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

'This Australian team is very good, but not great'

Geoff Boycott on why Australia might struggle ahead, getting hit by fast bowlers, and the legacy of Graeme Smith (24:39)

Interviewer: Raunak Kapoor

March 12, 2014

Transcript

Bowl at Boycs

'This Australian team is very good, but not great'

March 12, 2014

Graeme Smith walks up for the presentation, South Africa v Australia, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 5th day, March 5, 2014
"Graeme Smith got the absolute best out of his talent and was his own man" © Getty Images

Raunak Kapoor: Hello and welcome to another show of Bowl at Boycs. Geoffrey Boycott is with me, so let's take the first question. Hriday Gattani sends this from China. He says:

You faced some of the most intimidating fast bowlers in your time. Were you ever hit on the face/body? Did you ever have a fracture? What kind of psychological impact does an intimidating fast bowler have on the batsman the next time (ball/innings) he faces him?

Geoff Boycott: Good question. I don't think you can play up front against fast bowling when the ball is new and the bowlers are very fresh and at their fastest, over a long period of time and not take a knock or two.

The best part of my equipment was my chest pad. Some would say, "What about your protector Geoffrey, don't you like that?" I hardly got hit there! But today helmets, visors, arm-guards, all important, and with all that equipment it does take out the biggest factor of facing fast bowling which is fear. The fear of getting hurt.

Many younger people today can't remember when batsmen played without helmets and visors and arm-guards which only came with the Packer cricket in the '70s. But even the great players of the past have got hit at some point.

But since we've had helmets, we've seen even more people getting hit, which is odd. I think more people feel secure so they want to hook and pull and they think they're good enough to have a dart at the fast bowler and they're not. But the gear saves them.

Now I got hit by Rodney Hogg on the cap, no helmet in 1978-79 in Perth. I went on to make 77. Colin Croft hit me, he was fearsome and sharp and he cut my eye, I had to go inside and get it stitched, and then Ian Botham sent me back straight away! I told them if some of you want to go in please do, and he said no you're better at it, so he sent me back, the rotten soul! But he was captain. We all laugh about it now.

Dennis Lillee hit me on the jaw at The Oval. Then Graham Dilley hit me when I played for Yorkshire against Sheffield. I've had a number of finger injuries. I think it's just part of being an opening batsman, part of the trade, you can't avoid it.

Now then, when it comes to the psychological trauma, which is the key bit, I think it's up to the individual. I've seen individuals who have been hit, and they struggle. They struggle emotionally and psychologically to face that guy again.

I'm a great believer in the old saying. If you fall of your bike, you've got to get back on it straight away. You haven't got the time to think about the fear or dwell on the psychology. You get back on. The individual must show the character and nerve.

And if you haven't got the character and the mental toughness to handle it, then you've got to get out of the kitchen, it's too hot for you.

 
 
"Now I'm not so sure about Australia having a period of real dominance, and I'll tell you why. Their wins are based a lot on Johnson and Harris. They're the key bowlers. But how long can they keep going?"
 

RK: All right, let's take the next question, it comes from Ishan Joshi from the UK. He says: Graeme Smith's retirement comes as quite a surprise for me. I believe he could still have gone on for a couple of years more at least. Are you surprised by Smith's decision Geoffrey? What impact can that have on this SA team who have just lost at home to Australia? How will you remember Graeme Smith?

GB: Graeme Smith. Strong character, very competitive, gutsy tough nut. I think he got the absolute best out of his talent. He's a motivated guy, a brave batsman, and he was his own man with his own style.

I think that's important because technically he was a bit unusual. He didn't look an aesthetic player. But is anybody perfect? No. He's a perfect example that it's not about looking pretty or being technically perfect, it's about putting runs on the scoreboard.

He's an excellent slip fielder, good captain. He and his supporters can be proud of his performances and his achievements. I'm not really surprised that he's retired. I'm only surprised that the announcement came with a couple of days of the Test match still to go.

He's been a captain of his country and an opening batsman since he was 22. That's a very young age you know. You don't have a lot of time to get experienced. So he's been captain for 11 years in the modern age, that's a long time.

The modern age is a lot tougher to be captain. You've got one-day matches, Test matches, tours galore, Twenty20, travelling up and down, very tiring, and I think more than anything, the media. All kinds of things want your time.

It is mentally tiring, let me tell you. He's 33 years of age. Now most people finish around 36. But he's a big, hefty guy, not particularly athletic. He stands at slip and it gets harder and harder to stay fit once you get into your 30s.

It gets harder and harder to have the desire. That's the most vital thing of all. The desire to get up in the morning, put your whites on, get up for your nets, put the pads on, to go and train and run around and practise.

I'm also a great believer that nobody's indispensable. You ask me how South Africa will go. Somebody will come in his place and he might not be as good, but he might also be better. It's just the way of life. South Africa will move on, don't worry about them, they've got good cricketers.

RK: Thank you for that Geoff. Let's take the third question from Dhruv Dewan in the USA: Australia's series win in SA is the first away series win by any team in Test cricket in over a year. We didn't see a single away-series win all of 2013. I'd like to ask you Geoffrey, what is this due to? Why have teams, even good teams, not been able to get a result away from home in recent times?

GB: I'm not sure about that. I think there is much of a muchness in quite a lot of the teams around, and therefore when you play at home, it becomes a bit of an advantage.

Home advantage tends to be important. Now if you want to take England as an example recently playing in Australia. I've never seen anything as bad in 50 years. I couldn't have seen that coming.

India, who I love dearly, hardly ever win abroad. Let's be honest. Lovely people, fabulous players, but not very good abroad. They tend to flatter but let us down in the end. That's why they have tours to Bangladesh and Zimbabwe so they can win one.

Australia at the moment have the X-factor in Mitchell Johnson. That's why they're winning home and abroad. South Africa, on the other hand, great team, No. 1, fabulous bowlers, but they were blown away in the first Test because they didn't plan well against Mitchell Johnson.

So I think there's a much of a muchness, I don't think there's anything we can read into too much.


Australia are overjoyed after sealing the series 2-1, South Africa v Australia, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 5th day, March 5, 2014
Boycott feels while this Australian team is very good, they're still not near the Aussie teams of the past © Getty Images

RK: All right, let's take the Boycs question of the week now, and it comes from Shane Millan in Australia.

He says: Geoffrey, I thought Australia outplayed South Africa in the last Test. They've certainly been the better team in the series for me. By beating the No. 1 team in their own backyard and coming off a whitewash thumping of England at home, do you believe this Australian team is set now for a period of real dominance in Test cricket, like some of the great Aussie teams of the past?

GB: Good question. I think they're a very good team, I'm not sure they're a great team. I'm fairly convinced they're not, because some of the past Aussie teams have been fantastic. Fabulous array of bowling, Shane Warne, McGrath, Gillespie.

I don't want people to think I'm putting Australia down. It's just that they've had some teams for about 12 or 14 years that were just fantastic. So if you're going to be judged by that benchmark, you better be good in all areas.

As a team, you can only play against the best of what's put in front of you. It's not your fault if the teams against you aren't good against fast bowling. And Australia have just walloped England who were supposedly a good side and they've just beaten the No. 1 side in South Africa, so terrific, well done.

But some of their batsmen aren't special if you look at them. And the glove work of Haddin is okay, not special. He's not as good as Ian Healy. And you can't tell me Nathan Lyon is another Shane Warne, 'cause he ain't.

Now I'm not so sure about Australia having a period of real dominance, and I'll tell you why. Their wins are based a lot on Johnson and Harris. They're the key bowlers. They complement each other. One gets you on the front foot, one forces you on the back foot.

But look, Harris has knee trouble, he's going to have an operation, he's 34 years old, so is he going to bowl for years with a dodgy knee? I don't know. And then Johnson, fantastic really. At the moment he's getting buckets full of wickets and winning Test matches. But can he stay fit? That's the big question. He's a very physical bowler. Needs a lot of energy and fitness to bowl fast, and he's 32, not 26 or 27. How long can he keep going?

At the moment, he looks in peak condition, fluid and smooth. And I hope he keeps going. He's a great sight for cricket, but 32 you've got to remember. Yes, people say there are other bowlers, and they're right, Pattinson's a good bowler, there are one or two others too, but are they as good as Harris or Johnson?

Throughout history, batsmen have batted well, but fast bowlers have won Test matches. That is the difference, so period of dominance? Not so sure about that.

RK: Well only time will tell, a big thank you to Geoffrey Boycott for his thoughts, do send in your questions via our feedback form and we'll be back in two weeks' time to answer them. Until then, goodbye.

Posted by   on (March 15, 2014, 21:56 GMT)

@Ducky610: Indian spin is above average at best and yet they were greatly troubled in India. Pakistani spin is world class, ajmal, rehman and hafeez if played together regularly in test matches have the potential to be the greatest spin trio of all time. Australia's greatest challenge will be against Pakistan in UAE, should their batting stand up to Pak spin then I will accept them as a great team, head and shoulders above all else

Posted by Batmanian on (March 14, 2014, 22:02 GMT)

It's a strange way of viewing things - as if, he's quashing the widespread belief that this Australian team is great. At the moment, you'd say you have Warner in first-rate nick and mentally acute, and Smith almost there; Clarke isn't going to last much longer. Watson has been a disappointment given his talent, but not a failure, and the other batsmen are useful but not great. Haddin pulled some career-best magic out for the Ashes, but can he get it back again? The bowlers consist of Johnson, who is great at the moment, and a deep pool of outstanding secondary quicks (maybe Pattinson and Cummins can rise to primary status yet). Lyon's functional. So, you're missing an extra brilliant batsman, one or two of the quicks to improve a tad with Johnson staying prime, and a true Warne/Murali standard spinner to be great. And by the time those could be in place, Clarke, Haddin and Johnson will likely be gone.

Posted by ThreePIllarTales on (March 14, 2014, 13:36 GMT)

GB obviously has not seen the domestic scene in Oz at the moment for both batsmen and bowlers...it's looking ok. I'd say Australia could be even stronger without Watson or Rogers or Harris once they settle in an opener and a number 3. Bowlers fast or slow is fine.... Reckon not much diff between Safas, India or Aus for the next few years......any good day etc.

Posted by ThreePIllarTales on (March 14, 2014, 13:36 GMT)

GB obviously has not seen the domestic scene in Oz at the moment for both batsmen and bowlers...it's looking ok. I'd say Australia could be even stronger without Watson or Rogers or Harris once they settle in an opener and a number 3. Bowlers fast or slow is fine.... Reckon not much diff between Safas, India or Aus for the next few years......any good day etc.

Posted by Ali_Eorse on (March 14, 2014, 0:51 GMT)

Methinks there is no fun in watching test cricket, unless it is AUS playing. What fun. To see Johnson in action is like going back in time to Lilllee and Thompson. I was not born then. So, I am living in past. What fun. I only care about AUS. They are the best. The best. Nothing but the best.

Posted by   on (March 13, 2014, 22:02 GMT)

Boycs you don't need to keep reminding us we are not great! We know we are very average, every test playing country is very average at the moment. Just when we find a bit of form you guys need to keep ripping us down. We have an age issue you guys say. I'm quite confident in the talent coming through our system. Johnson may be carrying us at the moment but we have a lot of talent at the doctors and will be good to go soon.

Posted by Ducky610 on (March 13, 2014, 20:47 GMT)

Johnson and Harris' age? has everyone already forgotten how good Patto, Bird and Starc can be already? They would almost be instant starters in any other team aside from SA and maybe England or NZ (Patto and Bird would be)... Indian supporters need to move on, do you think you would beat us 4-0 now that Tendulkers gone, Ashwins out of the test side, Lyon has improved significantly, and the middle order now reads 4. Clarke, 5. Smith, 6. Watson, 7. Haddin; all noted players of spin? (even though Watson was useless last time) not 4. Watson/Hughes 5. Clarke 6. Wade 7. Henriques?

Anyone that thinks Johnson and Warner are carrying the team should note the recent stats of Clarke, Smith, Haddin, Lyon, Siddle, Starc, Rogers and Harris

Posted by Jaffa79 on (March 13, 2014, 19:22 GMT)

@ BradmanBestEver, it is self righteousness like that, that makes people dislike Australians. Now, I take my hat off to them and their recent victories; they have played very well but your proclamation of Australia being at their 'rightful' place just confirm how one eyed, back slapping and arrogant Australian supporters really are. When England were no 1 after a hardworking couple of years and a hat trick of Ashes wins, English fans and media were said to be arrogant, India's success underplayed and SA's victory in Australia last time dismissed without fair due. It is your belief that you are superior that actually show you to be inferior. I thought you guys had the 'tall poppy syndrome'? What an irony! Take victory and defeat with graciousness my friend as you are an injury and/or retirement away from being bog average. It is interesting that you guys are so cocky in victory but resort to childish whinging in defeat e.g. SA swinging the ball, Broad, Indian pitches etc.

Posted by BradmanBestEver on (March 13, 2014, 14:20 GMT)

Australia are without a doubt the best team in the world at the moment.

No one cares about how good they were last year or the year before that or the year before that...The reason? It is how good you are NOW that matters

It is also irrelevant whether one player is the difference in Australia's recent resurgence, or 2 or 4 or 7, because it is a TEAM GAME and the star player / players can not do it without the support of the other team members.

So Aussies supporters, we have returned to our rightful place in world cricket as we always do

Posted by   on (March 13, 2014, 13:40 GMT)

Agree with Geoff and most of the commenters here- it is difficult to imagine this Aussie team beat anyone in conditions dissimilar to home conditions. Warner and Johnson are in outrageous form at the moment and their individual performances have carried the team over the last two series wins. They are both hot and cold players- Johnson can lose his radar any moment and Warner is someone who just throws his bat at the ball- so once he gets into a lean patch it is much more difficult to come out of it if you dont have a proper technique. The bits and pieces player Steve Smith has grabbed most of his chances lately but it is difficult to imagine him as a genuine batsman who will make runs consistently. Haddin and Rogers are at the twilight of their careers and no quality replacements in sight (please, not Hughes). Biggest problem ofcourse is the lack of a half decent spinner. Lyon was outbowled by Duminy in the last series and went wicketless at Newlands contributing nothing to their win

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