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'You've got to treat players like adults'

Geoff Boycott on the axing of four Australian players, the lack of fast-bowling back-up for England, and why we have fewer suspect actions in international cricket now (16:44)

Producer: Siddhartha Talya

March 14, 2013


Bowl at Boycs

'You've got to treat players like adults'

March 14, 2013

Michael Clarke has a word with Shane Watson, Australia v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Hobart, 3rd day, December 16, 2012
"I don't like this business of setting them tasks which are very childlike" © Getty Images

Siddhartha Talya: Hello and welcome to another show of Bowl at Boycs. I'm Siddhartha Talya, and speaking to me today from Wellington is Geoffrey Boycott. Geoffrey, a big piece of news yesterday: four Australian cricketers - Shane Watson, Mitchell Johnson, Usman Khawaja, and James Pattinson - have been dropped for the next Test match on the grounds that they didn't complete a task assigned to them by coach Mickey Arthur.

Do you think this is a drastic decision to take, in the light of where Australia are in the series? Did they do anything seriously wrong to warrant that kind of a response from the coach?

Geoffrey Boycott: I don't think it has any relevance to where they are in the series, whether they are 2-0 up or 0-2 down. What we should be looking at is… it's like being schoolchildren and giving them something to do and if they don't do it, then just slapping them. I'm sorry, grown men who are playing for their country… if you feel that there is an area where they should improve, surely it is up to the coaching staff and the major coach himself, Arthur, to talk to them in private. I always thought that's what a coach's job was. I don't like the coach-manager - you're like a teacher.

At the level people get to, batting or bowling, when they're playing Test cricket, you should be able to accept that they are pretty good players. Some are better than others, but they must be decent. And I would never play around with their technique or anything, but I would talk to them, I would watch them, and I would give them a bit of advice as to where they might improve. I would think that was my job. And if I needed to talk to them about the mental attitude to batting and bowling, that again is my job through my experience and my maturity. But I don't think I should be setting them paper exams to ask them to write down what they think. I think it's man to man, where the coach sits and talks privately to the players, saying, "Listen, I'm here to help you. What do you think? This is what I think." In the end, they have to perform, they have to make runs, batting and bowling, to stay in the team or help the team. That is really the crux. I don't like this business of setting them tasks which are very childlike.

ST: Michael Clarke, at the press conference yesterday, said this has been building up for quite some time, and the fact that the four players in question did not respond in time showed a lack of respect, in a certain way, on their part towards the coach. Would you agree with that?

GB: Clarke has to run his own team, that's what captains do when they're in charge. But it wouldn't be the way I would run it, put it that way. I've played under a lot of good captains. Michael Vaughan was a good captain, Brian Close, Mike Brearley, Ray Illingworth - the great thing they all had in common was to treat people like adults. They'd say, "I treat you as an adult, you've got to be ready to play, you've got to be ready to do your job, and I'm not going to treat you like a child. I'm not going to follow you, I'm not going to set you so many rules and regulations."

In the end, you've just got to be sensible and professional. Some guys like to go out and switch off by having a few beers. I was the opposite. I was the quiet one. I'd have dinner in my room, Alan Knott would have dinner in his room, other people just can't stay in a room. They need to go and have a chat and wind down. Everybody is different. As long as you get some sleep, and you're ready to play… I'm sorry, anything else is very childish and it wouldn't be the way I would do it. But I accept, every captain and every coach has to run his own show.

There is something there in what you've just quoted me, that I'm very wary of. Clarke, you said, had said that it was building up for some time. Now that would worry me, because that says to me there's been other things going on. It's not just setting them a task, to fill in a form and say where they can improve their batting and bowling, that there are other things that are going on. If there have been other things, then it should have been nipped in the bud before it got to the point where this is the last straw.

You're not setting them an exam for writing, you're not setting them an exam for their quality of answering questions. Their exam is how many runs they make, how many wickets they take for Australia. That is the exam every professional cricketer is set. That is simply it. Can you make runs? Can you take wickets? Not: can you write answers to questions?

ST: Not the ideal build-up for Australia for the third Test. We have a question from Marcus in the UK about Australia's performance so far in the series. He asks: Are you surprised by the margin of India's victories in the two Tests against Australia? Have the conditions made this Australian team look weaker than it is?

GB: Yes, Indian conditions have. Australia are strong in seam and fast bowling and they have depth in that area, they have plenty of young kids who look pretty decent. Some of them look very good. Unfortunately for Australia, their spin bowling is weak. None of their spinners would create concern for any decent batsman at Test level. When you haven't got good spinners in India, it puts even more pressure on the Aussie batsmen.

Clarke is playing out of his skin - everybody has seen his performance, he is playing unbelievably good. Watson is a good batsman. But as a collective unit the top six and the wicketkeeper at seven, they don't worry good spinners. Once Clarke is out, good spinners in India are going to fancy them. Once the batting fails, the whole team is under enormous pressure, and no matter how good their team of fast bowlers are, they can't make up for the lack of quality spin or the deficiency in batting. No way they can, because India's pitches don't allow seamers to dictate the course of the match.

So at the moment, on India's spinning pitches, Australia will look poorer because they are not as good at spin bowling and batting. Spin bowling, if you remember, in the end that's what stops sides from getting big totals. England had the better spinners in India, that's why we beat you before Christmas. Our batting was good but our two spin bowlers were better than India's. That's not going to happen with Australia.

As for their batting, if they have a chance to bat first, you have to post big totals of 500. If they can't do that, they're going to struggle because India are going to bat them out of the match and put them under pressure with big totals, which is exactly what they've done.

ST: Geoffrey, Australia will be now without a good batsman in Watson and a good bowler in Pattinson for the next Test. Is there a possibility that India might be able to sweep this series?

GB: Why not? I always felt India would beat Australia in India. They have a good record in recent times, do India, and if you look at the sides on paper, it's a no-brainer that you would put your money on India. I didn't think Australia would look quite as bad, but it's showing up now, their lack of spin bowling and deficiencies in batting.

ST: Our next question, from Sandesh Anand in India, is about bowling actions. He says: Over the years it seems like bowling actions have become simpler and cleaner. You rarely see an exaggerated action these days. With the exception of someone like Sohail Tanvir, most bowlers who have debuted in the last decade have straightforward actions - Steyn, Ashwin, and so on. Compare this to the decade before that, when you had unusual actions from likes of Paul Adams and Muttiah Muralitharan.

"You're not setting them an exam for writing, you're not setting them an exam for their quality of answering questions. Their exam is how many runs they make, how many wickets they take for Australia. That is the exam every professional cricketer is set"
Do you think bowling actions have become simpler and cleaner? What do you think is the reason behind this?

GB: Every young player that is coming through, every young bowler, in performance squads in countries, then gets into the Under-17s, the Under-19s, the Lions [A teams], before they get into the national side - the coaches are now well aware that the ICC in recent times has set up various committees to look at bowling actions. Umpires report people, bowlers who have got suspect actions.

For a long time there was a hell of a thing going on with Murali. Many of us felt that Murali threw it, and he threw it brilliantly. He's a lovely lad, got zillions of wickets. There were threats by the Sri Lankan cricket board to take the ICC and various countries to the law courts and the ICC felt they couldn't do that.

They've altered the rules. They allow you to bend your elbow now and straighten it to so many degrees. Many of us felt they've done that to help Murali prolong his career; whether they have or not, we can't prove it.

But they are looking at kids from a young age, and it's right, they should. Whether it's right for you to bend and straighten your arm to so many degrees, I don't agree with that, but that's a personal view. I think some great bowlers in the past bowled some perfectly legal deliveries, with beautifully smooth actions, and I think it's a bit off when you're allowing people now with so many degrees of bending and straightening. I don't think it's fair on the past, great bowlers.

But they are, sort of, weeding people out, you might say, before they get to the national side. So I don't think you're going to get too many funny actions. I think you have to accept that any offspinner who bowls the doosra actually throws the ball. In the law of the ICC, you are allowed to throw to so many degrees. You can bend the elbow and straighten it, which is throwing, to so many degrees. You cannot bowl the doosra without doing that. But they've now made it legal.

The doosra is great for cricket, it's interesting, it causes some problems for batsmen, it makes it fun, but I don't think anybody can bowl it without throwing it, so I think we're going to get that all the time. They've now made that legal. But I think any other funny actions, they're going to weed out with all these various committees and the umpires reporting them to the ICC long before they come to the national side.

ST: Coming to Geoffrey's favourite question for this show, it's from Gary Thompson in Australia. He says: I'm a passionate England fan living in Australia and I love a bit of banter with my Aussie mates and colleagues. I reckon currently we're a much better side, especially in the batting and spin-bowling departments. But they brag about this great crop of young quicks like Pattinson, Cummins and Bird that they've got coming through, which I tend to agree with. So my question is, which young English quicks do you see coming through the county game? Who is the next James Anderson to step into the side in a couple of years? And who can currently challenge Broad and Finn for that third-seamer spot in the side?

GB: Wow, some questions there. First of all, when your friends in Australia tease you about their crop of fast bowlers, they are absolutely right - they have a very good crop, they are talented. But you want to say to them, "Listen, you've got to keep them fit and get them on the park if they're going to be any good, because they are always breaking down and finishing up in hospital. You need a free pass to go and visit them in hospital because they are always going there."

They are very good, and we have a problem here in England. We have enough bowlers for the next two Ashes series, in England, coming up this summer, and when we go to Australia in 2013-14. We do have the three that matter, with Anderson, Steven Finn and Stuart Broad. We're fine with those three. Our problem comes with our back-up, and we haven't really got any. The guy who should be bowling well is Graham Onions, who bowled fantastically four years ago in England in the Ashes. He's not been seen since, he's been carried around in the squad, he never plays, all he does is bowl in the nets, and his bowling is going backwards. He's not able to get into the side and it's quite dispiriting.

Tim Bresnan has got an elbow injury; he has gone back to Yorkshire. I think he is a very average bowler. I don't think he is going to frighten anybody. I know he's from Yorkshire, but that doesn't bother me. I give you a professional opinion. I think he bowls too wide on the crease. I think he is a fill-in bowler. He's not really going to worry top batsmen.

James Harris celebrates a wicket, England Lions v Sri Lankans, August 16, 2011
James Harris: The next fast-bowling hope for England? © Getty Images

We are looking at young kids, and there aren't any. Stuart Meaker of Surrey - sorry, that's not going to bother people at Test level. Maybe one-day cricket, yes. The kid who they're looking at most of all is James Harris from Glamorgan. Four or five counties were after him, Yorkshire included, but he's chosen Middlesex. He's gone straight into the one-day squad. They're watching him very carefully, they think he has a bit of something that might develop. The cupboard is not bare, but it's certainly not good.

We have a boy from Yorkshire who has looked up. We signed up a boy from Northants called Jack Brooks. He's quite a decent bowler, and he looked very good a couple of years ago. Again, he hasn't really gone forward. Yorkshire have taken a punt on him, paid him some good money, hoped to get him fit to bowl well.

But if you ask me, hand on heart, do I think the Aussie fast bowling is better than ours for the future, yes it is. They have a much better crop of young quicks but there is a big question mark about breaking down. In the end it doesn't matter how many quicks you have: if they're not on the park, they are no good to themselves and they are no good to anybody else.

Look at Cummins. He bowled fantastic in Johannesburg - quick outswingers. He's had a bad injury for a long time. This is a problem. A lot of the new, young quick bowlers around the world break down easily. They don't stay fit. So we're all right in England for the next two series. After that, it's a big question mark. Ask me that in a year's time and we might be in trouble in England.

ST: Geoffrey, just before we sign off, you weren't very happy with the state of the pitch in the first Test for New Zealand v England. Where do you see the series going from here?

GB: It all depends on the surfaces. If you get surfaces where there's either a bit of lateral seam movement, a little bit of bounce and pace, I think England can beat New Zealand. If you get flat, nothing pitches, then we'll just get three tedious draws, and that's not going to be good for cricket. Man for man, England are better than New Zealand. They played pretty poorly in the first innings and got a wake-up call, a kick up the backside. They took it too easy. They had had ten days off in Queenstown. They were, sort of, enjoying themselves, relaxation. You get too relaxed, you are not up for the challenge. I think this time they will be up for the challenge in the next two Tests, and if they get anything like a pitch, that does it - we're better in batting, we're better in spin bowling and we're better in seam bowling.

ST: 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 join us again in a couple of weeks. Thank you and goodbye.

Posted by   on (March 15, 2013, 4:49 GMT)

@ Chris_Howard It depends on what the employer's directive is. If it is something like: "You guys must practice more, bat an hour extra every day at the nets, practice some spin bowling, practice some fielding drills, improve your catching, etc." it is fine, and if they did not do it, they should get disciplined. If they had not done some form filling, like: "How can I improve?", (and a couple of the players namely Johnson and Khawja did not even play so the question for them seems meaningless, and so the other players who did not play but were still able to submit their homework should also be disciplined for lying to the coach and management) they should have earned a talking through. Soon, it will turn into: "Clarke, please write a report to CA telling them why the others lost the series.", "Maxwell, please explain why you are playing in the squad." etc.

Posted by   on (March 15, 2013, 4:48 GMT)

If people have the maturity of children then you have to treat them as children. For every action (or nonaction) there is a reaction. Simple really and anyone who is not with the team has no idea as to what is going on. Many children behave well in public but are horrors at home. For people and children read cricketers

Posted by Chris_Howard on (March 15, 2013, 1:56 GMT)

All well and good, Geoff, but it seems treating them like adults wasn't working.

And I'm also curious to know why so many people think that if you discipline someone for not following an employer's directive, that you are treating them like children? Adults do what their employer asks.

Why aren't more people challenging these players for behaving like children?

Why are they saying "they will behave like children if treated like children" when in fact what is closer to the truth is "they behaved like children so have been treated like children".

Good to see Ponting come out in support of Clarke and Arthur's actions. I get the impression he was also frustrated with player behaviour.

Posted by   on (March 14, 2013, 21:14 GMT)

What about when players behave like children...?

Posted by   on (March 14, 2013, 20:49 GMT)

bending allowed not just because of Murali, its because of most of the balers (Macgrath, Polock etc.) at that time bend more than 10 degrees. It revealed because of murali's case. So alternation of law helped to prolong most of the balers' careers. so plz dont make exaggerated comments.

Posted by   on (March 14, 2013, 9:30 GMT)

I don't understand. There were a couple of very quick English kids playing in last years under-9 WorldCup, RJW Topley and J.Overton and they were pretty impressive. Is Geoffrey not impressed with them or has he just plain forgotten?

Comments have now been closed for this article

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