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

'The spirit of cricket means different things to different people'

Geoffrey Boycott on the Broad incident, McGrath v Lillee, and the plight of the Associate teams (18:57)

Producer: Raunak Kapoor

July 17, 2013


Bowl at Boycs

'The spirit of cricket means different things to different people'

July 17, 2013

Excerpts from the show below.

Glenn McGrath is chaired off the SCG after his final Test by Stuart Clark and Andrew Symonds, Australia v England, 5th Test, Sydney, January 5, 2007
McGrath over Lillee, says Boycs © Getty Images

Raunak Kapoor: After a cracking first Ashes Test, I have a very happy Geoffrey Boycott with me. Geoffrey, let's hear your thoughts on the first Test. What did you make of England's performance in the first Test, were they deserving winners?

Geoff Boycott: Yeah, we won one and we're going to beat them again! In the end, yes, (England were deserving winners). In fact, I was a bit disappointed, I thought they should have won easier, but in the end, they could have lost it. In fact, it was only because of the lunch break on the last day that England got saved. They were able to bowl well and with a bit of gamesmanship slow the game down so that Australia still had to come back after lunch and score 20 runs.

If there had been no break, Haddin would have got them over the line because the momentum was with Australia. And actually, I would have been pleased had that happened because it would have really set up the series if Australia would have won.

RK: Let's get into the questions now Geoffrey, and the first one comes from Hari Pulakat in India. Alan Donald on a recent show with us said that Glenn McGrath was the best Australian bowler he's ever seen, ahead of Dennis Lillee. Hari says that many people in the sub-continent don't rate Lillee that highly because he didn't bowl well there. We know he only played the one series there but we judge him on what we saw. On the other hand, McGrath adapted brilliantly to conditions in India.

Hari's question to you is: How do you compare McGrath with Dennis Lillee and why does everyone judge Lillee purely on wickets taken in England and Australia which are deemed helpful conditions for seam bowlers?

GB: Wow! What a good question! I think he's right. I don't think facts and figures are the only thing you should judge players on, but I've always said all the great players have good figures. And you have to judge them on how they've done not just in their own conditions but all over the world. And you're right, Glenn McGrath has done better than Lillee.

Lille was a great bowler, but people are coloured a bit by television and what they see, and a long time ago when Lillee played in the sub-continent, they didn't see Lillee and Australia play. Television today colours our imagination, we can see every match today and therefore make better judgement.

But I do accept, and I accept that very strongly that he's got a very good point. Lillee never did well in the sub-continent and McGrath was a great bowler. Just because he bowled metronomic line and length and didn't bowl as quick as some of the others, people tend to get the impression that it must be harder to play somebody who bowls quicker, but that's not necessarily so. What McGrath did, looks very simple but many people cannot follow and bowl as well as him.

For me, I judge players on how they play all over the world and not just in their home conditions. I judge them on how they bowl and bat in difficult situations. For me, I'd make Malcolm Marshall the best bowler. His record in the sub-continent and everywhere he bowled, he bowled fast and nasty. He could bowl very lively fast-medium, he could cut the ball, he could swing the ball. He bowled England out with a plastic cast on his arm at Headingley. And I agree, if you can't bowl well in the sub-continent then it is a minus against your name.

RK: The next question Geoffrey, is from ZK from the United Kingdom. It's an interesting one, I'm sure you'll have a lot to say for this. Now, Ed Joyce, the Irish batsman said recently that Ireland had to beg for fixtures against full members from the ICC. Now they've only played Pakistan and England this year. Other than that, they've been reduced to playing tour sides and fellow associates.

ZK asks you Geoff: Do you think the ICC should do more to help the associates? Should the ICC, for example, create some sort of rule, which says that each full member has to play at least one ODI or T20I series against an associate side every year?

GB: It's a good point. May of us think a lot of these very good associate countries can't develop or get any better until they playing the bigger name countries and better players, and then they themselves will get better and stronger.

But how do you force that issue? What you have to remember is that the ICC is the ten major countries, and the ten major chairmen on behalf of the countries are the ICC. And they only want to play where they can make money. Why do you think India, Australia and England are playing each other more often, because it makes a great deal of money.

And therefore, turkeys don't vote for Christmas. The ten chairmen, and with great respect I say this, do tend to look after their own interests. It's all right saying that altruistically, they should be looking after the game first, and then their own interest of their own countries. But do they? I can't prove it you can't prove it. But my view is they do look after their own interest and try and make as much money.

So you're dead right, it is the right idea to bring the Associates on, but try telling the chairmen to vote for that, so you're not going to get a rule. There isn't a cat in hell's chance you're going to get a rule. What they vote for, and what they agree to do, is to try and help these associate countries, but that's when they're at a meeting, and when they're being all nice to each other. But to actually get them to say, right 'when we go to England, we will go to Scotland and Ireland, and play three or four matches.' There's no chance. So you're dead right very good question, but I'll say it again, turkeys don't vote for Christmas, they have to look after themselves.

RK: Lets go on to the final question, Geoff, the question of the week. Now there's been so much talk on this one. Geoffrey, the question comes from Pawan Muddu in India. Recently, Denesh Ramdin was suspended for two ODIS for "conduct that is contrary to the spirit of the game". The incident involved Ramdin claiming a catch he knew he had spilt. We all saw the incident during the first Ashes Test when Stuart Broad nicked one to first slip and to the fury of the Australians he was given not out.

Pawan asks: Does this not raise the same question of honesty and if we are going to entertain the clause "Spirit of the Game" does it not open the Pandora's box whereby Broad should also see the same fate as Ramdin?

GB: Good question. I expected it. Look "Spirit of Cricket" was formed by Colin Cowdrey and what does it mean? It means different things to different people, and that's the problem. It doesn't spell out what really is the spirit of cricket. And so I think the two incidents are different for the simple reason that we all know that taking the ball of the ground and claiming a catch is cheating or attempting to cheat. We accept that or we just feel that.

"Claiming a catch that you know has already bounced on the floor is like robbing a bank, it's terrible as opposed to waiting for the umpire's decision which the law says"

The difference between that and Broad standing for an absolute nick is that the laws of the game say, and they did say for a long time, that in the opinion of the umpire, you're out or not out. The rules were written a few years ago to say "in the opinion of the umpire" or if the batsman gives himself out and walks off. I'm paraphrasing this so don't come back at me, I'm just reading the rule, and we were discussing this yesterday at the MCC meeting of the World Cricket Committee. We had the laws of the game out and were reading them clearly.

Now then, if you want to be altruistic, moralistic and say "right, everybody should walk when they've hit it", fine, but then when one or two don't then you've got a problem, it's not going to work. How do you make it work, you can't.

The person who introduced the spirit of cricket was Colin Cowdrey, who at the time was Chairman of the ICC, a nice man, brilliant batsman, wonderful technique, wonderful record. Colin was said to be a walker, but he walked when he got a hundred and came back to the dressing room with adulation and applause. But the real test of walking is when you're on single figures, when it's going to be a failure.

But this is been happening since time immemorial. In 1946, after the war, England went to Australia to try to get cricket going again. In a bad time, what was better than England going to Australia and playing cricket. Wonderful. Wally Hammond, the great player, captain of England. Bradman, the great figure, captain of Australia. Wisden Records, and I've read the book, Jack Ikin, the Lancashire batsman caught Bradman at second slip on 28. Bradman stayed and made 187. Australia went on to win the match and the series 3-0. It soured the whole relationship for the series. And Wally Hammond said to Bradman, and I'll paraphrase, "is that how we're going to play cricket this series, then?" I'm sure there are many times when Englishmen haven't walked, Indians haven't walked and so forth.

Stuart Broad didn't walk after edging to slip, England v Australia, 1st Investec Test, Trent Bridge, 3rd day, July 12, 2013
Boycott believes that Stuart Broad did nothing wrong by standing his ground © PA Photos

It's not going to work for everybody to walk. It sounds great that cricket's this wonderful game where we think it's above anything nasty and naughty, and that's above all that and wonderful. But it isn't. It's played by people and human nature being what it is, it's been happening since time immemorial. The only way is everybody, stand there and wait for the umpire's decision.

The only reason we walk, when we've nicked it to second slip, like Broad did, is if we waited for the umpire's decision we'd be so embarrassed. Somebody knocks your off pole out ten yards back. You could still stand! It says, wait for the umpire's decision. But it looks so obvious doesn't it, so we go, but Stuart Broad wasn't embarrassed by that. That's the thing for me! He didn't even stand there like a naughty boy, he just stood there as if he hadn't hit it. He got away with it. That's the luck of the game.

RK: I take your point on the walking bit Geoff, but Pawan's question goes a bit further and a lot of people including Michael Holding raise the question, why do you then go out and penalise conduct?

GB: Look, most people, and not in India cause you can't drive at 70mph in India, there's that much damn traffic. But in most countries, there's a speed limit of 70mph. I don't think you'd find anybody in England who hasn't driven above the speed limit. And they were all actually breaking the law. All of us have done it. But is that the same as breaking the law by robbing a bank or mugging an old lady? No it isn't. We are breaking the law technically, but there are degrees aren't there, and the degree that we accept, rightly or wrongly, even if you ask people on the street, claiming a catch that you know has already bounced on the floor is like robbing a bank, it's terrible as opposed to waiting for the umpire's decision which the law says. So you can't blame Broad, you can change the law if you want. So it's very different, get that clear to all your listeners. Don't get your knickers in twist over it!

RK: Question that arises from your answer Geoffrey then is, is there a separate moral code for batsmen?

GB: Nope. My view is, I always walk, as soon as the umpire puts his finger up. That's the best way for everybody.

RK: So you've heard it then from Geoffrey Boycott, thanks a lot Geoffrey for your thoughts and your time. Don't forget to fill in our feedback form with your questions and Geoffrey will be back in two weeks time to answer them. Until then, thank you and goodbye.

*As at the time of recording, early on July 17, 2013

Posted by   on (July 19, 2013, 14:22 GMT) keep him off balance and make sure he doesn't get too cocky.

In short? Either follow the true spirit of a game between gentlemen, or stop being such a wussy and play a professional international team-sport the way it should be played...


Posted by   on (July 19, 2013, 14:20 GMT)

...your opponent and respect the fact when he is out he has lost his wicket so don't rub it in. Take wickets without celebration of any kind. After each game shake hands with your opponents and compliment them on a game well played.

Walking isn't everything. If you truly want to follow the spirit of the game play it not as a competition but as a game to be enjoyed. Be a perfect gentleman at all times no matter how you feel and only ever politely enquire to the umpire if a player is out or not. The correct way being for the bowler, catcher or wicket keeper to approach the umpire and ask "Good Sir may I please ask of the batsmen is out in your opinion?" Rather than a course and nasty shout of "Howzat"

Or better yet? Stuff all that. Play to win. Do everything and anything possible to achieve victory over your opponents. Sledge, shout, scream, celebrate like you have just win the lottery when you take a wicket and if you bowl aim a few choice balls to bounce right at the batsmen's...

Posted by   on (July 19, 2013, 14:14 GMT)

This spirit of the game nonsense needs binning forever. Cricket has no spirit of the game anymore. Every game you see fielders and bowlers goading batsmen with taunts. You see calls of "Howzat" when everyone know it isn't out. You see balls bowled deliberately at people's heads, and you see people knowing a rule is being broken and ignoring it to gain an advantage. England do it. India do it. Australia do it. Pakistan does it. New Zealand does it. EVERYONE tries to gain advantage anyway they can.

Don't lecture everyone about how you always walk unless you also play the game like a 1930s gentleman. Obeying every rule precisely. Never calling for a wicket unless you know it's definitely out. Not goading batsmen when you are fielding close. Not running and punching the air in victorious salute when you take a catch or a wicket.

Spirit of the game? Walk out dressed pristinely in white. Never complain about an umpire's decision even if you know it's wrong. Always be polite to...

Posted by TrexTrainer on (July 19, 2013, 3:54 GMT)

Sorry, but the batsmen also has some calls go against them. They don't need to be judged on if they walked or not. It's within their right to stay. If you want a batsman to walk then you should also call him back once it's determined he's not out. But, no team would never do that.

This shouldn't even be a discussion.

Posted by skkh on (July 18, 2013, 23:48 GMT)

Adam Gilchrist is one batsman who always walked, irrespective of his score.Lara was a walker too but not always. No other batsman walked be it Boycott or Ponting or Tendulkar.

Posted by coldcoffee123 on (July 18, 2013, 18:58 GMT)

"in the opinion of the umpire".... Well, with all the technology around you, the "opinion of the umpire" does not matter any more, does it? When a player reviews an umpire's decision, isn't that against the "spirit of cricket" since the player is questioning the "opinion of the umpire"? I am afraid we are complicating something with a very simple solution. Forget "opinion of the umpire", "spirit of cricket"....just have instant replays available to the third umpire for each delivery, so that he gets the ultimate veto power. I am sick of all the DRS, spirit, debate raging for 20 years now. The solution is right in front of our eyes. Open your eyes.

Posted by AjitRaje on (July 18, 2013, 12:13 GMT)

There is an inherent contradiction in what Mr.Boycott says. If "let the umpire decide" is the direction, then let umpires decide it the catch was picked up on the bounce or taken cleanly. Just as it looks very obvious when someone is bowled, so is it obvious when the ball has bounced two feet from the fielder. If the bounce is very close to the hands, it is like a nick in the batsman's case, and let the umpire decide. Unfortunately, it is a batsman's world...

Posted by Chris_Dennis on (July 18, 2013, 9:37 GMT)

Cricket is well down the pecking order of 'gentlemanly' sports. Not walking when you are clearly out, snarling at rather than applauding an opponent who plays a good shot off your bowling and directing abuse at your opponent is commonplace in cricket and probably always has been. Why do we pretend the game is something it isn't? In tennis and golf we applaud our opponents good shots and in the latter call a foul on ourselves even when no-one else has seen it. The answer is to use the technology more effectively rather than the current half-baked review system. The current system only goes to highlight the unsporting nature of the game rather than eradicating such incidents which it could easily do if the players were not involved in reviewing.

Posted by IndiaNumeroUno on (July 18, 2013, 8:39 GMT)

Now we are changing the interpretation of spirit of cricket?! Brilliant!! anything which suits the english :)

Posted by   on (July 18, 2013, 8:17 GMT)

@michael brady - I agree that hardly anyone walks apart from gilchist, mahela but that comparison isn't ideal from reasons mentioned earlier, and certainly doesn't explain why ramdin was penalised (and there are hundreds who have done this and avoided getting fined though) and broad doesn't. And if u are talking about more people not walking than claiming false catches, well that is only because of the safeguard and ridiculous argument they have in "I was waiting for the umpire" - same argument that can't be used for the fielder.

Posted by jango_moh on (July 18, 2013, 7:39 GMT)

I would argue that claiming a catch was less of a crime than not walking when ur 100% sure its out!!! most of the time, when a fielder/wk claims a catch, ur not sure if it hit the ground since it happens fast (although i think ramdin did know it hit the ground)... i could go further and say that in ramdin's case it didnt affect the outcome of the match since it was corrected after the 3rd umpire checked it, whereas in broad's case it affected the match in a big way!!!! so i have to disagree with boycott completely here!!! just consider this also a misconduct and fine players for it, if 3/4 of the players stop doing it to not embarass themselves, it would've served its purpose!!!

Posted by   on (July 18, 2013, 6:50 GMT)

The analogy is fine, he was referring to the fact that almost everyone speeds and that isn't by accident. Broad was waiting for the finger that didn't come, a floored catch is a deliberate attempt to fool the umpire. That said, I would walk in Broad's situation as I have done many times.

Posted by Rowayton on (July 18, 2013, 5:51 GMT)

Re the Bradman story - Bradman always insisted he was not out, that he had squeezed the ball i.e. ball hit bat and ground at the same time. Nobody in the world is going to walk for that. I had one like that last year when I was umpiring - the slip fielders were astonished that I gave not out but it looked clear as day to me.

Posted by   on (July 18, 2013, 5:38 GMT)

boycott man this time u are talking nonsense. u are comparing the two incidents by using the analogy of driving above the speed limit vs robbing a bank. Generally people go above the speed limit accidentally (u still get penalised for it though) , but u can't accidentally rob a bank. And if u are talking about degree of crime, well the degree is based on the consequences of that crime, which influences the severity of the punishment. So the two incidents were both done intentionally (although one cricinfo author argued Ramdin's incident can be accidental), and the consequence is the same - a team suffers off a wrong decision which consequently affects the result of the game. So this analogy of urs doesn't hold.

Comments have now been closed for this article

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