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

'Not sure Lehmann and Clarke can transform this side'

Where should Bell bat? Can Australia go through a revival like they did under Border and Simpson? And what's so magical about victorious teams? (19:09)

Producer: Raunak Kapoor

August 15, 2013


Bowl at Boycs

'Not sure Lehmann and Clarke can transform this side'

August 15, 2013

Excerpts from the discussion below

Ian Bell takes the applause as he walks off the pitch, England v Australia, 4th Investec Test, 4th day, Chester-le-Street, August 12, 2013
"Don't forget how poor he was against Pakistan" © Getty Images

Raunak Kapoor: Geoffrey Boycott is with me once again here on ESPNcrcinfo's Bowl at Boycs. Happy about the fourth-Test result Geoffrey?

Geoff Boycott: Yes, pleased for England, disappointing from Australia again, it seems quite obvious that they get into some situations where they look to be winning and when the pressure comes on their batting, they can't handle it. It's as simple as that.

They assume, wrongly, that just because they were good for a dozen years that they'd keep winning all the time. It was like the great West Indies side with all the fast bowlers. The West Indies public never gave a thought about the future - and why should they, they just enjoyed their team; so did the Aussies. But it was up to the administrators to plan for the next generation and not be sitting and basking in past glory, but whatever they've planned, it hasn't worked.

RK: Right, let's start off this edition's questions from an Aussie, and an Aussie who seems to be taking a lot of interest in the English batting. The question is from John Gomez in Australia and it's about Ian Bell, who was instrumental in that fourth Test win.

John asks: Given that Ian Bell has great technique, temperament, and is by far the best on form at the moment, should he be moved to bat at No. 3? I feel his talent is being wasted batting at five, especially considering England often lose their first couple of wickets early.

GB: It's a good question, John, but there are a number of points here. This is the first time for a while that England have been losing early wickets. Cook opening and Trott at No. 3 have been very big scorers for England recently. It's not too long ago that both of them went to Australia and were getting zillions of runs.

Cook in India got lots of runs. So just because he's not scoring runs now, what do we do? Bat him at No. 6? Look, I agree in principle, opening is a specialist position and then your best players must come in at three and four, but over the past few years, Bell has not been the best player for England. And just because he's having a great series now doesn't mean we move him up to three and move Trott to five because then they'll be like dominoes, mixed up and down or like cards in a deck. And so that's not going to work.

You shouldn't forget that not too long ago, Bell was so poor against Pakistan in the UAE, he had to be sent home from the one-dayers. He was useless against Saeed Ajmal. He couldn't pick the doosra for toffee. So you've got to be careful of the one-off series.

RK: Is it sometimes the case, Geoff, of a batsman preferring to or being better at playing with the lower order? Bell seems to thrive at No. 5 in any situation. For India, Laxman always seemed a better player with the lower order than Tendulkar. Is that a key factor for keeping someone at a lower position even though he's in good form?

GB: Some players do prefer a certain position. There's no doubt about that. Look at Rahul Dravid, for example. He could bat at three, where he preferred [to bat], and psychologically could go in to the bat in the first over and make a hundred. But you put him up to open and he was totally useless. I love him to bits, but he'll tell you himself that psychologically it just felt different going out to open.

Tendulkar throughout his career didn't want to play anywhere but at four in Tests. So certain batsmen like coming in at certain positions and there's nothing you can do about that.

RK: Let's go the next question. It's from Abby: The current Australian side overall is a pretty poor one but their captain and coach seem to be highly rated by many. It takes me back to the Allan Border-Bobby Simpson time in the mid-80s and '90s.

"Cricket is like life. When you get something going wrong, you get more and more things going wrong and you think, 'My God, is it ever going to stop?' And when you get into a good theme, it's wonderful"

That combination managed to transform an ordinary, demoralised side into a completely different force in international cricket. Do you think Michael Clarke and Darren Lehmann today are capable of the same? Can they transform this side or are Australia's best days well and truly behind them?

GB: I think personally, from what I've seen of Michael Clarke, I think he's an excellent captain. I think he's got originality, new ideas, he's prepared to try things, he has worked out batsmen. He gives a lot of thought to it in his bowlers and his field settings, as you could see. For me, he's a brilliant captain.

But you've always got to remember this. The coach will always have an input as well. Obviously you and I can't know what Darren Lehmann says behind the scenes. But what I'll say is this: the coach and captain can be brilliant at ideas, putting plans into operation, but if they haven't got the players to carry them out, then those plans don't succeed. So I don't judge people on whether they succeed. I'm watching the captain, watching what input the coach is giving, whether they can work out England, and I make my judgement on what I think are really good plans.

Now if those bowlers aren't good enough to execute them… or maybe they do execute them but someone drops a catch and it doesn't work. The plan didn't work because you didn't get him out. But that doesn't mean it's a bad plan. That doesn't mean that the captain hasn't had wonderful ideas.

Now this Australian side's bowling, I think, is very good. In the fourth Test match, the offspinner, Nathan Lyon - he's an average bowler, you wouldn't call him a Jim Laker or a world-beater; he's not a Prasanna or a Harbhajan at his best, but he's a decent purveyor of the ball - but what did he do, he went around the wicket. Clarke or whoever spoke to him and he went around the wicket and somehow it screwed up the right-handers.

The angle across them with those non-spinning offspinners troubled Pietersen, Bell, Bairstow. And with all the pressure added, it worked, it was a wonderful plan with an average bowler. But in the end the batting let them down and it's recorded as a loss, and yet the captaincy and the bowling were magnificent.

So can they transform this Australian side? I'm not sure, to be quite honest. Their bowling is good, but they need to do something about their batting.

RK: Now Geoff, since we've mentioned Allan Border - a lot of people today don't quite know how good a player he was. He only seems to pop up in the stats list for the huge amount of runs he got, but he's never really part of any discussion to do with the greatest batsmen.

GB: One thing I always say is that you cannot pick teams purely on stats. It's about winning matches, putting teams in positions to win, it's what you do when the pressure's on as well. Wisden doesn't record all these things. Allan was a wonderful player. He's got wonderful numbers. But you've got to remember, when you talk about Australia and the greatest-ever players for Australia, they've had some other great players as well.

It's not a reflection badly on Allan, it's a reflection that Australia have had some fantastic cricketers. How does he get in instead of Greg Chappell or Bradman or Neil Harvey? So when it comes to picking the greatest Aussie side, unfortunately, there are many other great players. It's not being nasty to Allan.

RK: Let's go to the Boycs question of the week. It's from GC in the United States: I'm not sure whether there's any merit in my question, but I'd still like to bring it up. I've often felt that when a team is in the ascendancy and are sitting at the top of the table or are world champions, for eg. West Indies in the '70s and '80s, Australia in the '90s, India in ODI cricket today and England in Tests, more and more things seem to go their way, including on-field umpiring decisions. I've noticed in this Ashes series as well that the marginal calls, or the "on-field calls" which are so important when DRS is being used, have so often gone England's way, inspite of the marginality and the umpires being the same. Is that just a figment of my imagination or do the teams on top often get decisions going their way by virtue of being the top team?

Allan Border top-scored in the match with 63, England v Australia, 1st Test, Trent Bridge, 2nd day, June 19, 1981
"Border not being amongst the best is not a bad reflection on him, it's a reflection that Australia have had some better cricketers" © Getty Images

GB: No, it's not a figment of your imagination. It's very true. Because what happens is: they make it happen. They're that good. Whether it's the West Indies in the '70s and '80s or Australia through the '90s, they're that good that they make things happen and go their way.

It's not the umpires favouring the best team, it's not somebody being a "home umpire", it's not DRS favouring players, I mean, it's a machine! But it does go that way.

It's just the same when you are batting well. You can bet your bottom dollar that when you hit the ball it goes into the gap or you nick it and somebody drops it. That's just the way it goes. And when you're struggling to get ten runs, you get the best ball of the match or somebody takes a brilliant catch, or the umpire makes a terrible lbw call and you're out and you seem to get all the bad decisions.

And he's right, it is a good question. But it's like life. If you think about it, when you get something going wrong, you get more and more things going wrong, and you think, "My god, is it ever going to stop?" And when you get into a good theme, it's wonderful. You float through life just like you float through cricket. It goes well for you.

This is why sometimes when we're commentating or even playing, we talk about horses for courses. You'll get a bowler who has batted 50 or 60 runs and you think "Wow! He hardly ever does that." But he plays out of his skin, gets some nicks, hits a few balls. Then you give him the ball and I bet there is every chance he'll get wickets, because it's his day. If things are going for him, they just are, it's just the nature of life. It's nothing different. You can't put your finger on it. There's nobody cheating, there's nobody favouring anyone. It's just life.

RK: Right, then, hope that answers your question, GC. Thank you very much for your time, Geoffrey Boycott. Don't forget to fill in our feedback form with your questions and Geoffrey will be back in two weeks time to answer them. That's all we've got time for here on Bowl at Boycs. This is Raunak Kapoor signing off, thank you very much for listening, goodbye.

Posted by   on (August 15, 2013, 20:40 GMT)

Completely agree Anand. The bowling on both sides has been fairly decent, but England find themselves 3 zip because their mediocre batting has been marginally better than the Aussies. As a result of a couple of tests finishing early, Sky have been replaying the 2005 series again - a fascinating contrast to 2013, as the quality on show in 2005 was so much higher in both disciplines.

Posted by Lara213 on (August 15, 2013, 10:43 GMT)

What's wrong with Raunak Kapoor's mike? I could hardly hear a word he said while Boycs seemed to shout over him a couple of times. Can you fix the sound balance so we can hear both of them?

Posted by   on (August 15, 2013, 8:49 GMT)

The scoreline could have easily read 3-1 Australia if these batsman were not as mentally fragile. Earlier this year one would have thought it was only spin which caused aussies trouble but it seems like they have serious concerns in their batting. I wonder if Watson and Khawaja would have got another chance in the Aussie team of yesteryears.

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