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'Why the hell would any kid want to be a bowler?'

Geoff Boycott on the imbalance between bat and ball in ODIs, the success of Bailey and Johnson, and why Sehwag should not replace Tendulkar (23:48)

Producer: Raunak Kapoor

October 23, 2013


Bowl at Boycs

'Why the hell would any kid want to be a bowler?'

October 23, 2013

Excerpts from the discussion

Raunak Kapoor: Amidst all the cricket, it's time for Bowl at Boycs once again on ESPNcricinfo, hello and welcome. And my first question for Geoffrey Boycott has got nothing to do with cricket. Geoffrey, how were the 73rd birthday celebrations?

Geoff Boycott: Very good! Thank you! It's just that I'm too old! The weekend was very nice, I went to see my daughter and I went to see Man United play against Southampton. It was quite good, they attacked and played like their old selves, lots of lovely fast, flowing, attacking moves but defensively, there are more holes there than a colander. Do you know what a colander is? It lets water through.

RK: Okay let's go to the questionsand the first one comes from Sankarakrishnan from India. And Geoffrey Boycott was very animated last time, he wanted India to wallop Australia, but that's really not happening, and Sankarakrishnan's question to you Geoffrey is: Contrary to what you hoped, India do not seem to be walloping Australia in this ODI series. Have you been surprised by how well Australia are playing or is it to do with a terribly weak Indian bowling line-up? Also, Mitchell Johnson and George Bailey have stood out for Australia. Do they deserve an Ashes call-up?

GB: Well, the Indian bowling, I think it would have been a birthday treat for me to bat against that lot! They're not very good at all, it's quite disappointing. I'm not surprised by Australia in terms of how Mitchell Johnson and George Bailey have played.

George Bailey plays a lofted shot down the ground, India v Australia, 2nd ODI, Jaipur, October 16, 2013
George Bailey's recent one-day form just might earn him an Ashes call-up © BCCI

George Bailey did quite well against England. He's one of those cricketers you get who don't look as aesthetic as others but he does well. He seems to have a good mind, a good cricket brain, a good heart on him, so the character is so strong, and yes he has some ability. You can't play at the top level without any ability but sometimes you see people who've got lots of ability, gorgeous timing, look aesthetically perfect and they're quite good, but this guy is somebody who has got all the other characteristics of what you want.

He's one of those guys who you'd say: "If the going gets tough, get George in." He somehow will get you out of trouble. It's never how you look, it's how many runs you make, and he manages to catch the eye with performances when it matters for his team.

And I think he'll cause a lot of discussion for the Australian selectors but I think he'll get a go and I won't be surprised to see him play, and don't be surprised if he makes a go of it. As I said there are other people that look better, but he may surprise you.

Now Mitchell Johnson, he is a genuine fast bowler. Now a lot of people are called fast bowlers, but they're what we call lively. That's all. Nothing to worry about, wouldn't keep you awake at night worrying about them.

But Mitchell Johnson has genuine pace. He is a bit wayward. When our Barmy Army watched him in Australia against us, they used to sing, "He bowls to the left, he bowls to the right and he bowls a lot of... " You make it rhyme!

And they would sing that because he's all over the place, but if he gets it together and if he gets it straight, he is very sharp.

And when I saw him in England, he made our English batsmen look quite uncomfortable in the one-dayers and I thought if he's fit and he gets it together, he'll be a force to be reckoned with typically in Brisbane and Perth.

Because if you remember, three years ago when England were there, he won the Perth Test on his own. He was the main bowler. He was very fast, very accurate, and a real handful for England, and he blew us away.

RK: Let's go to the next question and it's a topical one, especially if you've been following this India-Australia series where the ball is just flying around all over the place. There were a number of questions that came in on similar lines so I've clubbed them. The senders are David Doss and Lavin from India and the question is: Currently there is a yawning gap between bat and ball in terms of balance in ODIs and T20s. Bowlers are taking a real pasting in limited-overs cricket with the new rules, two cricket balls, smaller boundaries and flat pitches. How would you look to restore the balance in the game?

GB: You're dead right. There is no balance in the game. The game is ridiculous at the moment. It should always be a balance between bat and ball. Sometimes it can be 60-40 or 70-30 in the batsman's favour because you want to see runs, but at the same time now it has become too one-sided.

Batsmen just have a field day. Just whack everything. I would try to even it up by saying the best bowlers should be allowed 15 overs each. So whoever bowls well on a particular day, he can get five extra overs from that bowler, can the captain.

That will take a good share of overs, and what that takes away is that fifth bowler, that poor bowler that you're trying to fill in with, and he most times gets crucified, doesn't he?

I don't mind the two new balls. If there is any swing it gives the bowlers a chance from both ends. The ball zips a bit more if it's new, so that's okay for the fast bowlers, it gives them something early on.

Now then to the business of the death and this new rule where they've got hardly anybody protecting the boundaries at the end of the innings. It's a license for the batsman to do anything he wants to do, which is ridiculous.

Bowlers at the end of the innings now are running up in that batting Powerplay and they're cannon fodder. They're just thinking: "Where the hell do I bowl the ball, wherever I bowl, they're going to go inside-out, outside-in, they're going to have a slog, they're going to go for the scoop, do all sorts of things, and I've got no protection whatsoever."

There's no fun in it for a bowler now and it's just not fair on bowlers. Why the hell would kids now want to be a bowler when they see that happening? They're just going to walk away from bowling in the future.

The other thing is, boundaries are too small. There's no doubt about that. Everywhere they've brought them in so you can see the advertising, sometimes it's in four, five, even ten yards in some corners. We used to go right to the end at the boundary edge, and if you do that, you give the spinners a little more of a chance.

These days if somebody mishits it, they get six for it. But if they don't get it right they could get caught if there are fielders right back on the boundary. Why should you get six from a mishit? Why should you be rewarded with the highest number of runs for a poor shot? You shouldn't. The bowler should get you out.

If you hit it clean with the bats we have today, anything fairly decent, it'll go for six, but mis-hits going for six is ridiculous. Pitches in recent years have been flatter, better prepared. They're beautiful to play on.

"There's no fun in it for a bowler now and the game's just not fair on bowlers. Why the hell would kids now want to be a bowler when they see what's happening? They're just going to walk away from bowling"

The bats were about 2 pounds, 4½ ounces 50-60 years ago. Today that's regarded as a light bat. Most of them are up to 3 pounds. What has happened is, the bat manufacturers have taken more water content out of the bat, that is the willow, and the bats break easier but then again they get as many as they want, they're free, but they hit the ball further.

So everything has gone in their favour. It's ridiculous. We want a spectacle but a fair contest. In my opinion there are too many sixes and fours, and when it becomes like that, it becomes tiresome. There's that many, it doesn't mean a lot when one is hit for six 'cause you know there will be another one around the corner. It's like the red bus in London.

RK: Let's go to the Boycs question of the week. It comes from Sudheendra in India and it's apt considering India have a big Test coming up shortly.

Geoffrey, he asks you: Now that Tendulkar has announced his retirement, it leaves a huge gap in the Indian middle order. In the past, Tendulkar made the No. 4 spot his own and with him no longer there, who do you think is appropriate for the spot? There has been talk of Virender Sehwag, as he brings some experience, but do you think he's India's answer, especially with tours to South Africa and New Zealand coming up?

GB: Well, for a 34-35-year-old, Sehwag has never moved well in the field, has he? He's looked so disinterested and bored to death - he's only stood like a lamp post, waiting for his turn to bat. So I don't think he's going to move any faster now that he's a few years older. His athleticism has been pretty poor.

Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag sip some tea during a break from training, Mohali, March 27, 2010
"I'm not sure you should bring Sehwag back. His time has come, his time has gone" © AFP

Now he was a fantastic batsman and let's keep those wonderful memories because I'm not sure you should bring him back. His time has come, his time has gone. For me, it would be a backward step. He's never been that mobile as I said, and it's a long time since he batted in the middle order. I know he's been doing that domestically, but it's been a while since he's done that in international cricket.

I think India should move forward with a younger guy. Somebody with ambition and drive, and hopefully some talent as well. And whomsoever India select, they will find it very tough against South Africa in South Africa, no doubt about that. They've got the best seam attack in the world, even better than England in my opinion.

Some of the pitches there like Joburg, Cape Town and Pretoria have a lot of pace and bounce. When they played there in 2006-07, you had some of the best batsmen in the world. You had Sehwag in his pomp, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Ganguly and a young Dhoni. And in that series, batting first, Sehwag made 4 and 33, 0 and 8. You lost the series 2-1 and then in Cape Town he batted down the order and made 40 and had another failure, he made 4.

So even when he was in his pomp, he didn't exactly set the world alight in the middle order did he? Now in 2001-02, he debuted at Bloemfontein against South Africa, and he batted in the middle order and made 105. He made 31 in the second innings.

Now he was younger. That's 2001, he was 12 years younger. His reflexes were sharper. He was cocky, confident and up for the challenge at 22. Is he going to be up for the challenge at 34? And is he going to be a liability in the field? These are questions India have got to answer. Personally, it won't be a bad move if he plays in the middle order, but I would go and tell him, "Listen, you've had your time. Loved your batting, but we need to move on."

But I don't care if he goes or a youngster goes, you've got your work cut out and I don't think you'll beat South Africa. I'll be absolutely staggered if you do.

RK: Alright, we're going to put that to Geoffrey closer to the tour of South Africa which is happening now thankfully after all the drama surrounding it. Thank you very much for all your thoughts, Geoffrey Boycott, and a big thank you to all those who sent in questions, don't forget to continue doing so using our feedback form and Geoffrey Boycott will be back in around two weeks' time to answer them. Thank you very much.

Posted by John-Orford on (October 26, 2013, 0:42 GMT)

I was surprised to see a good Yorkshireman using an Americanism like "'Why the hell would any kid want to be a bowler?". Then I saw that Geoff didn't actually say that, just a bit of subbing. He did say "guys" though - sic transit British English and our identity.

Posted by wapuser on (October 25, 2013, 10:36 GMT)

Because there is lot of vacancy for the bowling section in all the teams

Posted by BackStreetBowler on (October 25, 2013, 8:26 GMT)

Why not try Gambhir at no.4? I think he is hungry enough to want to succeed.

Posted by truthfinder on (October 25, 2013, 5:49 GMT)

All the rule changes in ODI cricket (including 15 overs rule and the invention of T20) came from England/Australia block of cricket fraternity. Despite lot of hoopla and monetary deposit, the Asian block really does not have any power or self respect to override any change in rule initiated by Anglo-Saxon world. They can still generate some wealth using the popularity of the game among their people using those meaningless rule. If English cricket is that much honest about the cause of the bowlers let them propose complete abolition of any fielder restriction rule. ODI cricket will still be equally popular and wealth generating in Asia -- it is the England and Australia's cricket board to compete against their football and rugby counterpart for sports revenue.

Posted by Divinetouch on (October 24, 2013, 22:31 GMT)

The hell. I would like to be bowler because there will always be selfish batsmen who creep and crawl and get drop for doing so after making a double hundred.

Sehwag may not move well in the field nor did you Geoffrey.

Posted by Unmesh_cric on (October 24, 2013, 22:13 GMT)

@Nahush Modi, you are right. Sehwag was not in prime form in 2006. He was really struggling that year. Those were 'Greg Chappell days'. He was even dropped from the team that year.

Posted by CricketChat on (October 24, 2013, 17:07 GMT)

If I were to chose, I would like to be a bowler. See, everyone wants to be a batsman and there are dime a dozen of them now a days in any format. However, if you are a good bowler, your market appeal and rewards are that much more higher. After all, it is the bowlers who win matches, not batsmen.

Posted by Jinendra on (October 24, 2013, 13:51 GMT)

Entirely agree that India doesn't have a good bowling attack which can bowl SA out twice in five days. Sir Jadeja is outstanding but yet to prove that he can take wickets outside in longer format. That said, India shouldn't mind grooming young and inexperienced bolwers for a long term cause. No 35 plus bowlers please.

At no. 4, lets not try and search another Sachin Tendulkar because he doesn't exist. Let's try and induct young and run hungry rookie who is waiting for his turn for Test. I will put my money on Rohit Sharma.

Posted by jango_moh on (October 24, 2013, 6:47 GMT)

boycott is awesome!!! straight talk always...

Posted by   on (October 24, 2013, 6:02 GMT)

sehwag was never in his pomp in 2006. That is why he was dropped after that SA series. He had a rough 2006 with only two substantial scores of 254 & 180 agnst PAk & WI respectively. Dravid was loosing his steam slowly after a purple patch of about 5 years which started in 2001 aus series.

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