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'I don't think Sehwag will play international cricket again'
Geoff Boycott feels it is the end of the road for the India opener; plus, the best wicketkeepers he's seen (18:25)
Producer: Siddhartha Talya
April 11, 2013
Related Links » News: 'Sehwag may have played his last game for India' - Boycott | Sehwag, Harbhajan, and Zaheer not among Champions Trophy probables Players/Officials: Alan Knott | Virender Sehwag Series/Tournaments: Indian Premier League Teams: India
Bowl at Boycs
'I don't think Sehwag will play international cricket again'April 11, 2013
Siddhartha Talya: Hello and welcome to another show of Bowl at Boycs. Speaking to me today from his home in Jersey is Geoffrey Boycott. Geoffrey, we are in the middle of the IPL season. Are you following it at all?
Geoffrey Boycott: A little bit. But, look most of the games are very similar.
How are the crowds doing? That's important. Are they still getting full houses?
ST: They've been pretty good at some of the venues, Geoffrey. They were very good for the first couple of games, but in venues like Pune and Hyderabad, for instance, we had crowds that were about 60% of the capacity. It'll be interesting to see if they are able to sustain the good start they've had in terms of crowds for the rest of the tournament, which runs for more than a month.
GB: Yes, I worry about it. A month and matches every day, two during the weekend in a day. There is a lot of similarity about T20. Although it is fun and exciting - it should be enjoyed by families as well, children - the fact is there is a sameness about the matches. Twenty-over cricket, we keep telling people, they can't give you situations where character and mental toughness comes in. Yes, there is lots of interest, lots of inventive shots, and there's quite a lot of skill. But the character and mental toughness that is needed for Test cricket is not there. It's hit out or get out, score boundaries or hit it somewhere and run like hell. It's helter-skelter, it's fun. But I just wonder how long it can sustain it. Ten years? Fifteen years? Will it then peter out? I don't know.
I enjoy watching it a bit, but I can't honestly say I want to watch every game because there is a lot of it, every day. And, you know, after a month or so of that, it's like my mom. When she was alive, she was a lovely cook. She used to cook me steak and kidney pie, I loved it. But if I had it on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, by Friday I was fit to throw it at her. I wanted something different.
ST: Our first question for the day is a technical one and it comes from someone who, it appears, wants to play cricket at the highest level, and by that I mean Test cricket. His name is Kiran and he's writing to us from Belgium. He says: I'm a right-hand batsman who likes to play straight, always. Of late, I am having problems with the full and incoming deliveries. I usually take the middle-stump guard. I feel my head is not steady while playing those deliveries. I lose sight of balls after pitching and get bowled through the gate. How can I improve?
GB: I'll give you a few ideas. Without seeing you, it is hard for me to give you with certainty what you should do. So I'll just give you some ideas.
Perhaps you are falling over, with your head to the off side. If you can remember when Waqar Younis was bowling at his best, those fast inswinging yorkers, they came in towards the feet and many batsmen reacted late, then fell over to the off side. Their heads fell over, the feet were all over the place, and once the head starts to fall to the off, it makes it even more difficult to play the inswinger.
Also, the other thing to do is make sure that when you stand there, waiting for the ball, to get your friend to look at you from an umpire's point of view. And when you take guard, it's not important what guard you take, it's important that your eyes are on the same level. Think about that. It's vital that you look at the ball with the eyes on the same level. If one eye is above or below the other, in other words your head is one side a fraction, you won't focus so well and it could be a factor in your late sight or judgement of the ball, and then you start to fall over. And that's the problem.
When the ball comes into you, you've got to try to play the ball as late as possible. The ball sets up on one line and when you play too early and it swings or deviates, you're on the wrong line. So the key is to see it come at you and start to move towards it but holding the bat in your hands back, so that they are late. It's not easy to do, to play late, but it is vital when the ball moves at all, particularly in that you wait and wait as long as you can. And keep your bat as close to your body when you play. Playing late is vital, getting your eyes on the same line is vital. Absolutely priceless, and you mustn't fall over. You've got to keep balance. That's the best I can do without seeing you on film.
ST: Next up is a question from Leo in Australia. He says: Geoffrey, I'm always disappointed when I hear Adam Gilchrist referred to as the best wicketkeeper-batsman the game has ever seen. I thought he was a terrific wicketkeeper in his own right. Where do you rate Gilchrist among the best wicketkeepers you've seen in the last 30 years?
GB: Look, it's a subjective view is this. There's no right or wrong about it, it's an opinion. In my opinion, as a wicketkeeper, I think he did quite good. I can think of quite a number of others who I would put ahead of him. He is an exceptional player. But there have been exceptional keepers in the history of the game. It's just a personal judgement.
Most of the world's wicketkeepers, you and I haven't seen. In the last 30 years, you ask me, yes I have seen quite a few. Among the ones I've seen in the last 20-30 years, John Waite of South Africa - you won't remember him now - wonderful hands. He has the distinction: his first catch in international cricket was Len Hutton, the great Yorkshire and England opening batsman. And his last catch was me in Port Elizabeth in 1964-65. He told me that himself.
Alan Knott, for me, had a fantastic record. Why? Because he made very few mistakes. And that's the key. You can't just go on facts and figures. How many catches you take as a wicketkeeper… It's like a slip cordon as well. How many catches you get depends on how good your bowlers are. How they are going to make the batsmen make mistakes for the catches to come to you. So you've got to judge it on the percentage of how many mistakes you make. One guy might get ten catches and he catches nine out of ten. Another guy gets 22 and catches 14. Who is the best catcher? The guy that makes the fewest mistakes. Wally Grout was good from Australia. Very good keeper.
What about India? What about Syed Kirmani? Kiran More? You had two fantastic keepers there. And the one I liked a lot, Wasim Bari of Pakistan. Wonderful hands. Beautiful hands. I played against him a lot and other wicketkeepers I spoke to rated him. Rashid Latif was quite good for Pakistan.
|"How many catches you get as a keeper depends on how good your bowlers are. How they are going to make the batsmen make mistakes for the catches to come to you. So you've got to judge it on the percentage of how many mistakes you make"|
But people we never saw, we tend not to register them. That's because television is such a huge medium. We always see people live, or we see such a lot of television now. Then we tend to think, "Oh this is the best, this is fantastic." But there were so many things before the nineties, when satellite television came in and we could see every cricket match in the world via satellite. But before the nineties, people hardly knew anybody, they just knew the names. "So and so got eight wickets, wow, what does he look like? Is he 6'2 or 5'10?" People had no real pictures of them. So, people we never saw, that's the important thing.
What you have to remember is that you are entitled to your view. It's free speech, most of us live in free countries. Your memory is that Gilchrist was a fine wicketkeeper and wicketkeeper-batsman, and you should keep that thought. You are entitled to it. But just remember, it's only opinions. Mine as well. But there are dozens of keepers you probably never saw much of. So there's many great South Africans [during apartheid] that people never saw, and it's the same in South Africa. They didn't see until the nineties, the great Indian, Pakistani or West Indian players. Keep it in perspective, but you are allowed to keep your own personal views and your own personal likes and dislikes.
ST: Geoffrey, this is just out of curiosity. How good a keeper was Bob Taylor?
GB: Very good. Lovely hands and everything. But if I had to choose between him and Alan Knott, I would choose Knott. Forget the batting, [Knott's] batting was exceptional. Knott made runs when we needed them. Again, his average in Test cricket is in the early 30s, compared with Gilchrist. But he made runs when it mattered, when we were in trouble. Making a fifty or a hundred when the team is 450 for 3, it's good, but it doesn't really count as much. You are 180 for 5 and are about to be bowled out for 250, somebody makes 70 or 80, that's big, on a pitch that's moving around or something. MS Dhoni in India, as a wicketkeeper-batsman, he makes runs, important runs in Tests when it matters. That's why I hold him in such high esteem, as I do Knott.
I saw Knott, he didn't look like Bob Taylor at this effortless ease in taking the ball. But the fact is, Knott made very, very few mistakes. I saw him miss no catches, miss one stumping right at the end of the tour, the last Test match in 1970-71, we'd been there over four months. One, in four months.
ST: Coming to Geoffrey's favourite question for this show, it's from Jiten in India. And it's from a player, a batsman in India who's had some trouble in recent times with his form. Jiten says: Virender Sehwag was dropped from the last two Tests against Australia and now hasn't been picked in India's probables for the Champions Trophy later this year in England. Do you think we've seen the last of him in international cricket?
GB: Yes. Sadly, it is only my opinion, it comes to all of us. When we have to retire from the top. Some retire themselves, some are retired by the selectors. And it hurts. Whichever way you go, it hurts. But what you have to remember - and he should remember - is: his outstanding performances and the pleasure he has given to cricket lovers all over the world will live on, they won't die. Anyone who saw him play at his best would have been spellbound by his effortless strokeplay. He was no slogger, this guy. He timed the ball superbly, and had a range of shots that was rarely surpassed by anybody I've seen in the last 30-40-50 years.
We all marvelled at the way he stroked the ball on the up with that free-flowing, effortless swing of the bat. And he scored so quickly in what appeared to be a carefree manner - it wasn't. If he failed at all, it was only his defensive technique. He could get away with it in the subcontinent, where the ball didn't bounce quite as much and didn't do very much. He'd take bowlers apart and it was thrilling. His defensive technique, through hitting the ball on the up, playing lots of shots, and when the ball moved around abroad or bounced quite a bit more, then his defensive technique would be exposed. But it was only those fast, bouncy pitches, or pitches with plenty of movement that caused him problems.
He is a lovely guy, easy, generous nature, never made excuses for any failures he had, lived and died by the way he played. But he will be missed. He'll never be forgotten. That's because he has his place in the pantheon of batting. His performances have been exceptional, let me tell you. He didn't play like me, I didn't bat like him, but I don't look at players and think they should all play like me. Everybody should be different, and let me tell you, he has been one of the great cricketers of the last 20 years.
I don't think he'll play again. I think it's because India have gone the right way. It took a little while to come around to it. They've given youth a chance. After they lost to England, I kept saying you have to give these young batsmen a chance. You have to get them in and you have to build again for the World Cup. I've never changed my view on that. You are world champions in ODIs, you have to move on, and it doesn't matter who you are, I always say, age is not the barrier, it's about performance. Just remember, though: he'll never be forgotten. Some of those innings, people will have in their memory, they saw something special when he played.
ST: Geoffrey, you've always praised his hand-eye co-ordination, and the fact that he picks the ball so quickly. What do you think did him in ultimately? Should he have shown a lot more restraint in the way he approached the game over the last few months? What do you think is the reason why his performances have slipped up so badly?
GB: You can't make Sehwag play like me. You couldn't make me play like him. We all have our particular style and way of playing. In the end, it's about making runs. The team can only succeed if bowlers take wickets and batsmen make runs. It doesn't matter how you look in the nets, it doesn't matter how you play and how you get them in the middle, just get them. He got runs. Now, he played it his way and his way, at times, on certain pitches, was highly successful. But when it comes to moving the ball around and it was a bit more bouncy, his defensive technique was exposed. But trying to tell him and make him play differently, how do you do that? How do you tell Tendulkar, "Look, you'll get more runs if you bat left-handed?" He'd say, "What? I've got all my runs playing like this." Sehwag has got all his runs playing his way.
It's very difficult to change what you are. His nature, his personality, is a more happy-go-lucky, generous, easy-natured, friendly, affable sort of personality that fits in with the way he batted. He used to bat freely, with lots of strokes. It's not in his nature to play carefully, steadily. I'm sure people have tried to say, "Can you play a little more carefully? You are older now, you maybe don't pick the ball up quite as well or quickly, or you've still got lots of talent and use your experience." You tell everybody all these things but it's very difficult to change people from what they are. You just can't. Yes, he could have tried to be a little more conservative, but I don't think he could have changed a great deal. And, it's too late now. I think he's just going to play a bit of IPL and then, sadly, fade away. But it happens to all of us.
The memories - people who saw him play on TV, people who watched him at games, we were all mesmerised by it. I would have loved to have batted with him. My God, I would have made a lot more runs, because the bowlers would be so focused on him, thinking as they are running up that he's going to smash them around the park. I'd be able to bat at the other end easily. I'd be picking up 20 to 30 runs without them thinking about me, they'd be just focusing on him. And that's the special quality he had. He focused the attention of the public watching, he kept you spellbound. Nobody went to the toilet or to make a cup of tea, they watched him because they never quite knew what was going to happen. And the bowlers, as they are running up, they are thinking, "Is he going to hit this for four?" They're not thinking, "I'll get him out." They're thinking, "Christ, where is he going to hit this?" So he put them on the defensive mentally as they were running up. It's a wonderful thing to be able to do. Yes, it has its minus side. When he'd come across people in South Africa, on bouncy pitches, or in Australia, or when it moved around in England, yeah it caught him out.
But he's had his magical moments, and I call them magical. Some people go through their whole life, you know, their whole cricketing career, and never have the highs, the magical moments, that Sehwag had and enjoyed and gave us such enjoyment [with]. That's his legacy.
ST: Thanks a lot for that Geoffrey.
That brings us to the end of this show. Don't forget to send us your questions using our feedback form and we'll have Geoffrey back in two weeks from now. Thank you and goodbye.
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