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

'Ballance had a bigger impact than Root against India'

Geoffrey Boycott explains how Indian batsmen are hurting because of excessive limited-overs matches, and more (13:50)

Interviewer: Vishal Dikshit

August 27, 2014

Vishal Dikshit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo


Bowl at Boycs

'Ballance had a bigger impact than Root against India'

August 27, 2014

Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli added 222 for the third wicket, South Africa v India, 1st Test, Johannesburg, 4th day, December 21, 2013
"It's not the young Indian batsmen's fault or the bowlers', it's the board's" © Getty Images

Vishal Dikshit: Hello and welcome to a brand new episode of Bowl at Boycs on ESPNcricinfo.

Let's take a few questions on Test cricket first and then we'll take a few technical ones. The first one was sent by Imran from Grenada. He says: We have always been told that to succeed at Test level, batsmen must have solid footwork and patience. Both these ingredients are lacking in the Indian Test line-up. All batsmen, except Cheteshwar Pujara, are stars in the shorter versions of the game and earn six-figure sums in the IPL. With such huge IPL paychecks, is it a no-brainer that Indian batsmen are concentrating more on becoming better ODI and T20 players? Do you think that any of the current Indian players can become as good as any of recent great retirees - Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman?

GB: Good question. I don't think any of the Indian batsmen will be as good as Tendulkar. He was a rare gem. A batsman like that only comes along once in a lifetime, once in a career, once in 25 years. In my playing career I came across two - Garry Sobers and Viv Richards. They were fantastic batsmen. And then, since I've commentated for 25 years, I've seen two more in Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar. They are just special, they are way, way above anything else. You can't put any of the current players in that league.

Rahul Dravid, I think he was pretty special. Wonderful technique, patience, concentration, his technique was fantastic. If it hadn't been for Tendulkar, he would've been one of the greats. In fact, I think he is and should be regarded as a great batsman, it's just that Tendulkar was extra special. There is time for Pujara and Kohli to improve, but it's a long way to go to get to as good as Dravid. And it will get harder for the modern-day kids as they try to marry the excitement and excessive money that they earn from IPL. Already there is more and more one-day stuff around the world by the cricket boards and the young kids have to go straight into Test matches from one-day cricket with little or no practice matches in domestic cricket in India.

Going back, when a player was playing international cricket, he'd go back to play zonal and domestic cricket, and he'd play proper cricket. And same when he went abroad on a tour from India, they go abroad for a long time, and in between five Tests, say in England, they would have two three-day county matches in between the Tests. So they would get used to playing proper cricket in between Test matches, gets into your head, and you play that way and get used to it. It doesn't happen anymore. They just play five straight Tests but it's not the kids' fault. It's not the young Indian batsmen's fault or the bowlers', it's the board's. And it won't get any easier or better for these young kids as the administrators, they want to organise more and more international matches so that they get more and more TV money. They won't get TV money for India or England when they are on tour playing warm-up matches. So the modern-day kids have no chance. IPL is huge, but even bigger for an Indian youngster in playing in front of his own people watching, your own TV of your country. The pressure on them is enormous. Failure for a young Indian player in the IPL is not an option. Success is a passport to untold riches and fame. So that's the problem for them.

"Joe Root has played more Tests and been around more, he got big centuries, but I just think Gary Ballance's was a superb effort"

VD: The second question was sent by Subbu from India and the question is: Geoffrey, of the two current Test batsmen from your Yorkshire, Gary Ballance and Joe Root, who in your opinion contributed more to English batting in the series against India?

GB: Tough question, but I think Gary Ballance. And the reason for that is he did it upfront against the new ball, batting at No. 3 and early on in the series usually England lost an early wicket. He had to go in under tremendous pressure. And that pressure was huge because he was picked to bat at No. 3, a very unfamiliar position. At Yorkshire he's always batted around No. 5, never batted three. So Gary was batting to keep a place in the team, a wicket had gone down, unfamiliar [situation], new ball and the bowlers are at their best. I think it was tough, really, really tough.

Joe Root, who's a wonderful player and got slightly more runs - got a big double-hundred and a big 150 in the summer here, was secure in his place. He played a number of Tests before, he had been tried to open and at No. 3 and so on. He'd been up and down and been on tour to Australia. He played more Tests and has been around more, he got big centuries, but I just think Gary Ballance's was a superb effort.

VD: Let's take a more technical question now. Michael Burke from the United Kingdom says: Geoffrey, as probably the greatest batting technician the world has ever known, do you feel that modern bats and the advent of even more protection with new helmets is detrimental to the long-term development of a batsman's technique against fast bowling at the highest level?

GB: Top question, this. I agree. Yes, the protection that's given to players through helmets and visors in particular gives them the security that previous eras never had. Before helmets, every batsman or tailender had to be exceedingly careful while trying to hook or pull a decent fast-medium bowler, never mind a fast bowler. If they got it wrong there was a good chance they would end up in hospital with a serious hit from the ball on the face or on the head. and nowadays you see tailenders hardly ever duck. Coming with helmets and visors, they have a dart at pulling the short ball or hooking fast-medium bowlers. Earlier it used to be too risky, too dangerous. Now these tailenders feel so safe they don't get in good positions to have a hook or pull, they don't look to duck or sway, they just stand up and waft away at the ball, and that's why you are seeing more people get hit. That never happened in the '60s and '70s when I played. I can't speak of the years before that, since I was not playing, but I'm pretty sure it was very similar.

A ball's hit the splice, the guy's got in a tangle, but with armpads, chestpads, helmets, visors, it saves them from serious injuries. The other thing is there are very few fast bowlers around. Mitchell Johnson, Dale Steyn… other than that, there's nothing around. It's fast-medium bowlers. Heavy bats you mentioned, I don't think they are having an effect on technique against fast bowling.

The blow that forced Stuart Broad to retire hurt, England v India, 4th Test, Old Trafford, 3rd day, August 9, 2014
"The reason they don't close the gap between the helmet peak and the visor is that the players feel they can't see properly. The visor edge will get in the way of their vision" © PA Photos

VD: Geoffrey, if you had the helmet to play with from the beginning, how many more runs do you think you would have scored?

GB: I don't think it helps necessarily to score more runs. I think it helps to not get injured. The Stuart Broad injury was one in a million, that happens. They leave enough room between the helmet peak and the visor. So technically if the ball hits exactly there, it could go through. And the reason they don't close it up more is that the players feel they can't see properly. The visor edge will get in the way of their vision. And so it's a kind of one in a million that. But most of the time they get hit on the helmet or the grille, and it's a bit of a shock, they take a minute or two to just come to the senses. I don't mean they've lost them but just to settle down. It's quite a shock getting hit but they realise they are not hurt, settle under the helmet and carry on. And it's a different ball game. I don't think it would have helped to get more runs. And in fact I'm not sure if it would help me play better, because when you didn't have a helmet you really, really had to watch the ball. Because if you took your eye off it there's a serious injury coming and then it's the hospital for you. So you learn to duck, to leave, to get out of the way, and that made you a better player, a better judge.

VD: That brings us to the last question of the show. Ashok from the United States asks: In a Test match, why do you always see openers standing in the slips? Is it because they get to see the ball movement while standing more in the slips, than any other fielding position? Who do you rate the best modern-day slip catcher?

GB: It's hard for fast bowlers to field in the slips. In the slips the concentration has to be absolute 100%. When you get a guy bowling, in particular a fast bowler, it's very physical for you. You have to give a lot of physical energy, you sweat, you get tired, and nearly always they are better off in the outfield. Why?

I say "rested" in inverted commas because you are not rested. But it demands less concentration and they can wander around. When you are hot you think how you can't sit still, you can't stay still yourself. Wandering around is all right because you move in a few yards as the other bowler tries to bowl. And it does give them a little bit of a rest period.

Look, James Anderson for England is a good example of a fast-medium bowler who's an absolutely brilliant slip fielder. He really is. And sometimes when he's not bowling, he does it. But other times he rests in the outfield, he goes to mid-off, extra cover or something. It has nothing to do with seeing the ball movement, nothing at all. I can pick people out from when I played - Mike Hendrick from Derbyshire, he was a brilliant slip fielder. Bob Willis in his young days was brilliant. Yes, you saw in the older days later on when he got stiff and couldn't field at slip. In his young days he was a brilliant slip fielder. Ian Botham - excellent slip fielder, top class. Graeme Swann in recent times. A spinner who was a top-class slipper. I can think of many people. Terry Alderman from Australia was a fast-medium bowler like Anderson and was a brilliant slip fielder. He was there all the time, it didn't seem to bother him when was bowling.

Best modern-day slip catcher. I'll give you three - Mahela Jayawardene, Ross Taylor and Michael Clarke. Take your choice.

VD: Geoffrey if you had to pick one, who would you pick?

GB: No, you don't get me on that. I'm really not sure. All three are good. People always want you to say who is the best batsman, who is the best bowler, it's not quite straightforward.

VD: So that's all we have from this show of Bowl at Boycs. Geoffrey Boycott will join us again in two weeks, send in your questions and feedback via our feedback form and we'll try to take as many questions as possible. Till then enjoy the cricket, goodbye and good luck!

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