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'T20 cricket has changed for the better'

Geoff Boycott on how the game has evolved, Yorkshire's promotion, and the players he'll be watching this World Twenty20 (11:52)

Producer: Siddhartha Talya

September 18, 2012


Bowl at Boycs

'T20 cricket has changed for the better'

September 18, 2012

Jos Buttler will miss the first one-dayer with a hand injury, Abu Dhabi, February 12, 2012
How will Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow fare in the subcontinent? © Getty Images

Siddhartha Talya: Welcome again to Bowl at Boycs. I'm Siddhartha Talya. Speaking to me today from his home in Jersey is Geoffrey Boycott.

Geoffrey, we'll start with a piece of good news. Yorkshire have secured promotion in the County Championship. You must be happy.

Geoffrey Boycott: Absolutely thrilled to bits. Everybody is. As an ex-player and president of the club, I'm pleased for everybody who's worked hard. Not just the players but the coaching staff, the people behind the scenes who you never see, but they do a lot of work to make sure everything runs smoothly. And I'm very pleased for our chairman [Colin Graves] as well. He gave the players a rollicking last year because we got relegated. We pay them quite nicely and he thought they hadn't performed well. This year we're all thrilled to bits, and I'm pleased for him as well.

ST: Most of our questions today deal with the World Twenty20, which starts on September 18. But let's just stick to county cricket for a few more minutes. Our first question for the day comes from Glen in the UK. He says: The County Championship has ended, won by Warwickshire in the first division. Who were some of the players, across all counties, who caught your eye this season?

GB: There are two kids who don't play for Yorkshire. There's Danny Briggs, a 21-year-old left-arm spinner for Hampshire, and I think he's going to get in the one-day squad for England. He's one for the future and quite a good bowler. I've seen him bowl in the 40-over competition and the T20. You may even see him in India. He may not be a first pick but you may see him around, it's possible, or they may go back to Monty [Panesar].

There's a kid at Glamorgan - James Harris, a seam bowler, and there are a few counties queuing up for him. Warwickshire and Notts have got plenty of money. I'm not sure we do but we like him [laughs]. He's very good. Glamorgan are in the second division and they don't look like they're getting out. He's told Glamorgan if he is to further his career, he wants to go and play in the first division. So, since we've got promoted, we might just have an outside chance. We could do with another seamer and he's very good.

You can talk about people like Chris Woakes, who's around the one-day squad, a seam bowler. Scott Borthwick, who bats, and bowls legspinners at Durham. I'm not sure how far they'll go.

We've got two kids at Yorkshire. One you'll see very shortly - Joe Root. He has a 50-50 chance of getting picked to go to India and play in the Tests this November-December. I think he's actually a year away. It's a bit too soon for him but he will be a very talented opening batsman - like Michael Vaughan, myself, Sunil Gavaskar, technically correct. Andrew Strauss has retired, it's left a big gaping hole, and nobody expected that. They thought he'd go on and play this winter and the next summer in the Ashes. England are pushing him [Root] ahead of when he's ready but he is very talented and you may see him this winter.

Azeem Rafiq, you want to see. He's about 20-21, of Pakistani origin, came to Barnsley, South Yorkshire, where Martyn Moxon and myself, Dickie Bird, Michael Parkinson are from. He came and lived there with his parents, so he's grown up in Yorkshire with a better Yorkshire accent than me. The kid bowls offspin, he bats, he's got a very good cricket brain, he's very spunky, very confident. And Jason Gillespie made him captain of our T20 side at a very young age, and he did brilliantly. He's got so much energy and everybody liked him, even the members. I know that he's been noticed by the England selectors as a future player.

ST: And now to T20. We've had nine years of the format now; it began in 2003 in England. Anil from the UK wants to know: How has the format changed over the period, and has there been a change in trends and the way teams approach the format?

GB: Yes, I think it has and it's changed a lot for the better. You'd expect players to be intelligent and smart enough to get better and understand the game better. When T20 cricket began, many people thought, "Crash, bang, wallop… right from the word go, you've got to whack it out of the park." They settled down and realised that you can play a little more sensibly. Certainly, you have to be positive and play shots, but you don't have to slog from the word go. They're now using common sense.

"It's not just about talent. It's, are you mentally tough when you get into pressure and difficult situations? And that's where South Africa have bottled it before. It'll come down to that"

There's a lot more variations, by bowlers in particular. The seamers used to bowl the slower offspinner, that was the norm. But now, you see, they bowl back-of-the-hand legspinners. They also hold the ball between split fingers, almost like in baseball. I've always said that T20 is cricket's answer to baseball. So they have split fingers and bowl with a very fast arm action, but the ball comes out slower to deceive the batsman. Then you've got the slower bouncer, which is used by every seamer. They bang it in short, make sure it's a slower bouncer, the batsman tries to pull it too early and gets nothing for it.

Then you've got the batsmen. The reverse sweep, if you can't play it as a youngster growing up now, you're an idiot. They all play it. They play it as kids in the teens, they learn to play it. It's the norm. They're now not just reverse-sweeping, they're reverse-sweeping it into an area either fine, or they're hitting it hard as a reverse hit.

Also, a lot of teams are looking for a middle order of one or two players or more who can hit the ball out of the park. That's almost like the engine room. They want the top three or four to put the runs on the board, positively. But then they get the guys in who can hit it out of the park and take the score along. Instead of just a run a ball, they can score 10, 12, 14 an over quite easily. Those are just some of the changes.

I think it'll go on changing. Cricket has always changed with the times. It has never stayed the same, the rules have never stayed the same. If I'm still alive in ten years and you're asking me this, there'll be some more things that have happened that we can't think about at the moment.

ST: The next question, from Anand in India, was very much expected. Geoffrey, who are your favourites for the World Twenty20 and why? And who are the players you'll be observing very closely?

GB: Listen, if I know who the favourite was, I'd be down at the bookies putting my money and putting my house on it. I haven't a clue and I've told you this before. The less overs you have to play, the more luck involved. So anybody can beat anybody. And if you play a ten-over match you really would have no idea who's going to win. I really don't know but you'd think the subcontinent teams would have a better chance playing in Sri Lanka because they are used to the slower, turning pitches. Their batsmen are used to that too.

I'll be watching India, like all your people are, because, more than anything, I want to see how Yuvraj plays. Yuvraj was unbelievable in the World Cup, which India won. He's an absolutely fantastic batsman in Asia and those type of pitches in one-day cricket. I just hope he's got over his illness and is back to his best. I'd like to see if he is, because he is a real sensation to watch. We know they've got spinners, and spinners will be important in a T20 in the subcontinent. But a big factor is Zaheer. If they can keep him fit, when he bowls his overs, either at the death or the beginning, he's a big asset. So I'll be watching for them.

I'll always watch England. I'm an ex-England player, so I'll keep abreast of it. Everybody will want to see how England do without Pietersen. I think they'll do quite well. It doesn't mean to say that they won't miss his batting, but in other forms you'll find there is a good team spirit between the young kids. T20 is a young kid's game. They throw themselves around in the field, they don't have any fear. They don't worry about getting out, they just worry about winning.

Steve Patterson celebrates after the final wicket, Essex v Yorkshire, County Championship, Division Two, Chelmsford, September 14, 2012
On Yorkshire's promotion: "Absolutely thrilled to bits" © Getty Images

We have about three I'd like to see do well. Samit Patel, the left-arm spinner who can bat. He could do well in the subcontinent. A stocky little lad, sometimes gets a bit too chubby, but he's a good cricketer, mentally tough. I'll be watching how the young kids Buttler and Bairstow do. Bairstow had a fantastic score at Lord's, got 90-odd, played out of his skin. When everybody was worried about him playing short balls, he showed them he is mentally tough, very talented. But the problem for him, and Buttler, who is a hard-hitting player, is that the ball doesn't come on the same in Sri Lanka. If you get some of these pitches where the ball turns, you've got to play more like the Indian batsmen, using your wrists, waiting for the ball. They're not used to that. And I'm going to watch carefully. I'm not so sure but they might struggle a little bit. They are very talented but they might struggle.

Australia, I'll always watch them. We play them in the Ashes next year, and there's a Champions Trophy in England which they'll be part of, and also, there'll be some ODIs and T20s against Australia. That's going to be big for us next year. Straight after that, we go to Australia again for the Ashes and one-day matches. They are a team in flux, their batting doesn't look special. They have a couple of good players, we know, but they haven't really come together yet to threaten anybody. So those are just a few of the people I'll be watching.

ST: You saw South Africa play recently, Geoffrey. They've always had this tendency to choke in big tournaments.

GB: They have had a tendency to choke, and it's their own fault. Until they get that monkey off the back, we'll always be watching for them to choke. If you keep on doing it, the only way to stop people talking about it is to go and win and show that this current lot is not afraid to win. I think they're very talented. But you've hit the nail on the head yourself. It's not just about talent. It's, are you mentally tough when you get into pressure and difficult situations? And that's where they've bottled it before. It'll come down to that.

How often have West Indies been ordinary in the last ten or 12 years and then sometimes have surprised us? In T20, you just don't know. You've not only got to be talented, you've got to be mentally tough. Catching and fielding are important. You can't be putting catches down, you haven't got time to get it back in T20. So that'll be very important. I expect that to be pretty good from most of the sides.

ST: Thanks for your time, Geoffrey, and thanks to all our listeners as well. Don't forget to send us your questions using our feedback form, and we'll have Geoffrey back in two weeks' time. That's a wrap on today's show. Thank you and goodbye.

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