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'Administrators are convinced that making more money is better for the game'

Geoff Boycott weighs in on the new fielding restrictions in ODIs, the marriage between cricket and business, and what makes the Ashes so special

Producer: Raunak Kapoor

June 20, 2013


Bowl at Boycs

'Administrators are convinced that making more money is better for the game'

June 20, 2013

JP Duminy was bowled by James Tredwell, England v South Africa, 1st semi-final, Champions Trophy, The Oval, June 19, 2013
"The best games in any form are the low-scoring ones" © Getty Images

Raunak Kapoor: Hello and welcome to another show of Bowl at Boycs. I am Raunak Kapoor and as always joining me from his home at Leeds is Geoffrey Boycott. Good morning Geoffrey, welcome back.

Geoff Boycott: Good morning to you. New job for you!

RK: Oh yes. I'll be taking over from Sid Talya who has done a fabulous job before this, but the constant element and the star attraction on this show is, of course, Geoffrey and that shall always remain.

So let's get to our first question and it comes from Anmol Mehta in India. Geoffrey, the group stage of the ICC Champions Trophy has just concluded. You said on the previous show that you weren't disappointed that this is the last Champions Trophy, because there's so much one-day cricket going on anyway. But this tournament seems to have got very positive reviews.

Anmol wants to ask you: A simple format, concise, with just the top teams and no game being easy, don't you think the ICC should focus on scrapping so many pointless bilateral series instead of the Champions Trophy?

GB: Okay, that's a two-part question. Let's take the first one. This Champions Trophy has been good, mainly because there's no Zimbabwe, no Bangladesh, so no easy matches, and because of the format, with the top eight teams, every game has mattered. And that's so important, because if you get two losses, you're out of the competition and so there have been hardly any dead games.

Everybody is up for it, and it's a little bit like the football World Cup. You get three matches there and that's all you get and so you train and practise for that, and if you don't get through you're out, you're finished. So this short competition has made every game meaningful. It has put the players and teams under extreme pressure all the time, and that's good, that's what sport is about. If you can't handle the pressure, get a different type of job.

Now when it comes to the other - about scrapping bilateral series - all the countries won't scrap bilateral series because money talks. Each country has now got to the point of playing as many ODIs and T20s as possible, because TV pays them so much money and ODIs get quite a bit more money.

So from an administrator's point of view, it's easy money. The more one-dayers you play, you get more money from TV, and the administrators have convinced themselves throughout the world that cricket needs as much money as possible. And when they have lots of television for matches, companies then queue up to advertise on TV or to advertise on the ground, so it's more money.

For instance, your counties in UK, the provinces in South Africa, the states in Australia, none of them can survive without the money made from international days of cricket by their national boards and then they dole out some of the money. But how do you stop it? I don't know, it's like a rolling stone going downhill. It gets even faster and faster. So you've got countries wanting more and more to keep their heads afloat.

You've got to remember, here's an example, in UK, there are 18 counties, and they each get around £2 million, give or take each year from the international pot of gold, or the pot of money made by the England team playing Test matches and one-day internationals. Now, they can't survive without that money. Eighteen counties, that's 36 million before you start.

Then the wages of the England players have shot up. In some ways that's a good thing. I'm not sure they haven't gone too far. There's lots of backroom staff now, loads of them. Coaches are vastly overpaid, in some countries, not all, again, some don't pay them that much, but I know England get paid huge amounts of money. The county players get very well paid now, more than ever. Some of them are even overpaid, and eventually, all this money pouring in to keep everybody happy and everything afloat, the bubble will burst.

It can't go on like that. So many counties in England, and other countries, are struggling to survive. They have great debts at the bank. I don't know where you stop it and the reason we've got to this point is because cricket is not just a business. It's part business and it is part a way of life that we love.

We love the game, like soccer, like rugby, like all other games. We love cricket and you have to marry the two - business and the enjoyment and betterment of the game. And for a long time now, administrators have convinced themselves that by making more and more money, that's better for the game. It isn't. Sometimes, less is better.

I've told you this before, steak and kidney pie everyday. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, by Friday you're fit to throw it at somebody. There are that many one-day matches, I can't remember last year who the hell England played. But there are that many one-dayers now that it's hard to keep track or remember.

You remember that the world champions are India. You'll remember the winners of this Champions Trophy because winners you should remember and it's easy. But if you ask me who came second, who came third, who came fourth, impossible! It's like asking about the Wimbledon champion three years ago. Who was the runner-up? God, I can't know, it's hard work just thinking of the winner, but the runner-up, who cares?

And we've got to the point where there are that many one-dayers, I don't know, we just enjoy them for what they are and then just switch off. We don't remember them and they've put money before cricket.

My view is you've got to marry the two, cricket and business, because we have to run it as a business, we can't run it as a loss else clubs and countries will go out of business. But instead of thinking, "What is the best for cricket and then we'll make the most money we can", no they think "We'll make money, we'll make money" and eventually, that bubble will burst cause everybody will just get fed up, there's that much cricket, they'll say, "Well, I can't be bothered today, there will be another one next week." It's like the red bus in London. You miss one, there will be another one in ten minutes.

RK: Yes absolutely, like you said, Geoffrey, it's a marriage between business and cricket, and for any marriage to last, you have got to have both parties contributing equally. The minute one goes over the top, the marriage seems to fall in jeopardy.

Let's go to the second question for this show. This one comes from Gyanidhi in India. Now Geoffrey, the new ODI rules with regard to the field restrictions have been part of a lot of conversation from the experts, the players, and the fans. Now the rule is just four fielders allowed on the boundary, which is one less than it used to be.

Gyanidhi would like to ask you: How would you suggest international bowlers adapt to this change in playing conditions, especially in the death overs, considering the scores are only getting higher and the game only getting easier for the batsmen.

GB: My best advice is all the bowlers should become batsmen! Because bowlers are just cannon fodder and I can't understand the ICC cricket committee and the administrators just making it a batting game.

Cricket is supposed to be a competitive game between bat and ball. We want to see maybe 60% bat, because we want to see a few runs, but some of the best games in any form are the low-scoring games. Not too low but lowish, and there's a lot of tension and pressure with every run scored, but now we've got to the point where the pitch is flat, the outfield is quick, the boundaries are short, the bats are better and heavier than ever, so it has got out of hand, and I think there are a number of ex-players like me saying, "Hang on, this just can't be right", I mean you just toss the ball up and people are hitting it out of the park and into gaps, and you just can't contain them. I don't think it's right.

I don't think there's anything really that the bowlers can do. I think they're trying their best to surprise a batsman with slower balls but batsmen have got used to that. You've really got to deceive them more than anything. Deception is the best at bowling the slower ball, bowling the slower ball alone will not cut it. You've got to deceive them like Malinga does. Malinga's brilliant at it. And that's not as easy to do. It is hard enough learning the skill to bowl the slower ball with a fast bowler's action and bowl it in exactly the spot you want. That takes a lot of skill in itself. If you wanted to bowl a slower ball, and bowl it right in the blockhole like Malinga does, he gets it there more than anybody, by a long way, but he can't get every single one there so if he's the best, it shows you how difficult it is for the rest.

"Cricket is supposed to be a competitive game between bat and ball. We want to see maybe 60% bat, because we want to see a few runs, but some of the best games in any form are the low-scoring games"
Yorkers, again, if you get the yorker right and full right on the white line, the batting crease fairly straight, then it is difficult to scoop it, very difficult indeed. They scoop it because somebody's trying to get a yorker and they don't quite get it full enough.

If bowling is left to the point where they have to bowl at the death with perfect yorkers and perfect slower balls which deceive the batsmen, because once you've deceived a guy batting, if he's a proper batsman, he should be ready then for the next one and it's not such a surprise. So the surprise element is gone then with the first one, maybe get away with two. After that, if he can't spot it then he's not doing his damn job at batting and he shouldn't be in international cricket.

So have we got to the point, and your question is very good, with bowlers at the death, with no cover, pitches are flatter and better than ever, the outfields are faster and better than ever, the boundaries are shorter, they're brought in because of the safety element, the bats are bigger, they hit it miles further. My god! Who would want to bowl in that situation in the death? You've got to be kidding me. It must be the most nerve-racking pressurised situation in cricket.

I mean it's just a ridiculous situation and you can't believe that ex-players on the ICC cricket committee can come up with this that can take the game to another level for the batsmen, only. I just think it's stupid.

RK: Yes, Geoffrey, it's becoming a tougher and tougher world for the bowlers. It was a lot harder when you played your cricket. Wouldn't you have loved to bat with all these new rules?

GB: Well, yes, you love to bat in many ways, because that's your job, but quite frankly, I enjoyed the best cricket, when it was a bit tough, when pitches did a little bit for the bowlers. When you made 70, that was a damn good innings and you made a hundred and won then "Wow, that was fantastic". But now, people make 70, 50 and it's too easy, isn't it? It's just too easy with no protection for the bowlers. I think it's unhealthy for the game.

RK: Let's just hope that this also ends up being something where equals would have more to say. Geoffrey, it's time for our question for the week. Now if we can move from the one-day game and the Champions Trophy to something considered to be the inception of cricket in every way. The Ashes are upon us, Geoffrey.

This question comes from Shane Millan: While we understand that this is a rivalry in cricket like no other, tell us about your most memorable Ashes moment and also can you tell us more on what the Ashes mean to the players and the fans of both teams even today.

GB: Well the best way I can describe it is it's like India versus Pakistan. It's emotional, it's passionate, there's history. The famous matches, there's been some incidents like the Bodyline. And if I could say this, and I don't mean to offend anybody, in the early years, in the early 1880s when cricket first started between these countries, there was a bitter rivalry.

Where did that come from? Australia was a new country full of English people coming from England. They were starting a new life in a new country and some of them have been sent there from England as a penalty, instead of going to jail. So there's bound to be some deep-seated resentment and bitterness, isn't there?

So when cricket started, it was like the old country versus the new country, and I think that's where it all started. And then when you get a series like Bodyline, which was so emotive, then it makes it worse, doesn't it?

They've always had a thing about Australians, have England, being you know, people sent from the mother country in the 1880s. It's still there today when you occasionally talk to people. I mean they have moved on since then, they have their own country now, but that's where I think it all started, and so we like to beat each other, it is an iconic series.

My most memorable one, you tend to pick the ones you won. I'm lucky I played eight [nine] Ashes series 1964, 1968, 1972, 1977 and 1981 in England. I played 1965-66, 1970-71 and 1978-79 [and 1979-80 which Australia won] in Australia and I was only in one losing series and that was my first one in 1964. You heard me just say about the one-dayers, the Test matches I liked best was when the ball seamed a bit, turned a bit. I like those in not too high-scoring a game.

I played in 1970-71 at Sydney Cricket Ground and we won the Test match and won the series eventually. It was one where I broke my arm and missed the last Test which we won. But Sydney, then for me, was the best Test match pitch I've ever played on in 108 Tests.

It seamed a bit, went through quickly. It was quite a good pitch, true bounce, you could bat on it, there was a bit in it for the quicks and it turned, that was the key. And we made 332 in the first innings, that's all. I made 77, played really well and we bowled them out for 236. And then we made 319 for 5 declared and I played one of the best innings I've ever played, I made 142 not out. It turned, and the top was going on the pitch and that was when John Snow bowled Australia out in the second innings for 116. He got 7 for 40, and it was a magical game, pressure and lowish scoring, you had to bat really well to make runs and it turned, the spinners got in the game as well. Mallet got four for Australia, two in the second innings, he got six. Underwood got four for us in the first innings. So there was something in it for everybody even though John Snow was a match winner with 7 for 40, and I like those sort of games more than anything.

I think if you ask me what was the most amazing game, it'll be the 1981 series when Ian Botham got a hundred at Headingley and then Bob Willis got eight wickets. I mean that was ridiculous. It was purely ridiculous. We were just out of the game, gone, weren't playing great as a side and somehow you snatch victory from a big defeat.

We did the same at Birmingham, in the Edgbaston Test, that was a low-scoring game. They only had to make 120 in the last innings did Australia, and we squeezed the pressure, again it turned a little bit, with a good cricket pitch, and I remember being at fine-leg when suddenly out of nowhere we weren't going to win and then we thought, "Oh, we have a chance here", and I remember shouting from fine-leg when they were five down, "Get Ian Botham on!" I was shouting to the captain and Botham was nodding and laughing and when he did bowl, he got five wickets for nothing.

He bowled the tail out and somehow we were racing off the field and it was just unbelievable. I think it's moments like that you live for, when you're losing, you're not going to win, and then you do win. And then you sit down weeks later, maybe even now, and you think "How the hell did we do that!" I mean it is just extraordinary.

We won at Birmingham, I think that more than anything, when we won by 29 runs. They needed 150 to win and it wasn't a bad pitch at all, and they were 105 for 5 and then Botham came on and he just went through them.

Five wickets in 28 balls in front of a big crowd and he was quite intimidating for tailenders, because he wasn't a Michael Holding or a Jeff Thomson. He didn't bowl at that pace, but he was quite sharp. He wasn't fast-medium in his pomp, he was quite sharp. And he was a big man, not tall, but he had big shoulders, big back, a very big backside, that's where all his power came from like Fred Trueman, shoulders and the bottom. The hips were big and strong, but a narrow waist. Fred Trueman and him both had a narrow waists and that's why they could turn fantastically, like Kapil Dev if you ever saw him in his pomp. Great turn of the shoulders and the upper body and that's how they bowled out-swing, and if you've got a big tummy you're not going to bowl outswingers too well!

And Botham was quite intimidating bowling quite sharp, and that's as dramatic as I've ever seen or felt when I've been on a cricket field in an Ashes series. You know, five wickets left and polishing them off just like that, 5 for 1, I think it was in about 28 balls, and that's as dramatic as you can get.

And I suppose I'm bound to remember my own hundredth hundred at Headingley in 1977. You're bound to because it's a very special moment, but the Test match which did it for me was Nottingham, the Test before, when I got my 98th hundred. Randall out, managed to get a hundred, we won the Test match but that was more pressure than I've personally ever experienced in my life, because I was coming back from a three-year absence from Test cricket. Some people wondering if I had still got it and could play, and you run the local hero Derek Randall out and then you get a hundred and we win the match.

Geoff Boycott  is interviewed by BBC anchorman Peter West at the close of play after reaching his 100th hundred, England v Australia, 4th Test, Headingley, 1977
Boycott is interviewed by Peter West after scoring hundredth hundred, at Headingley in 1977 Ken Kelly / © The Cricketer International

That's about some of my magical moments and there are plenty, and that's what you play for. You play to have magical moments and in between that, always remember that you're going to get moments when you fail, you have disappointments, you get out early, you get out cheaply and you have to put up with them. You have to accept them as part of sport and you have to say to yourself, 'right, I'm going in tomorrow and I might get out for a pair, but if I don't go in, I certainly won't get a hundred.

So you've got to give it your best shot and when the good moments come like some that I've mentioned to you, you've got to enjoy them, not be ashamed, not be embarrassed, just enjoy them, because around the corner, is always disappointment and failure.

RK: Yes, absolutely, the thrill that this game of cricket that we all so love tends to bring out in us, and, of course, it is unscripted drama, which makes it all the more special.

Just on the second part of that question, Geoffrey, we've heard so much about how much the Ashes mean because of the history that there is between England and Australia, but do you believe that it actually means so much to the players and the fans of both nations even today?

GB: I think it does, my biggest worry is that India is the powerhouse of cricket with the money that it makes and so forth, and with Australia and England, they are probably the three powerhouses of the game. They decided a little while ago that they were going to play each other more often, and again that will make more money for each country, but I think that's dangerous.

I think if you over-egg the pudding, you're going to lose something. It's like we playing an Ashes series this summer with five Tests against Australia, that's wonderful, but then in the winter we're going straight to Australia to play another five. It's too soon. It was brilliant when it was always four years in each country and then we wouldn't go to Australia for two years, and then they'd be back here two years after that which would be four years.

Once you make it two years and bring it too close, you lose something, and that's the danger. I know that it's because the World Cup is in Australia the year after, that's 2014-15, so they want to make sure they get their Ashes series, they don't want to wait for the year after, but I hope in the future that India, Australia and England don't play each other too often because you lose the specialness of it then.

If it keeps coming up too often, you don't look forward to it quite as much. And you want them to be very, very special occasions.

RK: Thank you very much for that, Geoffrey. That brings us to the end of this show. Please don't forget to send us your questions using our feedback form form and Geoffrey will of course be back in two weeks time to answer them.

This is Raunak Kapoor and on this very special show of Bowl at Boycs, thank you very much and goodbye.

Posted by juicingood on (June 21, 2013, 11:40 GMT)

My first post.Lovely interview and great web site. I must congratulate you upon that. Boycott is so good he could be reading from a script.

Posted by binrasheed on (June 21, 2013, 11:07 GMT)

Woahh.... what a releif, after having watched so many T20 cricket its now time to watch cricket at its original form which is test cricket, and when it comes to test Ashes is the best

Posted by binrasheed on (June 21, 2013, 10:15 GMT)

Woahh.... what a releif, after having watched so many T20 cricket its now time to watch cricket at its original form which is test cricket, and when it comes to test Ashes is the best

Posted by cloudmess on (June 21, 2013, 8:17 GMT)

Yes, you can over-edit a transcript. Boycott is correct to say he played in 8 Ashes series.

Posted by Rowayton on (June 21, 2013, 2:41 GMT)

Good to hear GB's comments. Been watching cricket for about 50 years and I still think that Snow's 7 for 40 in the game that Boycott talks about was the best single bowling performance I have ever seen (and I'm an Aussie). In a way it was really 8 for 40 as he got McKenzie 'retired hurt'. On a fourth or fifth day wicket in Sydney, it was really outstanding.

Posted by Sigismund on (June 20, 2013, 22:32 GMT)

The CT is a nice little tournament - every team has a chance, and every team can flunk it. It's an agreeable length, and a good spectacle. It's just that winning it doesn't really mean all that much. Accept that and it is very enjoyable for what it is. There's too much misplaced importance put on the silverware, that's all.

Posted by Sigismund on (June 20, 2013, 22:26 GMT)

Sir Geoffrey, wonderful to hear your Ashes reminisces. Thank you. On your final comments, the rota pretty much is now as you wish for. Other than these coming Ashes series, which are mostly happening to effect a realignment of cycles, England pretty much do play the other 7 major nations in 4-year cycles - home and away in a four-year period, generally nicely spaced for the main rivals as well.

Posted by WonkyBail on (June 20, 2013, 15:23 GMT)

I could not agree more- look how long the last WC went on for, it was an age and became a bore. The CT format is better as there are non of the meaningless games, yes occasionally Ireland or Zimbabwe will win a game but it is the exception to the rule. If you are in the top 8 you qualify, if Bangladesh are so great then it is only a matter of time until the are in the top 8 so don't worry :)

Posted by SirWilliam on (June 20, 2013, 10:27 GMT)

Boycott is right - the Ashes were not at stake in the 1979-80 series.

Posted by Warm_Coffee on (June 20, 2013, 9:27 GMT)

Also the England-South Africa game wasn't exactly 'close'. Neither was the England-Australia game even some of the Pakistani games and India-West Indies if you can remember but yeah there were of course 2-3 very exciting games or thrillers in this tournament but let's not hide away the mismatches like yesterday.

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