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

'If they carry on like this, there will be a fight on the field'

Geoff Boycott lays down the distinction between aggression and abuse, and explains stress-related illnesses over time, and how to play the short stuff (23:13)

Producer: Raunak Kapoor

December 5, 2013


'If they carry on like this, there will be a fight on the field'

December 5, 2013

Ian Bell avoids a short ball by Mitchell Johnson, Australia v England, 1st Test, Brisbane, 4th day, November 24, 2013
'You duck, wave, fall, get inside, do anything, just get out of the way' © Getty Images

Excerpts from the show

Raunak Kapoor: It's time for Bowl at Boycs here on ESPNcricinfo and we're in the middle of the first two Ashes Test matches, and Geoffrey Boycott was on the fence in last show, he didn't know what to predict, but what we saw in the first Test, did anyone see that coming? Mr Boycott, did you see that coming?

Geoff Boycott: Well, I was wary, wasn't I? I had seen signs in England that I thought made it possible for Australia to do better, and England to struggle. And until you see what happens in the match you never know, but I saw signs and they've come to fruition in Australia's favour.

RK: All right, so the first question comes from Michael Bould in the UK. Geoffrey, he says the difference in the first Test was undoubtedly Australia's bowling plan with the short stuff they threw at England. Why is it that England couldn't deal with it even in the second innings when they had figured what Australia's plan of attack was? What can they do differently to counter this style of bowling in the second Test?

GB: First of all, there were signs in England that they would get some short-pitched bowling. Anybody who knew their cricket, and that's not everybody, watched the one-dayers and saw Mitchell Johnson bowl very fast, very straight and get the ball on the throat. He hit Jonathan Trott on the helmet in one of the one-dayers.

That said to me that if he bowls straight and as fast as he was doing, with the rhythm that he had in the one-dayers, then he'll be a problem, because in one-dayers you have ten overs only, but in a Test match people can bowl 25 overs.

And if they have a batsman in trouble, they can go after him, bowl five, six, seven on the trot. And the other thing you've got to think about is this: for quite a while now there have been very few of what my generation calls "genuine fast bowlers".

People refer to people like Jimmy Anderson as a fast bowler. They refer to Harris as a fast bowler. They are not fast bowlers. They are good bowlers, there's a difference. But, in my terminology and my age of playing, they were just fast-medium bowlers.

They're not in the league of Lillee, Thomson, Garner, Holding, Marshall, Croft, Roberts. These were genuinely fast bowlers, a yard quicker, and there's a huge difference between that sort of pace and good bowlers who bowl lively fast-medium.

Lively fast-medium bowlers don't hurt you. They don't put you in hospital, they don't put the fear of god in you. That is the huge difference. And for the last number of years we've had very few genuine fast bowlers. And so when you get one that bowls it dead straight and as fast as that and they get it up to your throat from just short of a length, then the current crop all over the world are not used to dealing with it.

That's not to say they can't become better at it or get used to it, but, when it's not happening very often, when they come across it, it's such a shock. Yes, there are things they could've done to get themselves ready to combat fast bowling. That's up to them to deal with that and they haven't done it. They've probably just come to Australia thinking mistakenly that Mitchell Johnson would bowl similar to three years ago when the Barmy Army were shouting, "He bowls it to the left, he bowls it to the right, he bowls a lot of…" well, you rhyme it.

He was all over the place back then, but he's not all over the place now, and it's always dangerous to assume that people will bowl the same way they did three years ago. Sport doesn't happen like that, so in some ways England have been caught out a bit.

RK: The second part of the question, Geoffrey: put yourself in the England batting coach's position, you know what Australia are going to throw at them - what can they do?

GB: I'm not in the batting coach situation because they can't afford me! It's as simple as that.

RK: Is that the only thing that's stopping you from coaching England, Geoffrey?

GB: No, because they don't like people like me who tell them the truth straightforwardly. That's why I answer your questions here on Cricinfo.

What do you do [to counter Australia's bowling plan]? You duck, you weave, you get out of the way, and anything that gets above chest-high, you don't play. You cannot control it. If it gets up in the throat, the chin, have to duck, get inside, fall on your backside, anything - just get out of the way.

When fast bowlers bowl short and bouncers, it takes a lot of energy out of them. If you play that ball well, they'll stop bowling it after a while, because it's taking a hell of a lot more out of them and they get tired. When they see you don't play it well, you'll get more and you'll get out. Or, if you're really as good as me, get a single and watch from the other end!

RK: All right, let's take the next question Geoffrey, and this is another major talking point that came just after that first Test match. The Jonathon Trott incident. A lot has been said about him. Simon from the UK sends this, there were similar questions asked by Gautam from the United States and Laxman from India.

Simon says: Geoffrey, the Jonathan Trott incident has obviously saddened many of us. After Marcus Trescothick, this is the second Englishman who has encountered a similar situation in recent times. I can't think of any other players around the world who were affected to such an extent by a stress-related or any mental illness. Correct me if I'm wrong but why is this happening to our players? Did it ever happen back in your time? What can be done by administrators or the team management to prevent such occurrences in future?

GB: Well, it has happened before. Besides Marcus Trescothick, it happened to the English left-arm spinner Michael Yardy, from Sussex. He went home from Sri Lanka with a stress-related illness and it happened to the Australian fast bowler Shaun Tait while playing the IPL.

"Michael Clarke was acting real tough with a No. 11 who is terrified by the fast bowling anyway and there he is acting clever when they're winning the match easily. I didn't see him do any of that in England when they were losing"

I have no idea why it happens. It certainly didn't happen in my time, but then again, we have to be clear about this. Going back years, people didn't understand that they could have a stress-related mental illness, call it what you want, that came about through the stress of being involved with sport. Certainly when I played, we had no idea about stress-related illnesses.

It's a very good question. I've been trying to think, since I got the questions, was there anybody I played with or against who, looking back, I think had a stress-related injury and I didn't know it, and maybe he didn't know it, but he was struggling to perform at the highest level.

Now that's an interesting question I've wrestled with. I've been trying to think, was there anybody? And I can't think that there is, because when you're in a dressing room, when you're playing, you didn't know about it. You really didn't know.

I'm actually giving you more questions, not answers, because I don't know the answer to it. And what can be done by administrators or the team management? I'm not sure you can do anything, because again do any of us know?

RK: Let's take the last question, it's the Boycs question of the week, it comes from Brian in the UK. And well, I can't wait to hear Geoffrey Boycott's thoughts on this.

Brian says: Geoffrey, I'm outraged at Michael Clarke being fined for what I feel was simply an act of aggression that is all part of not just the game, but the fierce rivalry that makes the Ashes so much more different from all other cricket. Do you believe Clarke crossed the line? How is it that the line is drawn by officials in such cases? Is it merely what can be picked up on audio/video as in Clarke's case? Why else would no one else be reprimanded by the on-field umpires who would have heard everything that the stump mic didn't pick up and I'm sure there was plenty said by both sides apart from this Clarke incident. How much of this should be part of the game, Geoffrey, and how should the officials intervene without depriving the game of its spark?

GB: Well, I'm outraged that the questioner should think that that sort of aggression is acceptable in cricket. It was personal abuse. If you personally abuse somebody like that at 5ft 9in, pointing a finger at a 6ft 2in fast bowler in a pub in England, he'd get you, there would be a fight.

So how can that be acceptable? Personal abuse is not acceptable. I don't care if it's on the cricket field, football field or anything, it's unacceptable. If you're going to make some funny remark and make him laugh, that's fine. That is part of the spirit of the game. But not when you personally abuse somebody like that. Do you think it's a nice spectacle that anybody should be pointing the finger, threatening behaviour with aggression towards a member of the opposition whoever they are? No, that's not a nice spectacle, nor necessary to spice up an England-Australia series.

I remember the incident with Mike Gatting, a captain of England, doing that to an umpire in Pakistan called Shakoor Rana. It was appalling. It looked awful then and it still looks awful now. And I like Michael tremendously, I remember seeing him some weeks later when he had come back and I said "Michael, that looked awful, that looked awful on a cricket field."

Threatening the umpire with your finger is unacceptable. So don't tell me that you're outraged at Michael Clarke being fined. We should all be outraged that you think that's acceptable behaviour on a cricket field.

Michael Clarke was acting real tough with a No. 11 who is terrified by a fast bowler because he doesn't have the skill. What No. 11 does have the skill to handle genuine fast bowling? And there he is acting clever when they're winning the match easily. I didn't see him do any of that in England when they were losing. He was mild-mannered, wasn't he?

And ask yourself this: No. 11, whoever he is in the world, comes in, they can't play fast bowling. Why would he come in with all thought on whether this fast bowler is going to put me in the hospital, how am I going to handle this? And he turns around and says to the short leg, "I'll smack you in the mouth." Why would he say that?

Ask yourself the question. George Bailey, at short leg, must have said something to him. Must have said something offensive for a No. 11, whose mind is occupied on saving his skin. Bailey's come out of this and kept quiet, but he's definitely the one who's said something. I'll stake my house on it.

Yes, what Anderson said, that's wrong. He was provoked you might say, but it was wrong to say what he did, and then Michael Clarke comes in pointing his finger. The whole thing is unnecessary, it's not acceptable, because if you carry on like that with that kind of personal abuse and aggression, there will be a fight on the cricket field.

Michael Clarke and James Anderson exchange words, Australia v England, 1st Test, Brisbane, 4th day, November 24, 2013
"The umpires on the field were weak and ineffective. They should have dealt with it" © Getty Images

There will be people who will take the gloves off, and smack somebody, and there will be a free-for-all. And then you'll wonder why it's happened, and it's because the umpires on the field are weak and ineffective. They heard all that, they should have dealt with it quickly. And the ICC is weak, because it should have just suspended Michael Clarke.

Never mind $3000, that's like peanuts. He earns a million dollars in Australia, at least. You suspend somebody for a match, and if they do it again, then suspend them double, and then double again and keep on doubling it. They'll all get the message then, because if you start missing Test matches, you'll stop doing it.

I don't say this just for Michael Clarke or any other player. It has nothing to do with an Australian against an Englishman. I'll say the same if it's an Englishman against an Australian. Sorry, there's no excuse for it.

RK: All right, so you've heard Geoffrey's thoughts and pretty clear as to where Geoffrey stands on this. Let's end on a lighter note, Geoffrey. You didn't pick a winner while predicting the first Test. Are you picking one for this one?

GB: I think it'll be a draw. I think England need to play well. If they can't win, they at least need to play well to draw it, because Perth will be difficult thereafter. That's where Australia fancy getting Mitchell Johnson at us again on a fast bouncy Perth pitch and we don't have the ammunition that they have.

RK: Yes, indeed, so the second Test is in Adelaide and we will be back with Geoffrey Boycott after the second and third Test match, these are back to back Tests remember. So thank you for your thoughts Geoffrey and thank you all for sending in your questions. Do keep doing so using our feedback form and Geoffrey Boycott will be back in about two weeks' time to answer them. Thank you very much. Goodbye.

*As at the time of recording, early on December 4, 2013

Posted by cloudmess on (December 5, 2013, 12:21 GMT)

I think it was unfair to single out Michael Clarke for a fine, but like Sir Geoffrey, there is a time when sledging descends into needless personal abuse. Why did George Bailey feel that James Anderson needed a volley? Did he think that no 11 Anderson was going to stay around and put on the 300 odd runs England still needed for victory at that time?Or bat out 6 hours plus for a draw? And though it was unfair to pick on Clarke, I still can't imagine many other national captains making comments to no 11s like he did. Can you imagine Cook or Strauss greeting Lyon on the field with a threat to break his arm? He's a great player, but I'm still not a fan of Clarke as captain - he seems to lack a bit of backbone.

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