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'People still wary of touring Pakistan'
Geoff Boycott on Bangladesh's decision to tour, why Ireland deserve more, the county season, and Owais Shah's England chances (14:30)
Producer: Siddhartha Talya
April 19, 2012
Related Links » News: Bangladesh to tour Pakistan at month end | Ireland submit plans for more ODIs Players/Officials: Owais Shah Series/Tournaments: Bangladesh tour of Pakistan | County Championship Division One | County Championship Division Two Teams: Bangladesh | England | Ireland | Pakistan
'People still wary of touring Pakistan'April 19, 2012
Siddhartha Talya: Hello and welcome to Bowl at Boycs. I'm Siddhartha Talya, and Geoffrey Boycott is joining us today from Jersey. Morning, Geoffrey. The county season has got off to a good start - lots of close matches. What's your take so far?
Geoffrey Boycott: First of all, they're lucky to be playing. The weather changes, you know, in April. It can be an odd day where it's blue skies, yes blue skies, light sunshine, but a bit crisp and coolish. Not cold, but coolish. You need your sweaters on. On other days, like the last two here, there's rain heaving down, it's freezing cold, there's a wind blowing, and the last thing you want to do is be outside, playing cricket, even with your overcoat on.
There's a reason why we didn't used to play in early and mid-April. It was because of the weather. Cricket has been played in England for two or three centuries and people normally didn't play until the end of April. The reason is the cold winds and the rain. So when you get cricket, you're lucky. Some counties have been lucky. You could say Lancashire don't feel lucky because they are the county champions and they were beaten in their first match. Surrey were moaning and complaining about the pitch because they got beaten by Middlesex. That's not a good idea. When you lose, you've got to do it graciously. If you have anything to say, say it in private, make a report.
It's good for the game that sides expected to do well are getting beaten. Notts have done well to start with. It's good that there is a competitive edge now to the first and second division. Those in the second division are trying to get up. There's a bit of a stigma, being in the second division. Yorkshire, my team, got relegated last year. And same with those in the first division. They all want to win it, and they know it's a tough competition now.
The standard of cricket isn't going to be as good as in the early- and mid-70s. If you could cast your mind back then, we played on uncovered pitches until 1979, which was spicy and interesting, but also the counties had two overseas players. They were getting big-name Test players. Now there are hardly any big names. They're playing that much international cricket. If you can get a decent Test player, he can only come for a couple of months or a few weeks and you've got to swap him for somebody else. So it's not quite the same. The standard is good and is competitive, but it's not quite the excellent standard it used to be in the '70s. But I'm glad it's competitive. It's good for our cricket and good for youngsters trying to get into the Test side, because they know they're playing tough matches and it's a good breeding ground for them.
ST: Our first question of the day comes from Gerald in the UK and it's about one of the Associate teams that has been doing really well. It's about Ireland.
He says: Ireland have submitted a proposal to the ICC, seeking to play 12-15 ODIs a year. They are clearly the best among the Associate teams playing right now. Would it make sense to co-opt the senior Irish team into the English county circuit so that they gain more experience of proper first-class cricket rather than just have some of their key players play for counties? There's also the fear of losing Irish players to England. What do you make of this?
GB: I think Gerald has some good points there. I, for a long time, many years, am on record, writing and speaking about the fact that these countries who have been trying to get in and move up into the big ten, like Ireland and Holland, should be incorporated into our kind of game in England, be it the Championship or the one-dayers. Holland have been in the one-dayers in England for a while. I think Ireland should come into it as well. It will be a good breeding ground.
I've thought for a long time that Zimbabwe should be playing the provinces in South Africa. That's the only way to give them a competitive edge. Quite frankly, Ireland have made more progress these last few years than Bangladesh. In my opinion, Ireland are as good as Bangladesh. Bangladesh have full Test status and ODI status. It's ridiculous [that] Bangladesh have Test status, and Ireland, who are as good as them, are asking for ODIs. Most neutral people believe that giving Bangladesh Test status was too soon. They aren't good enough.
Now, Ireland do deserve some kind of reward for their excellent performances. Without some of kind of international cricket, some of their best younger players will always then start looking to further their ambitions by trying to qualify for any of the big ten countries so they can play internationals. So they'll lose their best players. For example, you take Eoin Morgan, a very good Irish player but who's qualified for England now. So they've lost him.
Now, if any new country is trying to break into the big ten, or get regular international cricket, it's important that they keep their best players. If they are playing well with their best youngsters and if their best youngsters see that there's no hope of playing proper internationals, only the World Cups etc, then they're going to look to England and other countries to further their careers, their ambitions. Nothing wrong with that. If there is nothing to aspire to, these youngsters will not stay in the Associate countries because the standard of cricket they're going to play is not going to get any better. So, asking countries like Ireland to put a lot of effort, work and organisation into bettering their team, bettering their players, without any chance of getting rewards or getting accepted at the top table is soul-destroying. Especially when the Irish can see countries like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe playing Tests and ODIs, and they're no better than Ireland. So Ireland deserve something.
|"As much as Pakistan cricket would like international matches back again, they need to get it right when teams go, because if there is a second attack on players and/or officials, the chances of Pakistan ever getting any more teams to go there in the foreseeable future is doomed"|
ST: Next up is a question from Naresh in India about a player from England who's doing really well this IPL season. It's about Owais Shah. Naresh says: Owais has been in sparkling form for the Rajasthan Royals. Do you think he should be part of England's plans for the World Twenty20 later this year?
GB: I don't see him in England's plans. He's a good ODI batsman - I thought so when he had his chances with England in Tests and ODIs. England tried him and have now moved on. Whether he should have had more chances, that's up for debate. Selectors have their own views, whoever the selectors are. We may agree or disagree with any selector's view, but this set of England selectors seem to be doing a good job. And I don't think that they are the sort of selectors who pick people one year, drop them and then come back again and again. You need to build a team. A squad of 14 players. And whoever they are, yo-yo selections are rarely successful.
Now, the IPL finishes in about a month. Then we've got a really big gap till the Twenty20 in Sri Lanka in September. We get an odd match in England with West Indies and South Africa, but I believe our selectors at this moment in time are doing a pretty good job. I think they are very clear on the make-up of their squad, their team, for the tournament in Sri Lanka. I think it'll take an exceptional effort from Owais Shah to get in there. It doesn't make him a bad player.
I've seen a lot of players in my time. Some great players, some good players - I've played with them. And sometimes I've played with players who've had one Test, a few ODIs. And then I've seen other players who've had 20 or 30, and I think, "Well, one's no better than the other." They are what I call borderline players - good players but borderline. They're not the greats of the game. Sometimes with a set of selectors you can be lucky when they pick you for 20 to 30 one-dayers or quite a few Tests. Another set of selectors, you could just be unlucky, you could get just an odd game. It doesn't make it right or wrong, it's life, unfortunately. I think Owais' time playing for England has gone.
ST: It's now time for Geoffrey's favourite question for this show and it's an important one. It comes from Zohaib in the UK. He says: International cricket is returning to Pakistan after more than three years. Bangladesh have agreed to tour at the end of this month for a short limited-overs series. Is it a matter of time before other teams follow suit? Or do you think there still remains much apprehension about touring the country?
GB: Very good question, Zohaib. Whatever happens, Pakistan produce good players. They're one of the big teams in world cricket. You want cricket to return there but all this goodwill towards Pakistan doesn't alter the fact that people are very wary. There is still a great deal of apprehension about going and playing in Pakistan.
It's no good saying that the army will protect the players and officials because the army was supposed to be protecting the Sri Lankan players and the ICC officials when they got shot. When that happens, there is justification for many people to be sceptical about anyone saying, "You'll be all right this time". Yes, they said that last time. "You will have top security." Yes, but we were supposed to have that last time.
Ask yourself: would you go? If you didn't need to go to Pakistan, would you put yourself in that situation? Those are the questions you have to ask yourself. Most people will say, "I don't think I need to go there. I've got a wife and kids. I'd like to go but I'm not sure." Pakistan is, quite frankly, in turmoil. There's a lot going on there, isn't there? As much as Pakistan cricket would like international matches back again, they need to get it right when teams go, because if there is a second attack on players and/or officials, the chances of Pakistan ever getting any more teams to go there in the foreseeable future is doomed. Once is unlucky, twice is stupid. They've got to get it right, those officials, because if they get it wrong, I can see Pakistan getting ostracised for many, many years.
We all realise how important it is for the development of young cricketers in Pakistan. Youngsters, if they have nothing to aspire to, they walk away, they do something else, they get uninterested in cricket. So it is important. It's vital that at some stage we have Pakistan playing international cricket in their own country. It's very important for the youngsters to see their heroes. To see their national team. It's very important for the public to be roused to go to the matches and to enjoy them, to look forward to them. You don't want youngsters turning away from cricket. You don't want the public to think, "Oh well, what's the point? There's no international cricket, I'll go and get interested in something else." So it is important. But they can't afford to get it wrong, the Pakistan administrators.
There's lots of goodwill towards Pakistan. Many cricketers I know, ex-cricketers, current cricketers, individuals, administrators, we all want Pakistan to return to play international cricket in their own country. But, by god, those administrators and security forces, they better not get it wrong.
ST: And should they get it right this time, do you see other teams following what Bangladesh have done?
GB: No, I don't. Not so quickly. People talk about it a lot but they're extremely wary. With the Taliban and various things going on, bombs and what have you, everybody's worried. There have been incidents besides the one where the umpire [Ashan Raza] got badly shot, and people were lying on the floor of the bus. Chris Broad, the match referee, was at my house in South Africa telling me about it. It was a nightmare for him. And they were supposed to be protected by the army, the police and everything. It doesn't wash when it happens. People are not going to be keen to go back after that.
The country has to sort itself out as well. That's in a bit of a mess and chaos. We've had bombs before. Wasn't there one in Karachi when New Zealand were there? Luckily, players didn't get blown up, but they went home then, saying, "I don't need to be here when bombs are going off." It's a difficult situation. It's really important for the security forces and the administrators to get the balance right, get the timing right, when they feel they can have international teams and they can look after them so something like this doesn't happen again. I'm telling you, if it happens the second time… wow.
ST: Let's hope it doesn't. Thanks for that, Geoffrey. That's a wrap on today's show. Don't forget to send in your questions using our feedback form, and we'll have Geoffrey back in two weeks' time. Until the next time, it's goodbye from all of us at ESPNcricinfo.
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