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'You have to accept that the light law is stupid'

Geoff Boycott wishes common sense was used when changing rules. He also weighs in on Alastair Cook's leadership, and picks his top three England captains (25:19)

Producer: Raunak Kapoor

August 29, 2013


Bowl at Boycs

'You have to accept that the light law is stupid'

August 29, 2013

Excerpts from the discussion below

The umpires check the light metre as the night draws in, England v Australia, 5th Investec Test, The Oval, 5th day, August 25, 2013
While the umpires can't be blamed for applying the law, Boycott believes the light rule should go back to what it was before © PA Photos

Raunak Kapoor: Welcome to Bowl at Boycs on ESPNcricinfo, a very happy Geoffrey Boycott joins me post the Ashes victory for England. Hello Geoffrey, 3-0, you must be happy.

Geoff Boycott: Yes, I never thought Australia were going to beat us, because their batting is so ordinary, sometimes poor when it comes under pressure. Pressure is the name of the game and that sorts out the temperament, character and technique of batsmen. You've got to be mentally strong and have good technique and if you just watch some of the Australians you'll see some of the technique is very ordinary to poor.

RK: Speaking of tension and pressure, what a fabulous last day's play Geoff, but it ended with an anti-climax of sorts, the umpires took the players off with four overs to go due to bad light, now Giles Clarke came out saying the way the game ended was totally unsatisfactory and that the ICC need to change things, there are those coming out in defence of the umpires saying there's nothing else they could have done. What do you make of the light rule?

GB: First of all, you can't blame the umpires for applying the law. What you have to accept is that the law is stupid. The law for years was that if there was any danger to batsmen, the umpires would ask the batsmen if they wanted to go off. And that seemed to work very well, because bowlers and fielders are not under danger like the batsmen.

So that rule was the best rule. But somebody got together at the ICC, some committee and whenever some committee gets together they feel that they better do something to justify their existence. So they decided to change the laws of the game and left it to the umpires to decide. And that's just stupid. The law should go back to what it was before, if it ain't broken don't fix it.

I've always believed that whenever a law is changed, there should always be something at the bottom in every rule book on every law on anything that people should use common sense. So you say to the umpires these are the laws of the game, but in the end use your common sense.

RK: Right, let's start off with this edition's questions from the fans, and I'm delighted to get questions from across the world including places like Israel and Italy.

The first question is from Erez Shatz from Israel: In many fields of sports, achievements and records tend to occur as a result of a player being outstandingly good at a certain point. In first-class cricket, there's an added element, since at times, to reach a milestone, like a double or triple-hundred, the captain of the team must delay his declaration, risking a draw. For example, both of Lara's records, 400 not out in Tests and 501 not out in first-class cricket were reached at the cost of a possible win as both matches ended in a draw.

My question is, do you think a player should be allowed to chase individual records for the price of the match's result? I think several other players could have reached similar scores but didn't due to a declaration - you could have probably scored 300 against India at Headingley. Was Lara abusing his role as captain, or his position as the star of Warwickshire? I appreciate your opinion on this matter.

GB: First off, if a captain is deterred by the presence of a star player then he's not fit to be captain, it's as simple as that. Now the state of the game is most important. If nothing is happening and it's not affecting the team, then I'm not against individuals just batting on or bowling on to setting records because in the end it's only facts and figures.

But I never feel that you should allow individual performances to come before a team. No way, but those pitches in Antigua where Lara scored, they were so flat they were useless for cricket. You could have had a ten-day Test on it and I don't think you would have got a result. That's not Lara's fault.

It's a good point, but I don't know, if it happens where a player is the captain and allows a player to put achievement before possibility of a win then I think it's the duty of his peers and selectors to deal with it, because it goes against everything we know about in cricket. But I don't think it happens that much.

If somebody's 98 not out and you declare, as long as you tell him, "Look, we'll give you two more overs to get it because I've got to get on with the game I want to win, then it's up to him. So if he then gets out or ends up on 99 not out then that's his fault. And most captains know that, they're not stupid.

RK: Let's go to the next question, Geoff, it comes from Douglas Ponton in Italy: He says he saw you get an Ashes hundred at Trent Bridge in 1977. What do you think about sledging? Have you ever been sledged? Is it true that only Aussies sledge? Do you consider it unsporting conduct?

GB: Only Aussies sledge? No, that's not true. Do I consider it unsporting conduct, yes, I don't think it's necessary. Why do you sledge somebody? Because you want to upset him, you're frightened he might play well.

You saw Michael Clarke trying to upset Kevin Pietersen and he had hardly come to the middle and he's telling him, "Nobody likes you", so Pietersen told him, "Well, you're captain and nobody likes you." That's not unsporting, it's just childish, isn't it? It's like two seven-year-olds in a playground trying to upset each other by calling names.

When people swear at other people and so on, I don't think there's any need for it. The best way to deal with sledging is to just turn your back on the sledger and don't get involved. I've always believed that you can't have an argument if there's only one person talking. Think about it, just turn your back on them, look somewhere else and get on with your job. The only reason they're sledging you is because they're frightened of you.

I once played golf with Rodney Marsh's brother, Graeme. And he asked me "How did you get on with my brother?" I said, "He taught me words I didn't know!" And that's it. You've just got to turn around, look somewhere else and get on with your batting.

RK: Let's do the Boycs question of the week. It comes from Mahesh in USA. I got a question from Mark in the UK this morning which was very similar to this one. I'll read Mahesh's question and it's about Alastair Cook's captaincy.

The question is: in spite of winning the Ashes comfortably Cook's captaincy has come under the scanner. Some call him conservative or risk averse. What is your opinion of his captaincy style and how would you rate him? Related to this, who in your opinion are the top three English captains of all time?

GB: Well, I've said before there's two points to captaincy. One is the tactical know-how, to move fielders and bowlers around and understand the nuances of the game and get to them quickly. And then there's the man-management side of handling your players.

"Cook is not a bad captain. In some ways he doesn't have to be innovative and do different things because England are better than the opposition"

Cook has grown up with Strauss, who was a conservative sort of guy, and he's bound to be affected by that, because England have had some success under Strauss, certainly against Australia. And Strauss is a good guy like Cook, both of them will manage the team and get the best out of their players because they're nice lads. There's nothing about them to dislike, so from the man-management side you're always going to want to play for him.

When it comes to tactics he's very much in the mould of Strauss. He's not particularly innovative. He's straight-forward, does simple things, very much on the cautious side etc. and you're right, people say, "Hang on, well England won", and they're saying that we judge captains on whether the team wins.

So if the team wins and you're not very good as a captain but the team is brilliant, then people think you're seen throughout history as a good leader.

I don't think that's necessarily true. Michael Clarke is an excellent innovating tactician. Ideas and field placings and making things difficult for the batsmen. He sees things happen in advance.

I don't go along with the theory that "We won, so he's a brilliant leader." I mean that's what tends to happen. It's like in war, the losing generals tend to get the sack. Doesn't matter that they've got half the number of forces the opposition's got. And it can happen in cricket when you just don't have the quality of players that the opposition has.

Michael Clarke doesn't have the quality of batsmen we have. He just does the best with what he's got. He's innovative, inventive, excellent. Cook is not a bad captain, you've got to be careful about that. In some ways he doesn't have to be innovative and do different things, because the kind of stereotype normal field setting he does works, because we're better than the opposition.

Douglas Jardine in action, 1930
Boycott: Douglas Jardine is England's best ever captain © AFP

My personal choices for the top three English captains of all time - I'd always go for Jardine at No. 1. The Bodyline series in Australia - it was absolute genius to work that out. It's very difficult for us to understand because we never saw him play, we only heard about how good Bradman was. But he was the genius that made so many runs that it was difficult to bowl Australia out and win.

So just to work it out in his own mind before he went to Australia, "Hang on, we have to cut Bradman down to size, never mind anybody else, we have to find a way to get him out". And to work out the Bodyline in an era of the 1930s where fast bowlers were always to bowl on off stump, never to the body, and there was nothing in the laws that said you can't bowl at the ribs. I think what Jardine did was brilliant, absolutely brilliant, so he's my No. 1.

If I had to pick another one, it was something Richie Benaud said to me years ago, and I have great respect for Rich. I wish I could have played under him as captain. He said, as a captain, it's better to be lucky than good. And if you're lucky and good, you're cracking. I studied that a long time.

If a captain is lucky and good as well, it's a recipe for success. And there was a captain of England in 1905 called the Hon FS Jackson. He was a fine batsman and bowler. In all five Test matches he won the toss and batted first. He wasn't a passenger - in the two matches they won, he got five wickets in one match and a century in the other.

This guy played for Yorkshire for a number of years, he became treasurer of the Conservative Party in England and he actually became the Governor of Bengal. Go look him up, all the people in India, Hon FS Jackson, Governor of Bengal.

And if I had to pick my third captain, let me pick somebody from the modern age, I'd pick Michael Vaughan. Why do I pick him? Because something I believed in my 25 years - and 25 of commentating - what I've seen about captains, sometimes they make the best player captain, sometimes they make a Mike Brearley, who is a man manager, good tactically, but not necessarily a good batsman and very successful doing it that way.

But I believe you can't make captains, I think it's an instinctive thing, you either have it or you don't. You're born with it, and makes people like Michael Vaughan, who never really was captain [before leading England]. He never captained Yorkshire, he wasn't even vice-captain of England. And I watched him and studied him at Yorkshire as he came along. Excellent player, he's just got something. It's his instinct, his fear, he's just got something. You can't go to school and learn captaincy. I believe you have to have a natural flair for captaincy and I think he had it.

RK: Right, so you've heard it from Geoffrey Boycott, Douglas Jardine, FS Jackson and Michael Vaughan are his top three English captains of all time. Thank you very much for your time Geoffrey. Don't forget to fill in our feedback form with your questions and Geoffrey will be back in two weeks time to answer them. Thank you very much for listening, goodbye.

*As at the time of recording, early on August 27, 2013

Posted by GrindAR on (August 29, 2013, 23:04 GMT)

Good one from Boycs... The evaluation of captiancy... a good insight into it.... In Cricket, instinct of a captian and his faith in his and act upon it, is always critical. The influence of a captain stays 100% for as long as his side is on the field. No other sport has that kind of influence as Cricket does.

Posted by midnightschildren on (August 29, 2013, 17:51 GMT)

It's amazing how all the English commentators and ex players are suddenly making so much noise about the light rule following the Oval test. In the same series, when Australia was several times on the receiving end of the light rule and England was benefiting from it, not a single English commentator found the rule stupid. It seems that the rule appears stupid only when one is suffering from it. From where I stand (as a neutral) it's much better than earlier when the decision was with the batting side and batsmen walked out at the slightest hint of danger. It is much better that the decision is not with the players. In all other sports such decisions (suitability of playing conditions) are always with the match referees and that's how it should be.

Posted by IPSY on (August 29, 2013, 16:13 GMT)

Cont'd: I don't want to say that Lara's highest score at Antigua of 400 NOT OUT, on what lots of you think is one of the flattest pitches in the World, as against SRT''s only score which is ZERO may be a very fair reflection of the distance in temperament between the two! I did an analysis for Perth a few days ago, the result is not dissimilar to the figures here - Perth is the fastest pitch in the world! We, the spectators were all happy when Lara retook his record at Antigua, because there was no possibility of any positive finish to the match then - another of the gross errors in your assumptions! Mr Kapoor, sometimes I don't really want to reveal some of these bizarre stats about SRT, but as soon as his fans try the unnecessary Lara comparisons, I just prove that there really isn't any. I still have lots to unleash whenever it becomes necessary!

Posted by IPSY on (August 29, 2013, 15:57 GMT)

Mr Kapoor, How did this question about the Gt Brian Lara's impregnable record of "501 NOT OUT" and "400 NOT OUT", by one and the same player come into this interview, which was mainly about the Law concerning Bad Light? There was no issue of badlight when those two acts of immortal proportion were executed - they were done by the only person who could have and would ever be able do it. We know so because, lots of players have played tons of matches more than Lara, including SRT who has played so many more than anyone else, but none of them has that special temperament to achieve such awesome feat, within the batting time that is alloted to them! Hence, your suggestion that,"several other players could have reached similar scores" is grossly flawed. Over a century of performances and none has come even close! Why? The guy really had no equal, when he played. The Antigua flat pitch smear is also a red herring! SRT's only inngs there he scored a DUCK - ZERO - NOUGHT, against tame bowling!

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