England - for the last 15-20 years there's been a bigger emphasis on that. They all used to be beer drinkers, most of them.

But it's not new to cricket and not new to any sport. If you go to cricket and say they'll play like that, like gentlemen, for 200 years, that's nonsense. They were all hard-drinking men, and there was plenty of drink. In the 1890s, I think it was, Bobby Peel, the great left-arm slow spinner for Yorkshire and England, was sacked by the Yorkshire captain and president Lord Hawke for drinking too much at lunch time. And he was one of the great players of the era, playing for both England and Yorkshire.

Authority always has a right not to pick a player and any employer always has the right to withdraw a contract if a player abuses his position and brings the game into disrepute. These sort of rules apply to any job. There are standards to be upheld everywhere. Everybody's job not just cricket. Nobody has to be silly and strict about it.

When I played, they tended to treat you like an individual and a man. In my era, I think we were left too much to our own devices. When it came to fitness, I went on so many tours to India, Australia, West Indies, we never had one training session, never had one practice session, never, never. Before we went on tour, we were measured for blazers, sweater, everything, and we had to go down to London and have a medical. But we never met as a team, can you believe it? The first time we ever met was at a hotel when we were getting ready to go to Heathrow to catch the plane to whichever country it was. Nobody checked on you about how fit you were, nobody tested you, nobody phoned to see what was going on.

Jesse Ryder bears a contented look, Sri Lanka v New Zealand, 1st Twenty20, Colombo, September 2, 2009
"No matter how many times you fine them and suspend them or talk to them, they're just bad lads aren't they?" © AFP

When it came to discipline, players were pretty responsible. A lot more people then had a drink or two but never in all my time did I see anyone drunk, never, never, never. I personally never got involved in anything like that. We never had a problem with it.

For a long time, when it was run by the MCC and not the ECB - it was MCC on tour right up to 1978, Mike Brearely's tour to Pakistan was the first tour went on as England - there was always a bonus for good behaviour. Yes, there was, amazingly. I know players who lost their bonus, yes I do. And I'm sure there were players who I didn't know about, who didn't get their bonus. It might be timekeeping, being late, might be not bowling when the captain wanted at the nets, all kinds of small things, they were very petty about it because it was the landed gentry for a long time that ran the MCC. Not so much now, but it was a long time ago. It was always amateur captains from the great schools of England - our first professional captain was Len Hutton, that was in the late '50s. So you could tell how long we had to have an amateur whether he was good enough to play or not, so it was a bit them and us. So you could lose your bonus for small bad behaviour. But I never saw anybody drunk.

I was in New Zealand when Jesse Ryder struck his hand through a window-pane and damaged it and couldn't play and he got suspended again. In any era, in any country, in any cricket team, in any walk of life, you're going to get people who are silly, you are going to get people who are stupid, you are going to get people who drink too much. No matter how many times you fine them and suspend them or talk to them, they're just bad lads aren't they? I don't mean bad like they're going to commit real crime, but they're bad, naughty lads - it goes in one ear and out of the other. When you talk to some people and try to put them on straight and try to help them, and it goes in one ear and out of the other, it's a waste of time talking isn't it? They're just bad lads.

ST: Right, thanks a lot for that ,Geoffrey, that's a wrap on today's show. Do not 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, on behalf of everyone at ESPNcricinfo, this is Siddhartha Talya signing off.

Posted by manikarnike on (March 10, 2012, 14:27 GMT)

You say how many people have always stuck to the speed limit while driving. But, when you're spotted crossing the limit, you're fined, aren't you? That's exactly how mankading should be. You spot him going over the law, you get punished for it.

Posted by ferdous06 on (March 9, 2012, 13:28 GMT)

GB rightlt said that in your life you will meet silly and stupid people. couldn't agree more. all he said about asia cup is a reflection of a silly and stupid person. some people never learn!!

Posted by binojpeter on (March 8, 2012, 22:22 GMT)

@Dashgar Totally agree with you. Really a good idea.

Posted by Mr_Anonymous on (March 8, 2012, 16:52 GMT)

Sorry Geoff. I respect your view but also respectfully disagree with your assessment on Mankading. In my mind, Mankading should not be considered any different to a stumping or a run out. If you look at the match, there were multiple instances of Thirimanne walking out of the crease even after the umpire warned him and even after Sehwag withdrew the appeal. Look at some of the footage/reports if you can. I agree with you that the Indians were gracious to withdraw the appeal but if the game gets a couple of Mankading dismissals in the next 12 months that will be a more effective deterrent to non strikers taking undue advantage of the law. In my mind, the spirit of cricket should not interfere with the laws of the game because otherwise there is no end to what you can do (like would you consider the bowling side being docked 5 runs if they appealed when they knew the batsman wasn't out - is making an appeal when you know the batsman isn't out in the "spirit of the game"?).

Posted by Dashgar on (March 8, 2012, 2:40 GMT)

Simple way to stop over backing up. Watch it like a no ball, if the batsman leaves too early then make it one short if they take a run. Bowlers are given zero tollerance for overstepping, but the punishment is small (1 run). Make it the same for batsmen. That can replace the Mankad completely, the bowler can't run a batsman out, but the batsman can't make a run if they leave too early. Have the 3rd umpire watch it and it'll be easy to enforce.

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