Geoffrey Boycott answers your questions on all things cricket. Send your questions in here.

'West Indies' top four not up to it'

Geoff Boycott on West Indies' batting woes, Tim Bresnan's success, and why Graeme Hick and Mark Ramprakash didn't click in international cricket (12:28)

Producer: Siddhartha Talya

June 1, 2012


'West Indies' top four not up to it'

June 1, 2012

Marlon Samuels played another mature innings, England v West Indies, 2nd Test, Trent Bridge, 1st day, May 25, 2012
"Marlon Samuels now looks a lot mature, much more composed at the crease, and above all, he seems confident enough to let the ball come to him." © PA Photos

Siddhartha Talya: Welcome once again to another edition of Bowl at Boycs. I'm Siddhartha Talya and joining me today from Leeds is Geoffrey Boycott.

Good morning, Geoffrey. Did you manage to catch any of the IPL action at all?

Geoffrey Boycott: No, I didn't. I believe Kolkata won, though.

ST: Yes.

GB: Yeah, that's a great city. Actually, that's good for the game. Chennai won it twice and they're very strong. It's nice to see a new winner. I picked the first one, Rajasthan Royals. Then to Super Kings and now to Kolkata - it's good that it goes around.

ST: Moving on to our questions. The first one, from Sam in the UK, is about the Test series between England and West Indies, which has already been won by England. They lead 2-0. The Test match in Edgbaston starts in about a week's time.

Sam says: The series has been decided. There is a long break before the next game. What can West Indies take back from what has happened so far? Even if the likes of Chris Gayle or Sunil Narine return, can they seriously challenge England?

GB: Possibly, but I'm not sure that their batting is strong enough. But don't forget Dwayne Bravo. He would be a tremendous addition. I think he's a terrific allrounder, a quality player. He's probably the best of their lot, because he can bat and bowl. The pluses for me are:

There's [Darren] Sammy as a batsman. He has character, courage to fight, plenty of ability. I thought he took a fantastic catch at slip - it went very quick. He's a decent bowler. He's been under a lot of criticism by quite a number of people because they don't think he lives up to the greats of West Indies. Well, there are some of the greats of West Indies from the past who nobody can live up to. You're not going to have great players all the time. He's a very good cricketer and underrated.

[Marlon] Samuels was a huge improvement. He's been around for ten years now, in and out of the side. He's flattered, he's failed, he's done all right and then he got suspended. He now looks a lot more mature, much more composed at the crease, and above all, he seems confident enough to let the ball come to him. He plays it now a lot more under his nose, closer to his body, so he's harder to get out. He's got a lot of patience and his shot selection has been very good.

Now that they've picked Ravi Rampaul - I think he's a good choice, he's always been a good, honest pro - you know what you're going to get from him, and you're going to get a good bowler.

Kemar Roach - he's got pace. I believe he is a little bit too wide on the crease, but he's a good bowler.

But there is a problem. The top four batsmen are not really up to it. [Adrian] Barath, Kieran [Powell], Kirk [Edwards] and [Darren] Bravo - they lack the technique to handle swing and seam in English conditions against what is high-quality bowling. England have very good bowlers. West Indies can't win against England, or anybody for that matter, unless it's Bangladesh or Zimbabwe. They can't win against good sides when they are four down for next to nothing. It's too big a mountain to climb. People talk about Bravo being reminiscent of Brian Lara; sorry, he is not even in the same category.

Their middle order, which has been very good, can't keep getting them out of jail. Sorry, once you are four down for next to nothing, you are in so much trouble… you're always trying to climb out of a hole. And there'll be times when the middle order can't get you out of a hole. So, unless their top four start scoring runs, they have no chance against England.

"Onions is a skiddy bowler who gets close to the stumps and bowls wicket to wicket. Finn has got pace, good control and is a terrific prospect. So with those two backing up, Bresnan will always have to keep performing"

ST: Going in to Edgbaston, Geoffrey, there's been some talk about resting a few England bowlers for the next match. Do you think they should?

GB: No, I wouldn't rest anybody. They've got a week off now to recuperate. The top bowlers don't need to play county cricket. Eight or nine days off now, and when you're playing well, individually and collectively, you should want to keep going. That's the key to it. Why would you let your place go to somebody else and let them have success? I wouldn't.

ST: Next up is a question from Arvind in India and it's about the Man of the Match in the Trent Bridge Test. He says: Tim Bresnan has an excellent record with England and is extremely useful down the order as well. However, he's not been a Test regular with the side. Why is that, and do you see him doing well in tougher conditions to bowl outside England?

GB: The reason Tim hasn't been a regular is, he had a shoulder/arm injury in the winter and he had to get it fit. He only just got fit for the [tour in the] UAE against Pakistan. His advisors thought he was fit but when he got there, he had to go home again. He wasn't fit. He came back for the one-dayers but he really bowled powder puff. Once you've been out of the game a long time and are not able to bowl - that's the key - even in practice, then the timing is wrong. Just like when a batsman has been out a long time, he can hit the ball in the middle but if he can't time it, it doesn't go anywhere. So the ball wasn't coming out of his hand as quick as he wanted it to. His timing was off. It's taken him a little while to get back. Finally he is in full health. He is bowling good. He can catch at slip, he can bat.

I believe England have two guys on the sidelines who can do just as well. They will be pushing Bresnan - Onions and [Steven] Finn. They will be pushing him to keep bowling well. Onions is a skiddy bowler who gets close to the stumps and bowls wicket to wicket. Finn has got pace, good control, and is a terrific prospect. So with those two backing up, Tim will always have to keep performing.

And England like an allrounder. They're not trying to think, "Well, here's another [Ian] Botham" at all. That's the kiss of death for anybody. But they like somebody who can bowl and bat. They like the lower order to get runs, get them vital runs that get them out of trouble. They've got [Stuart] Broad who can bat, [Graeme] Swann who can bat, Bresnan, [Matt] Prior, the wicketkeeper. So even when you get through the top six, you're not through England, because they get good runs. And it's a big plus to have somebody like him who can bat.

England don't like change, they won't change easily. They like continuity. I'd like to see him get closer to the stumps. I think he'll be a much better bowler than being wider. He used to be wider on the crease, but has got a bit closer - and he needs to bowl closer still. Then his wickets will cost him less. I think he's just a little bit easier to hit from wider of the crease at his pace. But he's a good cricketer, he's got a big heart, he is strong and determined. How will he do against other opposition? How the hell do we know? We don't know how anybody is going to do. But he is a good cricketer and I don't think they're going to pass him over easily.

ST: Sumit in India has an interesting one on Shivnarine Chanderpaul. In one of our previous shows, you spoke about how effective Chanderpaul can be as a batsman. This question is more about his weaknesses. Sumit says: Chanderpaul can be terribly irritating for the bowling side when well settled. If you are a captain, what would be your strategy to get him out?

GB: I think England got it right in the second Test at Trent Bridge. What they did - they bombed him. Plenty of short stuff from around the wicket. A different angle, so it's going in to him, and they've tried to get the ball to rise up, short of a length, pretty sharply, being well directed at his body. Now that makes him have to take evasive action. There's quite a few left-handers around the world who've been used to bowlers bowling right-arm over the wicket across them. When somebody comes around the wicket, provided they bowl it well, well directed, then it takes them [left-handers] out of their comfort zone. That's what it did to Shiv. It took him out of his comfort zone, which is able to play steady and get himself in, and shook him up. It created problems for him, made him feel uncomfortable.

That's the secret for any bowler, really, if there is a secret. Study a batsman, however he is, study what he likes doing, how he plays, and try to get him out of that comfort mode. That's what you need to do and England did it very well. In the first innings they really shook him up. He got through it, with a couple off the gloves and this and that; he actually made 46. But, really, he didn't look that comfortable when they were bombing him. In the second innings, they got after him with the new ball. They were getting early wickets, the bowlers' tails were up and they were really racing in. They made him play a bad shot, a hook shot, straight down somebody's throat.

Hooking and pulling the new ball is not easy for anybody, and it's not his normal shot. So again, he was out of his comfort zone. It was pretty smart bowling. It made him do something out of his norm and it got him dancing around at the crease. It shook him up. That's the way to do it and that's what they'll do again. They'll go round the crease and go after him. It won't work every time but one out of two is better than letting him bat solidly both innings.

Graeme Hick back-cuts en route to another fifty, Warwickshire v Worcestershire, Edgbaston, April 18, 2008
Graeme Hick's problems were partly in the head, partly with his technique © Getty Images

ST: Coming to the question that Geoffrey has picked as the best one for this show, it's from John Regan in the UK. John says this question is one that puzzled him for a long time. Graeme Hick and Mark Ramprakash were both incredibly talented and successful county players, so why were they unable to perform at the international level? Was it really all in their heads or is there another reason?

GB: Good question. It's partly in the head, but it's only my opinion. I think they did have a problem with technique. Both were mainly front-foot players. And you need to be both [front-foot and back-foot player] to be able to transfer your weight quickly and smoothly. Almost like a dancer, you need to be able to glide and be light on your feet.

Hick, in particular, was very heavy-footed. Tall man, heavy set, and he liked to plant his left foot forward. Against faster bowlers, they're not going to let you do that. They're just not going to let you plant your foot forward. They see you doing that two or three times, they're going to pitch it in short and go after you. I think he struggled with that, he really did struggle.

Then it's partly in the head, just like I mentioned about Shiv Chanderpaul. Some batsmen have limited ability, limited strokeplay, but are mentally very strong and do well at Test level. The higher the standard of cricket you move up to, it means you are set more difficult balls, [there are] more problems to deal with, and that's where your mental application comes in. Can you work it out? It tests your character, not just your ability. Ramprakash is a case in point. Ram, just mentally, not only when he got out… I remember one time, Graham Gooch said he was in the toilet, banging his head against the wall. How the hell is that going to help you when you go in a second time, I don't know.

It is this test of character and mental ability to work out problems, to solve these problems. Can you solve them? They were not able to do that. It's some technique but it's partly in the head. Some can solve the problems, some can't, and when you can't, you struggle, you fail and you get left out.

ST: Right, thanks for that, Geoffrey. That's a wrap on today's show. Do not forget to send in your question using our feedback form and Geoffrey will be back in two weeks' time to answer them. Until the next time it's goodbye from all of us at ESPNcricinfo.

Play Audio
'Pietersen and ECB should have spoken out earlier'

Oct 9, 2014 Geoff Boycott talks about Kevin Pietersen's book, the crackdown on suspect actions, Michael Clarke's back, and more (19:40)

Play Audio
'Modern players want a sexy look'

Sep 24, 2014 Geoff Boycott on the changing fashions in cricket, Yorkshire's title win, and South Africa's World Cup chances (17:56)

Play Video
'We must finish games off' - De Villiers

Interviews: South Africa captain AB de Villiers says his bowlers must finish the opposition off after having them in trouble, especially with the World Cup right around the corner. (00:31) | Oct 21, 2014

Play Video
'Weren't that far from winning' - McCullum

Interviews: New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum says the first ODI against South Africa was closer than the scorecard may read (00:32) | Oct 21, 2014

Play Video
Chappell: Australia efficient against spin

News and Analysis: With Michael Clarke's batting and captaincy, Steven Smith's growth and the rest of the line-up's efficiency, Ian Chappell is not worried about the trial by spin that might await Australia as they prepare to face Pakistan in the first Test in Dubai (05:20) | Oct 21, 2014