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

'Narine is interesting rather than special'

Geoffrey Boycott on the need for an official IPL window, Ramdin's reaction, and why Sunil Narine isn't quite there yet (19:53)

Producer: Siddhartha Talya

June 14, 2012


'Narine is interesting rather than special'

June 14, 2012

Denesh Ramdin has a message to broadcast on getting to his ton, England v West Indies, 3rd Test, Edgbaston, 4th day, June 10, 2012
Not against the spirit of the game, but unnecessary and childish © Getty Images

Siddhartha Talya: Hello and welcome once again to Bowl at Boycs. I'm Siddhartha Talya and speaking to me today from Jersey is Geoffrey Boycott. Geoffrey, the England-West Indies Test series is over. Unfortunately, it rained for the bulk of the Edgbaston Test but we did see some exciting cricket. What can both teams take from their performance in the Test series?

Geoffrey Boycott: I think it was clearly emphasised that England are still a very, very good side, difficult to beat, and they fancy their chances against anybody. South Africa will be probably their toughest test, but they really fancy themselves as a good team. And what we saw from West Indies was a moderate side. I like their spirit, character, attitude. They didn't fold under pressure, even when they were losing, which was nice to see. The captain has to take a lot of credit for that. He seems to show a lot of character and so does the coach - to pick the players up and show a lot more fight.

But the problem is: they can't win matches when the first four can't bat. It's as simple as that. They can't just keep waiting for Marlon Samuels, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the captain and the tailenders to get them out of trouble. Once you are 50 for 4, because the top four batsmen can't do, or haven't done, their job, you are in trouble. It's like climbing Mt Everest. Most of us will struggle to climb Mt Everest. There's only a few who have done that. So that's the problem.

There's a lack of technique against the moving ball. That's the footwork, and bat and pad together, arms and legs and body moving in a co-ordinated fashion, that's what batting's about. I'm sure they are decent players on their own pretty good pitches, but when it comes to England, the ball always moves a bit, occasionally swings as well as moving off. When people have got the new ball, and they're good bowlers, it's quite a bit tougher and exposes your technique.

ST: Our first question for the day comes from Bernard Ramsaroop in Guyana and it's about a cricketer who generated quite a bit of buzz before that Test match at Edgbaston. Bernard says: I've been following cricket for the last 25 years and I've never seen so much hype about a spinner from the West Indies. Is Sunil Narine that special, and why?

GB: No, I don't think he is special. But he is interesting. The kid has hardly played any first-class cricket, so he has very little experience to fall back on if he gets hit or plays on a very flat, good batting pitch. We all should remember that he is quite young, very young. Not only young in age but young in experience. He's hardly played about seven first-class matches and suddenly he's whipped into the Test side. And we all know - all of us who have played cricket and you out there, you club cricketers - that spinners usually need a few years behind them before they mature and are able to bowl really, really well. There are very few that make it straightaway; they have to be exceptional players. Most players just have to find their feet a bit. Spinning is a profession in which you really do need to bowl a lot of overs and learn. He's not mature, that's the thing.

What is interesting, and interests us lovers of cricket, is: does he have the ability to bowl the doosra like Saeed Ajmal for Pakistan? Because Ajmal can create problems for a lot of batsmen. Or does he just bowl a carrom ball which just offers to go out a bit? That's not quite the same as turning like a doosra. Now if he can really spin the doosra and disguise it - those are the two key things - and then bowl it on a decent length, it can create problems and havoc for batsmen, particularly if it turns.

In the IPL, he did well. Why? Batsmen hadn't seen him, and when they come in, they have to slog or hit him - they have no time to look at the bowling or look at him and be watchful for a few overs. No, no. They don't have much time in 20 overs; you've only got 120 balls and you've got to hit a few of those out of the park. And also the pitches in India usually always have slow turn - even when they are very good and dry for batting. So everything was in his favour. At Edgbaston he plays his first Test match. The batsmen could take their time, wait and watch, they're not under pressure to him, and the pitch was an absolute beauty for batting. It was flat by the time England batted against him. Look at their No. 11 - he got the highest score ever by a No. 11 and played fantastic. It was a beautiful pitch: even bounce, no spin, the pace was lovely. One of the world's best spinners, Graeme Swann, couldn't pose problems for any of the West Indies batsmen so there was no chance that Narine was going to pose problems for England.

Narine was in very good company, so don't judge him quite so harshly, but let's not get carried away. He is interesting, rather than special.

ST: Next up is a question from Ross in the UK. He says: I enjoyed your My XI feature and was glad to see Sydney Barnes included as he is a favourite bowler of mine. I was interested to read Don Bradman's comments that he thought Bill O'Reilly was a better bowler than Barnes because Barnes never used the googly. Didn't they both trouble the batsmen with those quick deliveries that spun? What are your thoughts on the Don's comments and how do you rate O'Reilly?

GB: When Barnes was asked about Bradman's comments, he said he didn't need a googly to get batsmen out. That's a good riposte, isn't it? And what you also have to remember is that, as much as we idolise and recognise Bradman as the greatest run-getter ever, Bradman's first Test was in 1928. Barnes was born in 1873, so by the time Bradman played his first Test, at 19-20 years of age, Barnes was 55 and finished. His last Test match was in 1913. Bradman could have only been a toddler then. So Bradman's judgement of Barnes is no better than yours or mine, in this instance. He didn't see Barnes. He has no recollections and didn't play against him.

I'm sure everybody says O'Reilly was a fantastically great bowler, and I use the word properly: great. But it's a judgement call whether you regard Barnes or O'Reilly. Bradman, Geoffrey Boycott, you - we are all human beings and we all have different views, but also, all of us, whether we like it or not, we're always sucked in by what we see ourselves.

Television today, in the last 20 years, has made it easier for everybody to see current players. To see players that, without television, we might never see in our lives, just their records. And when we see players play, and it's before our eyes, those memories of something special in bowling or batting, we tend to remember those. It does - human beings, what we are - colour our judgement a bit. I'll repeat that: it does colour our judgement. We're trying not to, all of us. I'm just like you. I try and say: "Who is the best bowler? Who is the greatest batsman? Who is the best allrounder?" I try to look at the figures and everything, but in the end it's only a judgement because there's only a fraction of those players that we actually saw in person or on television.

What I've read about them - and I've read a fair bit - is that there was a bit of a difference. Barnes took the new ball and he swerved it in the air and cut the ball off the pitch, which is a little bit different from spin. Bill O'Reilly was fast, accurate and spun it. Now Barnes could spin it because he had big fingers, big hands. But he cut it and he swerved it, that's why he wanted the new ball. He's in my all-time best XI, always. O'Reilly isn't because I've got Shane Warne. It's a judgement call, that. Barnes' records are fantastic, O Reilly's are fantastic. But more important for me is, I've read what the great Australian batsmen of the time said about Barnes, how good he was, what he did with the ball. He was faster than normal, aggressive, a big man, strong, cantankerous, awkward, bowled a lot of overs.

"They'll keep sticking their head in the sand, will some of the chairmen, as long as they can, but eventually they'll have to come and face the fact that Twenty20 in India is here. It is harming some of the Test sides because they can't get all their players, but eventually they'll have to do a deal with the Indian board"

And he actually bowled for money. That's why he didn't play county cricket all the time - he got more money playing in the leagues. And that's why he didn't always play for England, because you get more money playing in the leagues. He was a great bowler and a great character. You just have to look at the great batsmen of the time, [like] Clem Hill - he's got a stand named after him at the SCG - and read what they said about Barnes. That's pretty important.

But in the end it's a judgement call. So as much as we revere and put Bradman on a pedestal - the icon that he was, and he deserves that accolade; he's been the best - it's only a judgement call. We are all entitled to a judgement and we shouldn't just take everything he says as gospel. We should take everything he did in batting as gospel, because that was outrageously genius.

ST: Our next question from Edwin in the UK is about an incident during the Edgbaston Test that was talked about quite a bit. He says: Denesh Ramdin has been fined by the ICC for that reaction after he scored a century. I disagree with that. Aren't cricketers entitled to hit back at their critics when critics and experts can say all they want during commentary or in the newspapers? It wasn't abuse or anything like that, just an unusual response to what Viv Richards had to say.

GB: Yes, in some ways I agree with Edwin. I didn't think what he put in that piece of paper and what was said on it was against the spirit of the game. I didn't think it hurt anybody. What I did think, though, was it was unusual and it was unnecessary. Denesh had made his statement the best way possible - a wonderful performance on the field of play. He batted beautifully. He didn't need to say anything, his batting said it all for him. There was nothing more to say. And it was childish, really, to get upset and bring out a piece of paper.

Apparently what Viv Richards said wasn't really that bad. Hey, if you've had 25 years in the game, like me, there's a lot worse criticism than that, I can tell you. I suppose, on the other hand, Viv could say, "Hey, if my criticism stings you that much and helps you score a century, maybe I should criticise you a bit more often - maybe every week and you get a century every week." I'm just putting the other side; obviously I don't think that should happen.

But if you think about it, Denesh's actions - jumping up with that piece of paper - took the gloss off a wonderful innings. Nobody really focused on his excellent batting. Every interview he did, everybody was focusing on was what was he getting at Viv for. What did Viv say? Find the article, what's it all about? All the interviews with Denesh were about his gesture and the words on the piece of paper. Actually what he did was totally unnecessary.

But I don't think it deserved a fine. My goodness, if you're going to fine people every time they have a little spirit and a bit of emotion and passion… cricket is emotion and passion. Surely we don't want robots in cricket. We want people with a bit of spirit, passion and care about the game. In this case, I wouldn't have fined him. But I'd have said to him, "You didn't need to do it."

ST: We come now to the question that Geoffrey has picked as his favourite for this show. It comes from Ganesh Hegde in India. Ganesh says: After Kevin Pietersen's retirement from limited-overs cricket, do you believe that the ICC needs to have a window for the IPL to retain the best players for international cricket? Has the time come to look at scheduling to fit in T20 leagues so that players can balance personal profit and playing for their country?

The news is just in that the ICC will not be considering an official window for the IPL. Haroon Lorgat, who is the ICC's chief executive, said this in Melbourne very recently.

GB: Good question. Absolutely, you are dead right. Common sense should prevail. It's in everyone's interests to allow all the best players in the world to be available for the whole duration of the IPL. Some of them, one or two like Pietersen, play a few weeks and then have to return to their national team because the selectors want them back to rest a little and get ready for England cricket. If all the players were allowed to play and there was a window, it would strengthen the IPL. The IPL will go on whether they get all the players or not, but at the same time it would strengthen it because it would have every single player that the IPL wants. Nobody would be out unless they're injured. I think that's good.

And from the ICC's point of view, the ten major countries should get together and say, "Hey, six weeks is a bit long for us not to have any international cricket anywhere in the world." Try and talk to the IPL to shorten it a little bit. Get it down to maybe a month, four-and-a-half weeks. That shouldn't be difficult.

ICC President Sharad Pawar and CEO Haroon Lorgat at the annual conference , Hong Kong, June 30, 2011
The ICC will eventually have to do a deal with the Indian board about the IPL © Getty Images
And it's about common sense, isn't it? Maybe the ten major chairmen don't want to give it official status or recognition by saying, "Oh, here's a five-week window." And I say, "Hang on, you're kidding yourself here." The IPL is already here.

I haven't seen it. Only on television, because I've been holidaying and doing other things. But it looks like fun to me. I'd like to come and see it. I'd like to come next year and maybe watch a few matches live, because it looks like fun. But trying to pretend - some of the chairmen from some of the countries - that it's just a "domestic competition"… technically it is, it's run by the Indian board. [But] let's get real.

In tennis, they tried to outlaw people who went professional and earned their living. That only lasted four or five years, didn't it? Eventually they had to succumb to the fact that they had to start paying tennis players. And we have a similar situation here. You cannot ask that young bowler we just talked about, Narine… he gets offered US$700,000-odd from Kolkata Knight Riders. It's like a dream come true. How the hell does anybody not take that sort of money? As much as he wants to play for West Indies.

West Indies can't offer him that sort of money anyway. As much as I love Test cricket more than anything, I have a passion for Test cricket and all cricket, but at the same time you've got to get realistic in the real world. These kids throughout the world have got an opportunity of a lifetime to earn money that they never dreamt of. And ex-players like me, who didn't earn that sort of money, I don't feel angry about it but feel delighted for him. It may be an opportunity that is only there for ten or 15 years and it may not last. Who knows? I can't tell what's going to happen in the future. But it's just their good fortune to be here and share in the bonanza of money that's coming in from television. So trying to close their eyes and pretend that [the IPL] isn't here and is just a domestic competition is just ridiculous.

Common sense should prevail, very much. There's no doubt at all, Ganesh, that sooner or later, they'll keep sticking their head in the sand, will some of the chairmen, as long as they can, but eventually they'll have to come and face the fact that T20 in India is here. It is harming some of the Test sides because they can't get all their players, but eventually they'll have to do a deal with the Indian board. What we really want, also, is the Indian board to not be so intransigent - just because they've got an excellent product that they can sell for millions to television. We need them to show some common sense and goodwill as well.

ST: Geoffrey, there are these Twenty20 leagues mushrooming all over the world. There's one that's going to start in Sri Lanka in August, Australia has its own Big Bash, there's the Bangladesh Premier League as well. So the ICC's point of view is: Why should they make an exception for the IPL when other boards around the world might be requesting windows for their leagues too?

GB: We have T20 in England, so do they in South Africa, there's one in Australia, one in Bangladesh, but they're not the same. Look at the money that's available - it's nothing like what's available in the IPL. It's as simple as that. People are not all the same. You have to use common sense. You can have rules, but always, common sense should apply with any rule. The sooner they do it, the better. They'll stick out with it as long as they can, like they did with amateur tennis, and eventually they had to start paying people.

ST: So Geoffrey, if you were an upcoming cricketer today and were faced with the choice of playing Tests or T20s in the IPL, what would you go for?

GB: If Kolkata Knight Riders - if I was like Sunil Gavaskar, a Test match cricketer of some standing - offered me the same money as Gautam Gambhir, US$2.4 million, I'd be practising Twenty20, morning, afternoon and night. I wouldn't even go to bed, I'd keep practising to get that money.

ST: Thanks a lot for that, Geoffrey.

That's all we have for today's show. Please do send in your questions to us 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.

Posted by Balumekka on (June 15, 2012, 6:55 GMT)

Most of the Geoff's comments are true and valid. However, Swann is nowhere close to 'one of the best spinners'. True that Swann plays for the top ranked team. But when comparing with current players like Ajmal or even Hafeez, Swann simply has limited talent with minimal variation. If yo compare with the greatest spinners like Murali or Warne, Swann is merely a spin bowler who can bat a little!

Posted by lugujaga on (June 15, 2012, 6:37 GMT)

Every time the on field umpires called for a review we always see a graphic of the three stumps from wicket to wicket. why can't there be a change in how the pitch is marked out by actually putting two reference lines on the pitch (leg and off stump) at both ends of the wicket. This will stop the umpires from guessing when a ball is pitched ,outside leg ,wicket to wicket or uotside off. By doing so, this will make the umpires job much easier and accurate for LBS. What does boycs think about those added two lines at either end

Posted by   on (June 14, 2012, 14:33 GMT)

yeah yeah..swann didnt take a wicket,he give away 85 runs that too against an ordinary west indies batting attack,but still he will remain the best spinner for guys from england,but here is a young cricketer,playing in his first test match,he bowls against pietersan,yes he didnt take any wicket,but common it is his first test match..he will do better in the future ..!!

Posted by   on (June 14, 2012, 14:33 GMT)

as usual he is spot on! love his candid takes!

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