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

'England need a high-quality spinner'

Geoffrey Boycott looks back at the dramatic Lord's draw, evaluates the three debutants from England, and suggests how technology can be made more beneficial to the game (19:49)

Interviewer: Vishal Dikshit

June 19, 2014


Bowl at Boycs

'England need a high-quality spinner'

June 19, 2014

Excerpts from the discussion below.

The spectators wait for a review on Kevin Pietersen's lbw decision, England v Pakistan, 1st Test, Trent Bridge, 1st day, July 29, 2010
"When I watch Hot Spot it's good, but we need to make it better and better" © AFP

Vishal Dikshit: Hello and welcome to a brand new episode of Bowl at Boycs. This is Vishal Dikshit and joining me is Geoffrey Boycott. How are you Geoffrey?

Geoffrey Boycott: I'm very well.

VD: And how was the Lord's Test?

GB: Uh, nothing happened for three days. They were all queuing up to have a bat, the pitch was slow and low and it was just too easy. Bit of movement with the new ball but after about 12 overs it was straight up and down and help-yourself batting. I think those who got out were kicking themselves and it all happened on the last day, really. The fourth day was reasonably interesting, it wasn't tedious or boring. You knew what was going to happen - somebody was going to get a lot of runs. There was no competition between bat and ball until the fifth day and then it was quite exciting.

VD: The first question was sent by Imran from Grenada. He says: I am a huge fan of DRS as it reduces the obvious mistakes. The only negative that I had always considered was what if in a very tight game, such as the Lord's one, a dubious decision goes against your team but you don't have any reviews left. Just imagine Sri Lanka not having any more reviews left and then losing that match. That is why I believe the umpires should have permission to consult the third umpire in situations like these and where they think they need assistance, similar to run-outs or stumpings. What do you suggest will make DRS more useful and beneficial to the game?

GB: Good question, because if Sri Lanka had lost the game through having no reviews, yes, there would've been some talk about it. As far as I understand it DRS is there to help rectify a bad error by the umpire, a huge mistake almost everybody can see. But normally, without DRS, the player just had to accept that mistake and go shaking his head and thinking he'd been done by the umpire and there was no way of overturning it. Now there is. But let's be clear - many individuals and teams use it to gain an advantage. If it's a particularly top batsman or a great player you think: "Oh my god, he might get a big hundred. Let's have a go, this is a marginal decision. If we get it, we've got a top player out." Or in a situation when they are desperate for a wicket. The game is getting away from them then they try and know it's a marginal decision but they go for it. DRS was not meant for people to gain an advantage or for players to go to the umpire on marginal decisions. They can if they wish, that's their right. But that's why there was a small number of two, some people thought three was a good number, some think one. But they settled on two. I think that some players use the review system on marginal decisions and when we get to a situation where there's a bad decision given by the umpire but they have no reviews left then you can say in some ways it's their own fault.

We want it to be fair all the time but there's no such thing as perfection and you can only aim for it. As far as I understand the umpires can ask the third umpire. It's up to them. If they are not sure then common sense dictates. Nobody is really going to stop them. We always say that the umpires are in charge. Rules, laws are only there for the umpires to implement them. I'm a great believer that whatever rules or laws you make the umpires have to apply common sense. If they are not bold enough, brave enough, smart enough to go to the third umpire then they shouldn't be umpiring, because we all want to get as many good decisions as possible. I would make HotSpot better. When I watch HotSpot it's good but quite frankly there are too many white dots like we had one at Lord's where there was a great, big white thing at the back of the bat and there's no way the ball had reached the back of the bat. We need to make it better and better.

We really do need to teach third umpires, all umpires, that when they are interpreting television film for catches near the ground on television, they are two-dimensional. They are not like the human eye which is three-dimensional. They nearly always look as if the ball has bounced, so whenever the on-field umpires go to the third umpire, most times the third umpire gives it not out. Players know this as well, so they are going to review low catches and as far as I'm aware the ICC recommended to umpires not too long ago that when they see low catches on the field, they should try to give a decision themselves without referring it to the third umpire, because television cannot get as right as it would like. A lot of batsmen get away with a review for a low catch in the field.

VD: The second question was sent by Jonathan from Australia. It's a pretty straightforward one. He says: The English side looked a lot better in their first Test against Sri Lanka. What, if anything, has changed in the English team since Sydney?

"It's too early to think England are a better team because we aren't. Sri Lanka don't have the bowlers to expend our batsmen and they certainly don't have a Mitchell Johnson"

GB: Nothing. It's too early to think England are a better team because we aren't. Sri Lanka don't have the bowlers to expend our batsmen and they certainly don't have a Mitchell Johnson. There aren't too many of them around and it's a different ball game when you are facing fast bowlers like Johnson. The intensity of the Aussie team knocked England down and out. England are trying to regroup and they have a long way to go. They've lost Pietersen, but they've lost Swann - big factor that Swann. His bowling with the seamers bowling on the other end, Swann at his best for most of his career - huge factor. Not only a wicket-taking bowler but he could dry runs up as well.

They are trying to regroup on the batting front. They've got Gary Ballance at No. 3, getting a century -that helped. But he's never batted at three before. He bats at No. 5 for Yorkshire and you wouldn't say the Sri Lankan bowling expends anybody. So we don't know whether Gary is really going to be a No. 3 against quality bowling when seam and swing is there, a bit more pace and when it gets to Johnson that will be another step up.

We need a quality spinner and there's a dearth of them. So far the kid [Moeen] Ali has only played one Test and we'll get a few more out of him, but I'm not sure that he's going to be a high-quality spinner. He looks a good cricketer, can bat and bowl, but you need a high-quality spinner. The guy who should be doing that is Monty Panesar, but something has gone wrong with his playing at Essex, and people say he's not in the right frame of mind. I don't know about that but it's up to the selectors to go and solve it, because he's got wickets before in Tests. We've got another 11 Test matches before we face Australia - it sounds a lot but it's not many. It's not as many as you'd like. You'd like to get a couple of years in before you get Australia, but you've only got one year.

I think upfront we've got a problem with the opening batting position. Chris Jordan looks to be a find. Long way to go again but I don't like his run-up. I like everything about him - he smiles, he loves cricket, he seems to be in the action, he can catch at slip, he can bat. For a guy who bowls, he can really bat. But when he bowls, his run-up is laboured, he's funny. He doesn't seem to start slow and get quicker when he runs and then slow a bit at the crease - that's the idea to bowling fast. It looks to me as if it's a very laboured run-up and he puts everything in in the last couple of yards and that's a recipe for disaster for injury.

Liam Plunkett may turn out to be a plus for England. He played for England four or five years ago and then his career has been scrappy. He's a Durham player and then he lost his place in the Durham side and got involved in drunk driving with the police on two occasions. His game was spiraling downhill and Yorkshire took a punt on him and said: "We think he's got something, we can straighten him out" and they have. Through Jason Gillespie, the coach, and through the team ethos and the unity and good feeling in the Yorkshire dressing room he's got better and better. Plunkett can bowl quite sharp. It was just a slow pitch at Lord's. He hit all the Sri Lankan right-handed batsmen, not Sangakkara, on the arm, the body, the helmet. So he caused some problems on slow pitches. I just want to see what happens if you get him on a quick pitch. I'm not sure what Headingley is going to be, though.

It's too early and even if England beat Sri Lanka at Headingley starting on Friday and if you go on to win a Test or two against India, it's a bit early. I think India will be much stronger. They've got a couple of quick bowlers. They've got some good batsmen and England's batting yet is not great. There's a lot of question marks over the batting, so there's a long way to go.

VD: Sticking to the England team, the third question was from Graham Norris from the UK. He asks: How impressed were you by Chris Jordan and Liam Plunkett. And is it too early to judge Sam Robson, or is he already a concern? What did you make of Moeen Ali's batting and bowling? Geoffrey, you already answered about Jordan and Plunkett, so what about Robson and Moeen Ali?

Sam Robson was bowled off an inside edge, England v Sri Lanka, 1st Investec Test, Lord's, 4th day, June 15, 2014
"Sam Robson had two slow innings at Lord's, but what I saw of his batting, and it wasn't much, I was disappointed" © AFP

GB: I liked Moeen's batting in the first innings. He looked nice and fluid and confident. And then second innings was poor. He came in with super confidence and smacked the first ball from [Rangana] Herath and I thought, "Wow! What a shot first ball." Nice confidence and what did he do second ball? Herath bowled in the footmarks and he [Moeen] just pushed through the line, gated himself and got bowled. That was naive, to put it bluntly, and he needs to tighten up on that. He looks to have something about him, but whether he can develop you're never quite sure with these youngsters, I'm always a little wary. Youngsters can go backwards or forwards very quickly. They all need to play at Headingley and don't need to change the team at all. I always believe in giving people a couple of Test matches. Robson had two slow innings at Lord's but what I saw of his batting, and it wasn't much, I was disappointed. He deserves to play because he has done well for Middlesex and for the England Lions.

But I don't need to see people make a lot of runs. I watch their feet, their hands, the way they manoeuvre the ball. What I saw of his judgement around off stump was poor. Around off stump is where the best bowlers bowl. We're all vulnerable there. When you first go in and bowl the ball on a good length around off stump, two or three inches outside, it's what I call the corridor of uncertainty. Every batsman is vulnerable there, because you have to decide what to leave, what to play. Do I play forward, do I play back, is it a ball I can hit or should I defend it? So you have about six decisions to make in about half a second. And if it's a really quick ball by Johnson you have about a third of a second. If you get one of the six wrong, you are out, your day is ruined. As an opener, or even as a No. 3, your judgement and way of playing the ball around off stump is absolutely priceless.

What I saw of Sam Robson - he played away from his body, way in front of his pad. And the other thing, his hands and arms look rigid or stiff. The best batsmen in the world I've ever seen, even though the mind is tense and concentrated, they have relaxed arms and hands, and the reason for that is you need to be able to manoeuvre the bat when the ball swings or seams, which it does normally upfront when you are batting. You need to be able to move your feet, move your arms, glide into position, not be stiff. He will play the second Test and I think that's right. I don't like guys playing only one, two or three Tests. But he needs to show us something better. We need to be encouraged by what we see at Headingley in the next Test and I didn't have good vibes by what I saw at Lord's. I judge selectors or chairman of selectors on the good job they do by studying players in county cricket, just like Australians have to study their players in their [Sheffield] Shield, just like Indian players have to be studied in their zonal matches. You've got to study them and think: "Can this guy make the step up to a better type of Test cricket." That's what you are expected to do as a selector. If they have judged that this kid has something, then he needs to be given two or three Tests, and if he fails, he fails. And it's a minus or cross for the selectors as well, because they got it wrong. I've got a big question mark over Robson and it's not that he's got to make a hundred. Even if he makes 20-30, but if he looks and shapes himself right that will be a start.

VD: There's lots more left in the English summer but that's the end of this episode of Bowl at Boycs. Geoffrey Boycott will join us again in two weeks from now and you can send in your feedback and questions via our feedback form on the website. Keep reading, keep watching ESPNcricinfo and till then, goodbye and good luck.

Posted by Twinkie on (June 24, 2014, 23:47 GMT)

Sri Lanka's ordinary bowlers sure bowled better than England's class bowlers. Think they were fired up by all the silly talk from England. Determination is a powerful thing.

Posted by Culex on (June 24, 2014, 1:32 GMT)

"What has changed? Nothing."

I think day 4 at Headingley has proven Geoffrey to have been spot on with this analysis.

Posted by cvenka on (June 19, 2014, 15:27 GMT)

@lassie.perera i understand your point. but u need to understand first that geoff is an english cricketer first & then only an expert. so his focus & heart will always be with english cricket & one should not blame him for many srilankan experts praise other national cricketers?

Posted by Lassie.Perera on (June 19, 2014, 6:32 GMT)

These so called experts are always talk about English cricket & their cricketers. G Boycott saying SL bowlers are not good enough to get 20wkts in a match and praising their fastest bowler in Liam Pluncket. His match figures were 155 runs 2wkts. We all know that JA is an excellent bowler and he has done well. England is playing in their own backyard and still couldn't win. 20/20 win by SL. one day series 3/2 to Sri Lanka. One test match to be played. Mr Boycott, so far who has played better cricket?

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