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'Teams don't fear touring India anymore'
Geoff Boycott on why Australia can beat India, how Pakistan can improve, and playing left-arm spin (18:33)
Producer: Siddhartha Talya
February 14, 2013
Bowl at Boycs
'Teams don't fear touring India anymore'February 14, 2013
Siddhartha Talya: Hello and welcome to another show of Bowl at Boycs. I'm Siddhartha Talya and joining me today from Auckland is a slightly jet-lagged Geoffrey Boycott.
Good evening, Geoffrey.
Geoffrey Boycott: I'm a bit tired, all that flying from England. I first went to Cape Town and from there to Dubai. The flight was four hours late, so I felt I had lived in the plane. I was sick of it by the end. But yes, I'll be all right once I get used to the time change. That's why it's nice when you go on holiday and there's only a couple of hours. But there's a 13-hour difference between England and New Zealand, so you want to sleep during daytime and stay awake when it's night time, and get your body clock all wrong.
ST: Yes, there's still a while to go in this series. England have just played a couple of T20 matches. They'll be playing a one-day series shortly and the Test matches after that. So it's a reasonably long tour to get used to the change in time.
Our first question for today is a technical one. It comes from Roger Sawh in Canada. He says: How should one's technique change in playing a left-arm spinner as opposed to a legbreak bowler? The ball is pitching in the same place and turning the same way, but I am unable to successfully adapt to playing left-arm orthodox spin.
GB: The one unfortunate thing about this question is, you're not telling me what the problem is.
When you get wristspinners bowling, and that's what [legspinners] are, they are using their wrists more - what are you going to do? You're going to get more spin, or you should get more spin, because they are using more wrist with the fingers as opposed to what we call left-arm orthodox and right-arm orthodox, who are fingerspinners. So the more you use wrists, the more turn you get. Also, by using the wrists, you should get more bounce. That's why you'll see that with legspinners, it bounces and turns a bit more, but other than that there is not a great deal of difference. It's just that you have to be a little more careful of the bounce.
But what you're not telling us here is why you have a problem. Where are you trying to play it or hit it that's giving you the problem? The simplest thing I tell people is play with the spin. So if it's a left-arm spinner or a wristspinner bowling, then don't be playing too much to the on side with a straight bat. You don't want to be driving against the spin. Unless the ball is so full, such an easy half-volley that you can't miss it, play it with the spin a bit more.
I wish you had told me quite a bit more about what your problem was, because really, there shouldn't be a great deal. You can take a different guard if you want. If you normally take leg stump, say you can take middle. But it's really about what the problem is. You can't solve the problem until you tell me a bit more.
ST: Sticking to batting, our next question is from David in Australia. He says: Pakistan's batsmen were all at sea against the South African fast bowlers, including Kallis. Who do you think is the key batsman for Pakistan, and where can they go from here?
GB: I don't think it's a case of one of them being a key batsman. I watched them play the South African fast bowling and the problem was - it's inherent in the fact that Pakistanis play on pretty flat surfaces that don't bounce a great deal. I've been to Pakistan many times, playing and commentating. The new ball does a little bit, but after that it's fairly straightforward for batting. They played at Johannesburg, and they were all at sea because the ball bounced, which they don't get in Pakistan, and it moved off the seam at pace. They were playing in Jo'burg, about 5000 feet above sea level. The ball zipped at them quickly, bounced alarmingly into the chest, and moved around.
From what I saw - and I saw quite a lot of the Test match, I was in South Africa - was that if South Africa's seamers would have been bowling at South Africa's batsmen, who are pretty good and a lot more used to the bounce and speed of Johannesburg, I think they would have found it a handful. That's because they are very, very good bowlers and there was enough in the pitch to cause a problem for batsmen who had a good technique and batsmen who are used to the bounce, pace, and movement of the ball. South Africa's batsmen would have made more runs than Pakistan, but I think they would have been hard-pressed to make 150. I really do.
So it's not a question of who is the key batsman for Pakistan. I don't think anybody is. What they should hope for, more than anything, is they get a pitch that isn't fast and bouncy. Now, they do have [such] pitches in South Africa. There's Port Elizabeth that isn't bouncy. Pretoria [Centurion] can have a bit of bounce, but it won't be like Jo'burg. So there shouldn't be any more pitches in South Africa like Jo'burg - they'll get one or two that bounce a little bit, like Cape Town, and Pretoria, just a little bit. But not as alarmingly as Johannesburg.
It's a pitch on which the ball moved around. It bounced, it seamed, and Dale Steyn, to me, he is a terrific bowler, the best bowler in the world. He would be a top-class bowler in any era. He will bowl and make it uncomfortable against any batsman in the world on the surface they played on. I do believe that some batsmen in the world would play better, adapt better, to the surface than the Pakistanis did, but if Pakistan had gone and batted again in Jo'burg, against Steyn and Co, they would have struggled. It's the nature of where they grow up, and the pitches they grow up on.
ST: Bisnupada from India sends us a related question. He says: We've been witnessing some really low scores on South African soil in recent times. First Australia, then New Zealand, and now Pakistan. Agreed, they are facing some quality bowling, but is it also down to a lack of skill in the modern-day batsman to counter swing and pace? Many people tend to blame T20, but mentally are today's batsmen less determined to bat for a long time?
GB: Good question. I watched New Zealand play South Africa and I was there. I was very disappointed with the quality, or lack of it, in their technique. When people like Steyn were bowling, Philander, Morne Morkel, Kallis, I saw them playing away from the body - that is, in front of the pad, playing with a firm or strong, rigid sort of bat. They played at balls that they should be leaving. They were not very good, to be honest. Very disappointed indeed.
What is happening, you see, is people are playing quite a lot of one-day cricket, [where] technique isn't as necessary. If you are playing T20 or 50 overs, there are a lot of times in a 50-over game where you need to hit the ball, you need to score, and you need to throw the bat at the ball. If you get an edge and it flies through second slip for four, people cheer. But in a Test match, you'll be caught and be out, and people will say, "Oh, that's a bad shot." So it's a very different game, and I don't blame the modern player totally. The game has grown so much that they all have to play one-day cricket from a very early age, whether it's T20 or 50 overs. We are all features of where we grew up, what type of cricket is played when we're growing up, what type of conditions we played under.
I just mentioned, the Pakistanis don't play the bouncy, pacy ball; they play fast bowlers but the ball bounces stump-high. It pulls the teeth of the fast bowler, makes him much easier to play. When you get fast bowlers where it bounces and seams, technique is absolutely priceless. You have to be able to judge the line, the length - where your off stump is, do I play forward, do I play back, do I hit it or defend it. You've got to do all that in a third of a second. They're bowling at about 90 miles an hour; it's a quick wink. And you train yourself to be able to do that, you train yourself. It's very difficult to learn that when you haven't played on those sort of pitches.
I just think that technique - this questioner is right - is not as good today. It's because they have to play so much one-day cricket (and they play it damn well). Many people, like me, didn't have to play. Many years ago we didn't play one-day cricket and we didn't play T20. I only played 30 50-over games; now they play 300. So the game has changed and with it, the modern-day batsman is less equipped to play with a good technique because it isn't as important when playing one-day cricket.
|"If you lose two on the trot to England and Australia, it will be enormously difficult for your players not to be crucified by the media and the public. So they've got to front up"|
ST: What would you put it down to when you see a batsman, Geoffrey, just poking outside off stump often, when bowlers bowl in the corridor as you call it? You do see a tendency in batsmen these days to just play at the ball and edge them to the keeper or slips. Is that down to T20 and a lot of ODI batting as well? They don't seem to leave the ball alone as often as in the past.
GB: Besides the actual technique of batting, part of it is the character and mental discipline. You've got to discipline yourself [in terms] of what to play and what not play in a Test match, to leave balls. Leaving balls, you've heard many commentators say - judging what to leave is almost as important as knowing what to play. It is so important. That mentality and judgement is not needed in T20, because you only have 120 balls in an innings and somehow you've got to get runs off everything. You've got to throw your bat at it. When people come in to bat, they have to practise the batting. Their warm-up is the walk into the middle, almost.
Test cricket is totally different. You do have lots of time. Three-quarters of the Test matches today finish inside five days; many of them in four days. So there is plenty of time to play. It's a very important judgement when you're trying to build an innings over a long period of time to know what to play and what not to play. Having a good defence is absolutely vital, because if you can't stay in, you can't score in Test cricket. Defence is not a necessity in 20-over cricket, is it? It's about, can you hit the ball out of the park.
ST: Geoffrey's favourite question for this show is about a major series that's going to start on the 22nd of February in Chennai. The question comes from Arpit in India. He asks: Will it be tough to take a call on who will win the India-Australia Tests? Only two Australian batsmen in the current squad, Clarke and Watson, have played a Test in India. And India's bowling has weakened considerably in recent times, as we saw against England. India's batting isn't doing too well either. Can a new-look Australian squad beat India in India?
GB: Yes, it definitely can. Whether it will is a different matter, but it can, and they will fancy that if they play well, they can, because they know India are not strong. You saw how they played against England.
The key to it is, what sort of pitches will they play on? Are they going to turn? I think there is every chance they will. And secondly, can India bat? The way they played against England was really pathetic at times, wasn't it? You've left Gambhir out as one of your players, but you have Sehwag back. We're all waiting to see if Tendulkar will make runs. I'm delighted he's made a century in the Ranji Trophy [sic. Irani Cup]. I'm thrilled to bits, most people will be, but can he transfer that into making runs in Test cricket?
This is the key for India, because your bowling is not that strong like it used to be. It's okay, it's decent. You can bring Harbhajan back, but Harbhajan is not the force he was. Is he really going to bowl Australia out? I don't know. There are too many unknown question marks for anybody who is smart to make a prediction about who will beat who.
That's why Australia will come, any team will come to India at the moment, any team that's decent, and think, "We have a chance here." India are not as great as they used to be at home. Their spinners are not frightening. Look how they bowled against England. My mum could have batted against some of them. It was easy. In fact, my grandmother was queueing up with her pads on. They were very disappointed. And your batsmen, they were hit and miss.
If you're honest, the Indian people want their own team to win, but they are worried. They are worried: is their team going to turn up? Is it going to be a force, or is it going to be like it was against England? This is why anybody who has watched cricket knows that they have a chance against India. So we used to fear coming to India to play India. Nobody is afraid of you anymore. It is a big test. You've made a mess against England. Now, are you going to put it right against Australia? Or are you going to make another mess, because if you make another failure in the Test series, my goodness, can you imagine, two on the trot? If you lose two on the trot to England and Australia, it will be enormously difficult for your players not to be crucified by the media and the public. So they've got to front up.
I don't think Australia's batting is very good. I think their bowling, on decent pitches, can be quite good. Australia's spinners are very good, so if the pitches turn, they should give your batsmen a problem, as Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann gave you when England came. Australia also have some really good seamers - they come and play the Ashes this year. But their batting? It's wobbling, nobody is sure. Watson is a very good player, he has been solid, he has been excellent for Australia since he's played. Michael Clarke is in the form of his life and is a good player of spinners. So you've got two guys you know are very good. But you can't put your hand on the heart, if you are an Australian supporter, talk about their other batsmen and say they're going to get runs.
But I can't talk about the Indian spinners and say they're going to bowl people out. I think, at times, Ashwin was bowling the England batsmen in, not out. So there you've got a problem.
I ain't making any prediction, I'm not a mind reader, [about] how your bowling is going to improve, how the Australian batting is going to play. I don't know. But I'm going to watch it, I'm going to be intrigued by it, and I'm waiting to see if Australia can really beat you like England did, because then, if you lose two series on the trot at home, then, I think you can honestly say Indian cricket is in a mess.
It used to be that when you were a cricketer, going to play in India, as part of a touring team, you were nervous, slightly frightened. Playing India in India: my god, that was difficult. That was as difficult as playing Steyn and the South African seamers on a bouncy pitch in Jo'burg, like New Zealand and Pakistan have found out. But now, people deep down, they are not frightened anymore.
You've got to win, India have got to win, otherwise it's a nightmare for you if you lose two series.
ST: It'll be interesting to see how the series pans out. The next time we speak to you Geoffrey, in a couple of weeks from now, the first Test in Chennai will have ended and we'll have a better idea then of where this series is heading. Thanks a lot for joining us today.
That brings us to the end of this show. Please don't forget to send us your questions using our feedback form and Geoffrey will be back for another show of Bowl at Boycs in two weeks' time. Goodbye and take care.
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