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

'If England bat so poorly again, they'll need eight batsmen'

Geoff Boycott on the home team's Headingley challenge, Kemar Roach, pitches worldwide, and batting with a low bottom hand (15:04)

Producer: Siddhartha Talya

August 2, 2012


'If England bat so poorly again, they'll need eight batsmen'

August 2, 2012

James Taylor gets a pat on the back from batting coach Graham Gooch, Headingley, August 1, 2012
James Taylor: "He's a little lad and he's going to have his hands full facing the South African bowling attack" © Getty Images

Siddhartha Talya: Welcome once again to another show of Bowl at Boycs. I'm Siddhartha Talya and speaking to me today from Jersey is Geoffrey Boycott. Good morning, Geoffrey. A crushing defeat for England in the first Test match. They've had a bit of a break before the next one that starts tomorrow in Headingley. How are England placed, going into this Test?

Geoffrey Boycott: I think it was a very chastening experience for them. We were all expecting that there wasn't much to choose between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the world. We were expecting them to be finely balanced. Many of us weren't quite sure who to pick, who was going to win - because they were that closely balanced. England played so far below their best that it's very difficult to understand why.

There was no doubt at all that South Africa were very professional - they batted superbly, they bowled well. In fact, the first day, I got the impression that maybe because their warm-up matches with the counties had been decimated by rain, particularly the one against Kent, their bowlers were slightly underdone, that they needed a few overs under their belt. Well, they got that on the first day, when they only got three wickets and England were sitting in a perfect position at 270 [267] and one man on a hundred not out. You thought, "They look a bit underdone." But then they came back strong. England played poorly and, quite honestly, they were just beaten by a better side.

ST: And Geoffrey, looking forward to watching James Taylor play?

GB: He'll have to play because [Ravi] Bopara is on leave for some domestic problem. But, quite frankly, we are short of quality batsmen in domestic cricket who are saying to the selectors, "Pick me, I am ready to play." They tried young Jonny Bairstow. They played him a year before he was ready to play. They are now playing Taylor a year before he is ready to play.

He's a little lad and he's going to have his hands full facing the South African bowling attack. He's a good player, no doubt about that, but he's actually achieved more in one-day cricket. He has shown himself to be a very good player in one-day cricket.

Test cricket? I don't know. I think it gives a little bit more of an edge to South Africa. I hope he does well. You always hope a player gets a few runs. But it's a big ask.

ST: Our first question today comes from Steven in the UK and I think you've partly addressed his question. He wants to know if England should alter their side a little and go in with five bowlers, given that they are already 0-1 down in the series? Or is that too big a risk?

GB: How can England go in with five bowlers? Some of the batsmen played awful shots. You had Strauss in the second innings sweeping out of the rough when we were trying to save the game. There was Pietersen, suckered into trying to win a bouncer war with Morne Morkel - he got dropped and top-edged one over the keeper, and while thinking too much about winning that battle he missed a straight one. Again, when we were trying to save the match.

There was Prior, who batted very well in the second innings but was sweeping out of the rough with the legspinner bowling round the wicket. All he had to do was pad up, not play it. He couldn't be given out lbw - it was pitching outside leg stump - and what is he doing? Sweeping, and nicks it to slip. I could go on about the shot-playing through the game. He didn't have to play that kind of shot.

Many of our players seem intent on scoring runs rather than playing to the demands of the game. In the second innings, it was trying to save the game.

Look at Bopara. In the first innings, he was caught in two minds, whether to hook or defend, and when he tried to pull out of the shot, he got out. The shot-playing was poor. At times it was pathetic - the thinking. If we bat like that again, we need eight batsmen, not five bowlers, and we'll still lose.

The pitch was flat, really flat. You've got Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis - all played excellently. They had good defence, good shot selection, and played admirably well. Now all England had to do was the same.

I know that bowlers win matches and that's the question the guy is asking. We are 0-1 down, and if we're going to win, we need 20 wickets. You have to take 20 wickets to win. But if you don't put runs on the board, you've nothing to bowl at. Broad and Bresnan were way below par in energy, pace and skill at The Oval. If you don't put runs on the board, even if they bowl poorly, you ain't going to win. If you put runs on the board, you have a chance.

For me, it'll be the same team with better batting, better bowling, more energy, fewer mistakes in shot selection. You might have a change in Bresnan. There's always talk about whether you'll swap him for Finn, Onions, etc. I don't know. Whatever you do, whoever you play, you need a better performance than we gave at The Oval. You have to be sensible about this. We had a bad loss, really bad.

We had a poor match, but you have to remember that England didn't get to No. 1 in the world by being lucky. England have good players and they have played good cricket over the last two or three years. Except in the UAE and Sri Lanka, where they were all at sea on slow, turning pitches. But they have played well. This Oval Test, they played poor, really, really poor. Now is the time for them to show character, pick themselves up, show everybody and show themselves that they are very good cricketers.

ST: There's another Test series happening a fair distance away and that's between West Indies and New Zealand. West Indies now lead the series 1-0. They won a hard-fought victory in the first Test in Antigua. Did you expect West Indies to beat New Zealand, asks Winston from the United States. Kemar Roach, the fast bowler, has a big problem with no-balls but he picked up seven wickets in that match. Does he look like a long-term bowling prospect for West Indies?

GB: No-balls never worry me too much. Get one or two of the famous West Indies fast bowlers to help - I'm sure they can sort that out. Kemar Roach is good. He is a very good bowler. But I'll just remind you, so is Jerome Taylor. Where is he now? He's injured and has been injured for some time.

One of my best friends, Brian Clough, said, "You are no good to yourself or the team unless you get out on the park." So the key for me, and for Roach, is to stay fit. If a bowler spends too much time on the physio table, off the field, it's no good at all. In horse-racing terms, if the horse keeps getting injured and not racing, they shoot it, because it's costing too much money to keep. I'm not suggesting they shoot cricketers, but at the same time, you ain't much use to anybody.

New Zealand have no real stars in their side. They have a good, honest team, with players who give their best and with a population of 5 million people - you've heard me say this before - I think they do brilliantly to hold their own. At some stages in their cricket history, since the 1940s, they have had some truly great players in Richard Hadlee, Martin Crowe, Martin Donnelly... I can mention a few others. They've had some crackerjacks. But at the moment they don't have stars. They have guys who are very average, I think, one or two are poor. They've also got guys who earn a lot of money in the IPL, so their best cricket is played there. I don't blame them for that, but I'm making that as an honest statement.

"In horse-racing, if the horse keeps getting injured, they shoot it, because it's costing too much money to keep. I'm not suggesting they shoot cricketers, but at the same time, you ain't much use to anybody"

West Indies have some quality guys. Their batting needs some improvement. They can't always depend on Gayle to smash a few runs.

If you look back at the great West Indies fast bowlers of the '70s and early '80s - Holding, Roberts, Garner, Croft, Marshall, later Ambrose, Walsh - they hardly ever got injured. Staying fit - that's the key.

You asked me about Roach. I think he's good. If he's going to have a terrific career, he needs to stay fit. That's not a criticism by me, just a saying. You have to stay fit if you're going to have ten years at the top and get lots of Test wickets.

As West Indians say, "Pace, maan". That's the key to winning Test matches. Roach is the key, and any other fast bowlers they can find. You've got to stay fit, get on the field, not the physio's table. Outside of the field and the exceptional players that West Indies have, both are very average sides. So is [the win] a surprise? No, nothing's a surprise. If West Indies' key players play well, they should win.

ST: Next up is a question I'm sure Geoffrey would love answering. It's a question about batting and technique, and it comes from Jatin in India. Jatin wants to know: Does having a low bottom-hand grip help impart greater power to your shots? What are the possible disadvantages of such a grip?

GB: It depends on how much pressure the bottom hand exacts on the bat. Normally, the right hand, which is the bottom hand if you're a right-hander, should be a steadying influence and a controlling influence for defensive shots. When you're attacking, it adds a bit of impetus, a bit of punch or power, particularly for the pulls, cuts, hooks and, to a degree, for the back-foot forcing strokes.

Too much bottom hand is not good. Your cricket hand is your top hand. Absolutely. To most of us, if we're right-handed, it means the cricket hand is the left hand, which we don't use a lot. We're not as adept at doing things [with it], so we've got to make that left hand work.

Batting is directed and dominated by the top shoulder and left elbow. What I really mean - and what people should say - is, use your shoulder, your top shoulder and a high bent top elbow to bat better.

It's a fallacy to believe it's the top hand. It's not. It's the shoulder - use it and your left elbow to dictate your strokes with a straight bat. Cross-batted shots can use more bottom hand.

ST: The question that Geoffrey has picked as his favourite for this show comes from James in the UK. We're already a few months now into the English summer and it's a good time to sit back and assess the kind of pitches used for both county and international cricket.

Kemar Roach runs in to bowl, West Indies v New Zealand, 1st Test, Antigua, 5th day, July 29, 2012
Can Kemar Roach stay fit? © LaTouche Photography

James says: Recently I have felt that across both county and international matches, teams have been playing on wickets that are lacking pace, quality spin or consistent bounce. Do you feel the quality of pitches this summer has been good enough?

GB: No, I don't. International pitches, all over the world, have been deteriorating for years. They've just become flat with no great pace. The ball comes on to the bat - nice for batting. With the quality of drainage, particularly in England - a lot of money was spent in each Test match ground to make the drainage better - and also with the improved quality of covering, pitches are dry and flat now, and they've lost the pace. Pace, somehow, has disappeared and bounce is extremely rare. And spin only happens in the subcontinent, in India and Sri Lanka. Only occasionally outside the subcontinent.

When the ball spins, with close-in fielders, there are gaps in the outfield. So the batsmen, when they defend, they know if they make a mistake they're going to get caught. But if they attack, there's quite a few more gaps. So it makes for interesting cricket.

It's the same with the seamers. If there is a little bit of bounce and pace, you'll find they want more slips, more gullies, short legs. So if you play your shots, there are more gaps in the outfield.

Pacy pitches are very good. When it turns it's good. I'm not saying jump and turn, or keep low, I'm saying just turn for the spinners. Then it makes it more interesting for batsmen and bowlers.

I honestly think that groundsmen all over the world should concentrate more on getting pace back in the pitches. I don't think we want pace and bounce [together], which is too much. But at the same time, if the ball comes on, it's easier to play shots - it gets the quick bowlers excited, it gets them into the game more, they want more fielders catching, and so we get more exciting cricket. Flat batting pitches with lots of runs can be tedious.

ST: Can England bounce back at Headingley? We'll just have to wait and see. Thanks a lot for that, Geoffrey. That's a wrap on today's show. Remember to send us your questions using our feedback form and we'll be sure to have Geoffrey back in two weeks' time to answer them. Until the next time, goodbye and take care.

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
Agarkar: Good time to give Dhoni a break

News and Analysis: Ajit Agarkar has his say on the India squad for the first three ODIs against Sri Lanka (04:55) | Oct 21, 2014

Play Video
'Potentially catastrophic for West Indies'

News and Analysis: Gaurav Kalra and Sharda Ugra on the consequences of the BCCI suspending all bilateral tours to West Indies (06:14) | Oct 21, 2014

Play Video
Moonda: It was an intense chase for SA

Match Analysis: ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent Firdose Moonda talks about South Africa's victory against New Zealand in the first ODI (02:13) | Oct 21, 2014