Geoffrey Boycott answers your questions on all things cricket. Send your questions in here.

'Interest in cricket has been as great as ever'

But television drawing crowds away, says Geoff Boycott. Plus, how good was Len Pascoe? (17:53)

Producer: Siddhartha Talya

May 8, 2013


Bowl at Boycs

'Interest in cricket has been as great as ever'

May 8, 2013

A sparse crowd attended the fourth day of Hampshire's game at the Rose Bowl, Hampshire v Lancashire, County Championship Division One, Rose Bowl, August 1 2010
There was a time when first-class county games attracted 30,000 fans © PA Photos

Siddhartha Talya: Hello and welcome to another show of Bowl at Boycs. I'm Siddhartha Talya and joining me from Leeds is Geoffrey Boycott. It's been a couple of weeks, Geoffrey. What have you been upto?

Geoffrey Boycott: I've started the season in Yorkshire, I'm President again. It's a two-year office. I go to the matches, I started last week going to the matches. It's quite nice. I like to see players. Joe Root has been playing well for Yorkshire, this is a young kid who we think is really pretty good. And young [Jonny] Bairstow is making runs again, he had a torrid time in the winter. Playing spin in India is not easy, getting into the team in New Zealand was almost impossible, there were no practice matches to get into form. So the winter was a bit of a setback. But he's come through, he's made runs and they are both playing for the Lions and I expect them both to play in the first two Test matches against New Zealand. They are two of our best young talents in English cricket.

I've been watching cricket, really, practicing my golf. The weather has been terrible at times, cold at freezing when you are used to the sunshine. Remember, I've been a sportsman, 25 years playing and 24 years commentating. I've spent most of the winters in the sunshine, either playing or commentating. I loved it, being in India, Australia, South Africa, West Indies. And so I come back when it's cold here, I feel it very badly. And then, just when you thought it was going to carry on being cold, we had two wonderful, lovely, sunny days. But, it's changed again. As English weather does, it's been raining overnight.

ST: Let's start today's show with a technical question, it comes from Archan Ghosh in the UK. He says: I'm a right-handed medium-fast bowler and play club-level, amateur cricket. Every season, while bowling at matches, my big toe-nail on the left foot breaks. As a right-handed bowler, a lot of pressure is imparted on my left leg during the delivery of the ball. I know that professional cricketers rip off the top bit of their shoes to release that pressure. However, it's difficult to buy shoes for each season for someone who is not a professional. What can I do to lessen the impact without sacrificing my pace?

GB: You seem to imply there that if you have a hole in the left toe of the left boot, that somehow that boot is going to wear out and you are going to have to buy more pairs of boots than you can afford. That is nonsense. You have to cut out, very carefully, a hole in the toe of the left boot to release that pressure on the left toe. You have to, you have no choice. But don't tear it. You used the word tear. They don't tear anything. The bowlers very carefully cut out a little hole to ease the pressure on that toe and the toe nail. And I repeat again, you have to do it carefully. Your boots will not wear out. If you do it carefully and cut a hole, it will stay there, the boots will work perfectly normally and those boots will not wear out or become useless any quicker.

But you just have to do it. You cannot bowl as you are doing because that toe-nail will get painful, the toe will get sore, and it'll be so painful you can't even bowl. So, you've got no choice. It's not a question of changing your action or doing anything different, that will be silly. Everybody has a specific action, the way they bowl, and you've got to stick to that. So just do it. Don't get it into your head that you are going to have to buy three pairs of boots instead of one, but you must cut that hole very carefully. That's because if you tear it, it's likely to splinter and ruin the whole boot.

ST: Next up is an interesting question from Rakesh in India. He says: Geoffrey, I know you are a supporter of Manchester United. I'd like to know if cricket has ever enjoyed, in your lifetime, an equal popularity with football in England. Headingley 1981 and the Ashes 2005 are considered among the country's great cricketing achievements, but has cricket ever competed with football in England? They are seasonal sports and it looks unlikely now that cricket will ever rival football, but did it ever do in the past?

GB: You asked me about my lifetime and then did it ever do. From what we can read, and I read a lot of books about the history of the game, it has had a parallel with soccer in interest. Very much in interest. Newspapers have carried it, radio, before we had television, they carried everything about cricket. They played to full houses. But, you have to remember, soccer is the popular game of the masses of the world. It is the world game. It has always been the world game, and so it has been in England. The masses have watched it.

The thing about soccer in England, you have these huge stadiums, bigger stadiums than you have for cricket. So you get more people in them. Interest is one thing. Actually, people turning up to watch is totally different. And I think soccer has been way ahead of cricket in terms of the number of people getting to grounds, or the number of people wanting to get into grounds.

We have had a golden age in the 1920s and the 1930s. And before Sunil Gavaskar, my friend, tells you that I must have been there watching, I am not that old. I was born in 1940. The masses turned up in the 20s and 30s and they played to full houses. And they weren't just sat down, there was standing room so they got more people in. The measures that we have today so that people don't get killed, don't get crushed, no disasters like we've had throughout the world with too many people in stadiums, now we have health and safety rules, so you have seats where everybody sits down, most of them are numbered and reserved. So you have less people and you have to charge more money for the seats. Going back over the years, there was no health and safety, so people stood.

In fact, in my career, when I first played for Yorkshire in the early sixties, I was in my early 20s, I caught the end of huge crowds at the cricket. When we played the Roses match, Yorkshire v Lancashire, never mind England which were full houses, just Yorkshire v Lancashire, which today you're lucky to get eight to ten thousand people there for... I played when the gates were shut at 30,000 at Old Trafford. We always played the Roses matches during the Whitsuntide and bank holiday - they are long weekends of holidays here in England, always have, always will be. They are big holiday periods. It's when government employees all close down, people went away for five or six days, and you found that the cricket played then, with standing room only, 30,000 people watched. It was a fantastic atmosphere. They were standing everywhere, sitting on, like park benches you called them.

I used to watch Yorkshire play when I was 10 or 11, and you'd go in your old trousers. You'd sit on a plank of wood sort of thing and you are likely to get a nail there that puts a hole in your trousers. You wouldn't take your best suit, you would take sandwiches, bottles of pop, it was a day out and great adventure. I caught the end, from the '20s and '30s when the masses went to every ground, every county match, not just England... I caught the end of that with Yorkshire v Lancashire. For Yorkshire against other counties, we'd play in front of 10 to 12 thousand people sometimes, 15,000 occasionally, but Lancashire was special.

And so, to answer your question, has it ever been as popular? Yes, in the eyes of the people. Have as many people turned up for cricket as soccer, no. I don't think that ever happened and you are right, it never will happen.

"You would study what the other counties are doing, you would study which batsmen were in good nick, and which bowlers. "Oh, how many overs did he bowl? Oh, he only bowled 12. Why did he only bowl 12? Oh, it's not turning. Oh, he's hurt himself." You got everything and you were an avid reader. You wanted news about every county and you got it." Boycott on county coverage in the sixties and seventies

ST: Just in terms of the level of interest right now... cricket is England's summer sport and therefore you see adequate newspaper coverage for cricket. The general level of interest right now with the start of the county season and an Ashes series later in the year, do you think it has gone up this time around, or is it difficult to gauge?

GB: In the last 10 years, approximately, it has changed. You notice the newspapers, they cover the cricket when it's the England team playing Test matches. They are not so interested in the one-day matches. And they are not so interested in county cricket. They put the scoreboard in.

I can remember playing in the sixties and the seventies, when you picked up papers like the Times and the Daily Telegraph, and they'd have a reporter at every single county game. the Daily Telegraph in particular, for which I write in England, would have a nice piece, 600 to 800 words, on every single county match. And on the big matches that they thought were the most interesting county matches, you would have 1000 to 1200 words, four pages of cricket. Now, you get some of the papers, even the Daily Telegraph, and it's all concentrated into one page. And on some matches, you get about 300 words and just the figures of the first innings, second innings, what have you. You don't get any bowling reports of who bowled what, how many overs and wickets.

We got everything when I started in the sixties and played through the seventies. We didn't start till 11.30am in the morning, so you get up, you have your breakfast, and you read the paper. You would study what the other counties are doing, you would study which batsmen were in good nick, and which bowlers. "Oh, how many overs did he bowl? Oh, he only bowled 12. Why did he only bowl 12? Oh, it's not turning. Oh, he's hurt himself." You got everything and you were an avid reader. You wanted news about every county and you got it.

Where's the cricket? If it's not England playing, where is the county cricket? And you're searching around for a tiny bit of the scoreboard, just the actual figures. Yorkshire all out 402, Surrey 220 for 6. It doesn't tell you anything else, who made the runs, who bowled, who got the wickets, who bowled badly because you look at the figures and think, "he's been expensive." You got everything years ago.

Now, the papers are symptomatic of cricket throughout the world, television has taken over. Television, on the one hand, has given people with satellite cable, instant watching of games of Test matches and internationals around the world, live. And it pays a fortune back to cricket for that facility. So cricket gets the benefit of all that money. But the downside, and the big downside, which is killing the game, is that less people are turning up for matches. Television is killing newspapers. Honestly, it is. [Television] is so good, it's so brutal and good, that newspapers in 50 years, I don't know where they are going to be, even 30 years. The circulation is down, because now you can watch television, you can get the news on, you've also got the internet. The interest of the game of cricket is still there, it's wonderfully there. I would say, I think it's as big as ever. I think the interest is fantastic. But, the people are not turning up, sadly. Unless it's one-day, or three hours of Twenty20, for the fun and excitement.

Len Pascoe sends down a delivery, 1975
"Lennie was a whole-hearted, big, strong guy who gave you everything." © Getty Images

ST: Coming now to Geoffrey's favourite question for this show, it's from Kamran in Pakistan. He asks: How good a bowler was Len Pascoe? He didn't play that famous series in 1981. Do you think he could have made a difference then?

GB: Maybe, but maybe he was just past his absolute best. I played against him in 1977 when they came, and we won the Ashes then and I got my hundredth hundred at Headingley. Lennie was a whole-hearted, big, strong guy who gave you everything. As a team man, he gave everything, to bowling fast and [being] aggressive. He didn't do a lot with the ball. But he banged it in short, was quick, and tried to get up to the batsman's nose with a lot of fast, short stuff.

I first game across him in 1976, I went to play for Waverly in club cricket. You read the history, I didn't play cricket for England for three years. Waverly was at Bondi beach, the famous beach, Bondi junction shopping area, Bondi beach was where they played. Our cricket club at Bondi was being dug up and relaid. So we, the Waverly Club, practiced at the Sydney Cricket Ground, we played our matches at the No. 2 Oval I think it was. I would go to practice early, mid-afternoon, and Lennie would go there early. And he offered to give me some practice before my guys came. He was practicing with the state side. And yes, I got a lot of practice at ducking and weaving the bouncers and short balls from Lennie, I didn't get many half-vollies to drive through the covers. That's the sort of bowler he was. So, you had better be on your toes when Lennie was bowling. He was a good guy, good guy.

ST: Lennie was injured in 1981, didn't Jeff Thomson also miss that series?

GB: Yeah, but I think he was just going past his best. We all have three periods in our career, really. We have that period when we start in international cricket, county cricket, or whatever you want to call it. We are young, talented, we look good, we look to have something a bit more than the ordinary. But we are immature, we are new to the game, we have a lot to learn but we look an embryo talent. And then we learn, we play, and we get in a few years maybe, some quicker than others, when we are absolutely at our best as any. And you see the guy playing, batting or bowling, fantastic.

But then, you see people get older, human nature, we just start to go down a little bit. We're not quite as good as we were at our best. We retain a measure of our good performance because we use all our experience, maturity, the knowledge that we've gained through playing a number of years, a lot of matches, we offset that against what we lose as we get older. Our reflexes are not quite as quick, a fraction of a second not quite as good. Our legs don't quite move as fast. So, you have three periods, and then there's a period where you've got to go because you are nothing like you used to be. I call it like going up the mountain and coming down the mountain. Start at the bottom where you're the embryo player, to the top of the mountain where for a period you play at your best, and then you start to come down the other side. And the trick is, as you start to come down the other side, you lose a little bit of what you have through age, reflexes, eyesight. But you use your experience, knowledge, and maturity to still play very well, just on the other side of the mountain.

But then comes the period where even your knowledge, experience, and maturity can't make up for age, lack of reflexes, not picking the ball up quite as fast. Time to go. Otherwise, you'll look pretty poor.

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

Posted by Batmanian on (May 10, 2013, 14:05 GMT)

What on earth is Boycott talking about? If you want to analyse how first class, one day or T20 cricket is going, you get on cricinfo. Other sites - blogs etc - have material too. I'd like to see more sub-Test FC covered with commentary ball-by-ball; not sure why it doesn't happen (you could get enthusiastic amateurs to do for free entry and lunch money).

For stuff happening in other countries, the scores in papers were and are lunchtime scores off the telegraph wire right before printing at two or three AM.

With respect, GB, cricket has never been covered better.

Posted by volmitius on (May 9, 2013, 16:33 GMT)

yeah,.. i m always interested in cricket's rich history .. nice to know that even first class cricket used to have 30,000 odd crowd...i feel immence pleasure in reading a bit from the old man memory..the days when cricket was played in much less security,no dramas,jst simple cricket...i imagine how wonderful it used 3 b then....sumtines i wonder and even fret over the thought that has T-20 really taken over my cersion of cricket !!!!

Posted by   on (May 9, 2013, 12:53 GMT)

Of course people are not coming out like they did in the sixties and seventies. During that period you had plenty of overseas players playing; therefore, the quality was good. I rememebered Warickshire having four overseas players. If you diminishes the quality of your product, you also will diminish the consumer interest and thus they stay away.

Posted by narayanan723 on (May 9, 2013, 5:44 GMT)

One of the best episodes of Boycs in the recent times. Always admired his knowledge on the game. A pleasure reading it.

Posted by   on (May 9, 2013, 4:54 GMT)

Nice to hear his sharing of past experience and present thoughts.

Comments have now been closed for this article

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