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'Bangladesh cricket needs a sharp jolt'

Geoff Boycott on Bangladesh's Test woes, Tendulkar's 40th birthday, Mike Denness, and "trigger" movements while batting (17:23)

Producer: Siddhartha Talya

April 25, 2013


Bowl at Boycs

'Bangladesh cricket needs a sharp jolt'

April 25, 2013

Sachin Tendulkar's wax statue is unveiled at the Sydney Cricket Ground, April 20
Sachin Tendulkar: Forty and going strong © AFP

Siddhartha Talya: Hello and welcome to Bowl at Boycs. I'm Siddhartha Talya, and speaking to me today from Leeds is Geoffrey Boycott. Morning Geoffrey. We're almost halfway into the IPL now, have you been following some of the results?

Geoffrey Boycott: Oh, much more important than the IPL, it is Sachin's birthday. I haven't forgotten, he is 40 years of age isn't he?

ST: Yes, he turns 40 today.

GB: Yes, well, I'd like to wish him happy birthday and I'd like to remind everybody, as long as he's got his passion and he really wants to play, he gets up in the morning and he really wants to play. Remember that Jack Hobbs got a hundred hundreds after he was 40. He opened with Herbert Sutcliffe, the greatest opening partnership England have ever had. And I myself played Test cricket till I was 41 and a half, played county cricket with Yorkshire till I was 46.

So it's really a matter of desire. When you get up in the morning, you've got that thrill, you want to play. You're still fit enough, that's all right, and he's got the ability, the technique, just that he's not the same as he used to be. You've got to use your maturity, experience, there's certain things you can't do that you could do when you were young. It's like anyone who is 40 years of age, they can't run as fast as they could when they were 25. Usain Bolt, the fastest man on the planet, won't run as fast at 40 as he does now. And so, you learn to adjust.

But if he really has the desire and wants to play, go for it. There have been plenty of players who have played into their 40s. But you've really got to get up in the morning and not feel, "Uff, I've got to go to work." You've got to get up with a spring in your step, you still want to play. If you've got that, good luck Sach!

ST: Here's wishing Tendulkar a very happy 40th birthday as well. Geoffrey, there's something that he says, that each time he walks out to bat, and before he takes his guard, there's always a bit of nervousness, irrespective of the kind of match he's playing, be it an IPL game, a domestic or an international game. Is that something you can relate to as well, having played cricket well into your 40s. Did you feel nervous before walking out to bat in any match?

GB: I felt nervous every single time I batted. In fact, I was more nervous in a charity match or a lesser match because people have come to see you, and you were so much better if you played in a charity match or a club game. You were so much better than the others, they expected you to get a hundred. That's real pressure, because we all know that one ball can get you out. One magic ball, anybody can bowl one magic ball and you're out.

When you are playing a Test match, you are playing with other very, very talented players. So, if you get out, yes, you are disappointed, but there's a lot of other exceptionally good players for the public to watch. And so, he will be nervous.

If you are nervous, it's normal. What you really need to do is control those nerves in a positive way and that's a good tip for everybody. Don't think that great players aren't nervous. I used to talk to Garry Sobers and Viv Richards a lot, they were two exceptionally talented players. They were always nervous, and that's good. If you are not nervous, you are an idiot and telling lies. I don't believe it. Nerves don't matter, it's the adrenaline pumping, you don't want to be embarrassed, you don't want to disappoint people, you want to succeed. All those emotions are going on. That's good, that's healthy.

ST: Our first question for today is a technical one and it comes from a cricketer in Uganda, his name's Zulu.

He says: Hi Geoffrey, I am an opening batsman, 23 years old, and I play in the first division in Uganda. I had a relatively good season last year, featuring among the top 20 batsmen in the division, which has more than 300 players. I was told by my batting coach Steve Tikolo, the former Kenya batsman, that I need to bring in a "trigger movement" to further enhance my abilities. I've seen many greats, like Chanderpaul and Steve Waugh, use triggers. What is your view on this, technically, and how does a trigger movement help a batsman?

GB: Trigger movement is really about this. Some people, I say some, not all, believe that if you are fairly static at the crease in your stance as the ball is delivered that this is not the best way to react to a ball that is delivered at pace. That is a view. They believe a slight movement, and I actually think this is a good thing to quick bowling, a slight movement back and across just before the bowler bowls - it sets you in motion. So just a fraction of a second before he delivers, [make sure] that you are absolutely still, which means your head is still, so your eyes are able to focus better. It's your eyes, really, so if your head is still, your eyes are still and they can focus better just before he bowls.

And you should be on the balls of your feet. You can't be flat-footed. You've got to move on the balls of your feet, you've got to be like a dancer when you are batting. And particularly that right foot which must move slightly back and across. This can give you more time to see and play fast bowling. But you have to be on the balls of your feet, very lightly balanced so that you can quickly transfer your weight forward. If the ball is pitched up when you have gone slightly back and across, you have to transfer your weight and get forward with your left foot out there. And, if the ball is shorter than you think, you've got to be able to move back and across further. So you've got to be light on your feet. Now, it's not easy to do, very difficult. Some people pick it up quickly, some never pick it up.

It's great if you can do it, but I think there are some batsmen also who tend to move the left foot forward about 12 inches, just slightly, again on the balls of the feet, so that they can transfer the weight back if they have to and they can go further forward. It's not been my method, that. I do know people who do that and I've seen people do that successfully.

What I will say to you is this: I am very open-minded about trigger movements. I didn't have one till 1964, I was 23 and a half and I used one, slightly back and across like Greg Chappell, and many others. I don't believe in hard and strict rules. Take the greatest run-scorer, Bradman, he stood very still at the crease. So when anybody says, "Trigger movements, you've got to have one," that's nonsense. There have been some great batsmen who stood very still. If you are playing well, why do you want to change? Why does Steve Tikolo want to change you? If you've got comfort, individuality, it should be respected in sport, just like life. There are, and should not be ever, hard and fast rules in my opinion. How do you account for Tony Greig and Graham Gooch, two big personalities, standing with the bat up in the air as the bowler came in? They stood with the bat up in the air in the crease, they were successful.

Find what's best for you, because batting is about how many runs you score. Full stop. Aesthetically how you do it, it can be pleasing on the eye, but really it's about how many runs you make. Sometimes in life, and in sport, people get fads. "This is the way we should all do it, we should follow like sheep." I don't believe in that. So don't get sucked into doing what everyone else does. By all means, have an open mind. Try things in the nets at practice. Don't have a closed mind to almost anything. But, in the end, after you've tried things and worked on them, and you found, "Well, this is good for me. Or, not sure, this doesn't work." What might have worked for Steve Tikolo might or might not be the best for you. And I am being respectful to Steve Tikolo, I have seen him play. A very good batsman. But there are a lot of good batsmen around in the world. Past, present, and there'll be some to come. And they are all different. I don't think you should be a robot or a mechanical machine. You should find out what is best for you. If you are getting runs, I'd be wary about changing.

ST: We get a lot of feedback from Bangladesh. The fans there are extremely passionate about cricket and one of them writes in to us today, his name is Nizam. He seems quite concerned about the state of the Bangladesh cricket team, so far as Test cricket is concerned.

He says: Bangladesh just got beaten by 335 runs against Zimbabwe. Several commentators, including yourself, have been critical of Bangladesh's performances in Test cricket while admitting they do all right at home and in ODIs. Why is it that they are yet to develop into a decent Test team, having been on the Test circuit for 13 years now?

GB: You are right to be worried, because they are poor. In my opinion, the ICC have wasted far too much money on Bangladesh. They've got far more money than any other country, loads more. For the money given to Bangladesh, the return has to be really poor. The pitches they play on in Bangladesh are slow, low, spinning surfaces. There are very few world Test match venues that are like that. Alter the pitches, fly in different soil, get some Australian soil or something where it bounces. That'll teach your batsmen to play fast bowling, teach them how to play back.

"The ICC, if the gifts they give to Bangladesh, were relative to the win-and-loss performances of the national team, that will be a real shock wake-up, wouldn't it?"

Their batting technique is not good enough. It's okay when they are in comfortable conditions like slow, turning, low pitches. Quicks can't bounce them, can't force them on the back foot, can't move it around. Oh they are all right, we can all play in those conditions. It's a piece of cake. But you've got to learn, if you are a great player, look at Tendulkar or his career, he's played on all sorts. He scored a marvellous hundred at Old Trafford once with the ball moving around when he was still very young. I can remember it now. He's made hundreds on flat pitches, on turning pitches, against Shane Warne turning it square. That's the true nature of a great player.

Your batsmen just aren't good enough. And actually, it doesn't encourage fast bowling. Why would you want to bowl fast on a slow pitch where it bounces about knee-cap high? I just think the whole administration and coaching structure has not been good enough. They've had easy money, lots of easy money from the ICC. The coaching should be better, or the batsmen aren't listening. Maybe there's too much of a comfort zone, too easy. When I see people not improving, it's either that the coaches are telling them the right things and they're not listening or they're not putting it into practice, they're not smart enough, they don't have a cricket brain. They might be academically good but they don't have a cricket nous. Or you've got poor coaching.

Same with your administrations - they've never changed the structure of the pitches at all, it's too much easy money. As soon as the ICC stop giving them money, maybe they'll do something about it. Maybe they need a jolt, a sharp jolt. And, the ICC, if the gifts they give to Bangladesh were relative to the win-and-loss performances of the national team, that will be a real shock wake-up, wouldn't it? For all the players and the administrators. Then we might get some serious improvement from a country that loves cricket. Lovely passionate people, and we'd like to embrace Bangladesh as a proper Test-match nation, a quality-playing nation, because they've got millions of people who actually adore the game. And they're going nowhere.

ST: Coming now to the question that Geoffrey has picked as the best one for this show, it's about Mike Denness the former England captain who passed away last week. The question comes from Parul in India. He asks: How do you remember Mike Denness and how do you look back at the days back in 1973-74 when there was much said and written about the captaincy row involving both of you?

GB: Well, it just shows how things get out of proportion. I have never ever had a row with Mike Denness, ever. Never has been, never will be. I didn't like his captaincy, nor him. Simple as that. I didn't believe he was the best man for the job.

Mahmudullah looks back to see the damage, Zimbabwe v Bangladesh, 1st Test, Harare, 3rd day, April 19, 2013
"Bangladesh's batsmen just aren't good enough" © AFP

I felt he was Kent captain of a hugely talented county side with many excellent quality international players playing for Kent, which allowed them to get some huge publicity and win some of the one-day competitions in England. He had Alan Knott, the greatest wicketkeeper I've seen; Derek Underwood, on uncovered pitches on which we played in England, he was lethal, he bowled everybody out quickly; A guy who was in his pomp in Pakistan, Asif Iqbal, wonderful batsman; Bernard Julien, a fine bowler and batsman, he got two hundreds batting at No. 9 for West Indies. He was a West Indies Test player. John Shepherd played for West Indies, hard-hitting batsman and seamer. Brian Luckhurst opened for England. With all that talent, they never did anything in three-day championship cricket. They were very average, played way below the talent of the players in the team. Yet, he was captain, and anybody could have been captain of their quality side. There were only two good sides in one-day cricket in England at that period, Lancashire and Kent. And in 1974, when he got the captaincy, very little international cricket [one-day] was played around the world. Remember, it only started in 1971, England in Australia.

It was still also a time when MCC made all the decisions regarding captaincy, managers, and players for tours. Nobody can prove it, but many of us northerners felt then, and still do today, that MCC, at that period, preferred the southern counties for captaincy and managers, and preferably Oxford and Cambridge guys. We can never prove that, you can't disprove it either. It's as simple as that.

Now, championship cricket, because there wasn't much one-day cricket, was the benchmark for picking people for Test cricket, and there was Kent with all this talent playing very ordinary, very average. In 1978, MCC touring teams changed to being called England on tour, not MCC, and were selected by the selectors chosen by the counties and not by the MCC. That was the time it changed. But, at the time, in 1974, when he got the captaincy, till he lost it in 1976, I felt he was lucky to be captain of a wonderful Kent team and captaining here when MCC ruled English cricket.

There were things he said and did which I didn't like when I played under him. So it was better I removed myself from the England side from under him, because you are probably right, there would have been words. I didn't respect him as a captain and what he did, how he handled the team. That's difficult then. It's very difficult, if you don't respect somebody and if you don't think they're adding to the team. Sorry, we didn't get on. I take no pleasure in his death. It's always sad when anyone dies. This is just a professional view I had about cricket. I had to answer you as much as possible, honestly. But I don't want to say too much. When a man passes on and dies, you don't want to be critical, you want to pay your respects. And I'm concerned about showing some respect. He was a former cricketer and captain of England, but I hope I've answered your question honestly.

ST: Thanks Geoffrey, that brings us to the end of this show. Do remember to send in your questions to us using our feedback form and Geoffrey will be back in a couple of weeks to answer them. Thank you and goodbye.

Posted by Samudro2106 on (April 28, 2013, 7:06 GMT)

I agree with Geoff with some points regarding the ineffective adminstration ,inadequate infrastructure etc but I disagree with some. He said that everybody can play in this slow turning pitches. But he might've forgot how Aus, NZ struggle in turning conditions. Again, I'd say Bangladeshi pitches now are not as low as it used to be and it is close to the pitches of India, Sri Lanka.Every team is bound to use home conditions,so why shouldn't we ? But I also think that for our domestic improvement we need some pacy pitches. I'm not compairing BD to other top teams, but if Bangladesh's struggle away from home is a problem, then it's a problem for most other teams too...

Posted by ExtremeSpeed on (April 27, 2013, 22:00 GMT)

It was wrong for the Bangladesh fan to ask people like Geoffrey regarding Bangladesh Cricket because they are very critical. Yes Bangladesh have a lot of work to do in the long form but returning after a gap of almost a year against the West Indies and almost winning the first test and not losing either of them by an innings showed how far Bangladesh have finally come. Immediately after that, Bangladesh beat a full strength West Indies side 3-2 without some of their top players and before that reaching the final of the Asia Cup beating India and Sri Lanka and almost beating Pakistan on both occasions. This year when they toured Sri Lanka a month ago, they drawn a test and posted their highest test score and didn't lose the second test by an innings and that was without some of their best players. After that they again beat Sri Lanka in a ODI game so Bangladesh have obviously made a lot of progress in the last year and half and can only see them getting better and better.

Posted by Monjur_Elahi on (April 26, 2013, 22:25 GMT)

Last time BD played in England, Tamim destroyed the English ballers and his name in the Lords cricket stadium, his name is in Wisden. Geoff will probably start praising BD at some point. After all, he is a man off-field and he needs to promote himself by saying something extra-ordinary....

Posted by Fogu on (April 26, 2013, 16:37 GMT)

Bd needs to develop some Fast pitches and establish fast bowling academy. They should play on all surfaces (Fast and slow) in their domestic circuit to improve both their bowling and batting technique. I agree with Kush that their A team needs to tour more in SA, AUS and ENG to develop their abilities. Unfortunately for BD, BCB is filled with political cronies who care about their own fortunes. Despite BCB, BD team continues to improve and hopefully will be competitive in the next two years with players like Nasir, Anamul, Marshall leading the charge with Taskin waiting in the wings.

Posted by KingAjmal on (April 26, 2013, 10:15 GMT)

Top players are retiring now so things will be a lot easier for Bangladesh since they have the youngest and experience of players in their age group of all teams. Just look at the under-19 team where Bangladesh just drew a 2 match test series with Sri Lanka. By the time top older players like Kallis, Sachin, Sanga, Dilshan etc retire, not only our Shakib, Rahim etc will become much more experienced but these other teams will find it extremely hard to replace these players and their replacements will be far too inexperienced against us its common sense times are changing now good luck haters! :) our fans base is enough to protect out team.

Posted by getsetgopk on (April 26, 2013, 7:17 GMT)

They dont need a jolt, they need a quick quit. Thirteen years on and we are having the same discussion is a proof in itself that they are just not up for test cricket. They play less is also a ridiculous idea. They haven't taken any advantage of 73 chances they got in the past 13 years. Only 3 wins and 68 losses tells a completely different story. If they play less, they should have had an even better performance. It would give them more time to prepare, more time to judge and analyze the opposition. But here less test matches is being given as yet another excuse for the poor show. Take the example of Pakistan, we won a test on our first ever tour abroad, albeit being against a poor team like India but such was the quality of the opposition back then. Times have changed now, things that needed decades to improves in the 50's and 60's now take days or maybe hours to improve. BD have better coaches and other staff aided by technology but 13 years and here we are!

Posted by TheRisingTeam on (April 25, 2013, 23:09 GMT)

Its not Bangladesh's fault that they hardly get to play much tests these days. In 2011 they only played 5 test matches and last year 2012 only played 2 so there's the problem. I don't blame our players because with that schedule, you are bound to be disinterested and focus more on limited overs which btw earn players far more income than first class Cricket. Bangladesh are a decent limited overs team now but why? because they are bread on the diet of those forms and test is no different. If Bangladesh want to become a competitive test team than they have to play at least 8 test matches a year. When did Australia last play Bangladesh in a test match??? 2006 more than 6 years ago a team players like Shakib, Tamim and Rahim who have made their debuts back then but still yet to play a test match againstand this is simply ridiculous. Fine such teams won't invite us but I see no reason why such teams cannot tour Bangladesh for at least 2 test matches.

Posted by xmahinx on (April 25, 2013, 19:11 GMT)

Well, the way Mr. Boycott made comment about Bangladesh I think he is out of sense in some points. How he gonna describe about Aus the way they lost against India very recent past ago? Does it mean that Aus haven't got enough quality losing such way? Of course you must not expect something high performance from a young team such way.He needs to see the recent performance of Bangladesh. They played well in SL. Even played well against WI. About Pitches: How he gonna describe about India and SL? In 2011 India had really poor performance against England in England. Did he sleep that moment or just because India lost against England which made him happy??? So obviously he shouldn't say that ICC is wasting money for Bangladesh. He must keep in his mind that still Bangladesh is youngest test playing country. Bangladesh just need time to show their quality.

Posted by   on (April 25, 2013, 19:11 GMT)

@asiacricket1234 in reference of your question "I do not understand why after one test everyone is whining like this?" I just want to say that we are Bangladeshi & they never want to see us like a winner. so they criticized us. If they really want to help us then they don't criticized us, they influenced us to play a good game like a good team.

sorry i'm little weak in English. So if any mistake then please forgive me.

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