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Geoff Boycott's Indian bore

As the England opener showed, there are occasions when the score itself is less important than the way the runs are accumulated

Martin Williamson

September 22, 2012

Comments: 39 | Text size: A | A

A rare attacking shot from Geoff Boycott as he crawled to 246 in almost ten hours, England v India, 1st Test, Headingley, June 8, 1967
A rare attacking shot from Geoff Boycott on the first day of the Headingley Test, where he scored 106 in six hours. "I had shown that I had the character to stick with it," he later wrote © PA Photos
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Scoring a Test hundred is the highlight of many players' careers; a double-century is an even more cherished landmark. But there are occasions when the score itself is less important than the way the runs are accumulated. When Geoff Boycott made 246 against India in Leeds in 1967, his achievement was not greeted with any pleasure - certainly not by those who had paid to watch it - and instead he faced the opprobrium of the media, and ultimately the chop from the England selectors.

Boycott's crime - not for the first or last time - was the tortuous way he batted on the first day, when in six hours he scored 106 not out. He had set out, noted an exasperated John Woodcock in the Times, to be there at the close, regardless of his responsibilities as a public entertainer.

Boycott had come into the Test in wretched form - his previous nine innings had produced 124 runs, including his only pair in county cricket - and there were many who were surprised that he was included in the first place. All the more so as the England selectors had said at the start of the summer that they expected a brighter approach to the game.

In front of a small crowd of around 5000 on his home ground, Boycott reached lunch on 25; he went 45 minutes without scoring midway through the session, and in the hour before the interval he managed eight runs. Between lunch and tea he made 50, and he added another 31 in the last session.

His critics had further ammunition from the fact India had lost two bowlers - Rusi Surti, who was struck on the knee, and Bishan Bedi, who pulled a thigh muscle - long before the close and neither bowled again in the match. "It was more of an occupation than any innings," Woodcock noted. "A defenceless army was hunted down," he wrote of India's weak attack. "Low birds were blown to pieces."

"He would have bored the spectators a good deal more had he not been a Yorkshireman," observed Gordon Ross in Playfair Cricket Monthly. "Perhaps it was as well that the match was not being played at Old Trafford. Every cricketer on the ground winced when he played a full toss or half-volley back to the bowler."

The <I>Daily Mirror</I> lambastes Geoff Boycott for his first-day crawl, England v India, 1st Test, Headingley, June 8, 1967
Boycott's innings drew a savage response from the papers the following day © Daily Mirror

Writing in the Daily Mirror, Brian Chapman said that cricket could "not afford to put in the shop window a joyless effort of this sort… nobody but Boycott could be blamed".

"I didn't expect praise for my first-day performance," Boycott wrote. "It was a grim-looking innings and I didn't need anybody to tell me that. But I had shown that I had the character to stick with it. The alternative was to give me wicket away and return to the anonymity of the dressing room. I was never conscious of the time factor... but when you are in bad nick you never seem to get half-volleys. And when you do play a shot, the ball always seems to hit fielders."

"In different conditions," explained Brian Close, England's captain, "such tenacity would be hailed as a masterly exhibition of the bulldog spirit. But on this first day of a Test, it was being viewed in a different light."

On the second day Boycott was more attacking, adding another 140 runs in a little under four hours. The press were uncertain whether that was enough to erase the memory of what had gone before. And Boycott himself denied that the criticism in the media had led to him changing his approach. "The undramatic fact was, I was happy to have got through the first day," he said. "I'd had a good night's sleep and felt considerably more relaxed in the knowledge that the runs were on the board."

A story was circulating that Boycott had been ordered to accelerate by Close at tea the previous afternoon. Both denied that, and indeed, when Close eventually declared, he made a point of publicly putting his arm round Boycott, "making it obvious," as The Sun noted, "that he was not dissatisfied with either his team or his No. 1 batsman."

It later transpired that a selector had instructed Close to speak to Boycott, but he had not done so. Boycott finished on 246 not out, made in 573 minutes off 555 balls. It was to be his highest Test score, and the highest first-class innings of a wet summer.

England wrapped up a six-wicket victory on the fifth day, after making India follow-on, but Boycott did not open the innings, nor did he even get to the middle as he had a twisted an ankle when he had trodden on the ball while fielding, and Close decided to keep him in reserve.

England's selectors met the following Friday to pick the side for the Lord's Test and few were surprised that they chose to drop Boycott. They had done the same to Ken Barrington - who ironically dominated a second-wicket stand of 139 with Boycott on the first day at Headingley - only two years earlier.

Geoff Boycott wakes the crowd as he reaches a painstaking double hundred on his way to 246, England v India, 1st Test, Headingley, June 9, 1967
Boycott reaches his painstaking double hundred © PA Photos

Close, who sat in on the meeting, later wrote that he had wanted to retain Boycott but was outvoted. "In view of the precedent created when Barrington was dropped, we had no alternative," he shrugged. Boycott was less than amused and said he thought it was obvious that Close "did not go in to bat for me". The selectors rubbed salt in the wound by explaining that Boycott had not been dropped for low scoring but for selfish batting.

Close told the media that Boycott was "good enough to take it and to bounce back to become an even better player". Sadly, it was not so straightforward and Boycott admitted that "the stigma of being dropped by England, apparently for selfishness, was to mark the rest of my career".

Close waited until the Sunday morning before telling his county colleague he had been dropped, admitting: "It was a bit difficult." To add to his problems, the pair of them shared a car to a friendly match they were playing in near Bristol.

Boycott did reply in the only way he knew how. While England were beating India at Lord's, he amassed 584 runs in four innings, during which time he was dismissed just once.

He was recalled for the third and final Test, at Edgbaston, but said the atmosphere was strained, especially with the selectors, and he felt under pressure from the off. "I was terrified in case I played a maiden over," he noted. "I felt as if the whole press box was waiting for me to play a defensive stroke."

Instead, he decided on a policy of all-out attack - "I was going to ping the ball like nobody's business" - and was stumped charging down the pitch to Bedi. "I had made 25, a significant blow for brighter cricket." In the second innings he was bowled by Venkataraman Subramanya - "a piddling medium-pacer about as formidable as I was" - for 6.

What happened next?

  • Boycott made only one more appearance in the summer, but was recalled for that winter's tour of the Caribbean, where, freed from the media spotlight, he once again found his touch
  • Close was sacked as England captain at the end of the season for controversial time-wasting in a County Championship match

The Cricketer Various
Playfair Cricket Monthly Various
Boycott The Autobiography Geoff Boycott (Corgi 1987)
Brian Close Alan Hill (Methuen 2002)

Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (September 25, 2012, 23:16 GMT)

Boycott might not have been the most thrilling batsman to watch, but if you needed someone to bat for your life, he was THE MAN! And I'm a Lancastrian. Besides, Boycott's 246 in 573 minutes off 555 balls is almost T20 batting compared to Chris Tavare's 147 in 710 minutes off 482 balls in the 5th Test against the 1981 Australians. I think I read somewhere that Tavare became the first man in the entire nistory of cricket to bat through two hours (not consecutive hours) without making a run in either! Yet Sir Beefy said it was the perfect innings for the game....he could play his shots knowing that Tavare would still be there. Botham scored 118 off 102 balls in 123 minutes and his 118 came out of a stand of 149 with Tavare! Could you imagine Tavare and Boycott batting together? It'd be like watching Eddie Charlton and Cliff Thorburn play snooker.....Jimmy White and Ronnie O'Sullivan could play an entire match while Thorburn and Charlton would still be playing the first frame!

Posted by peterhrt on (September 25, 2012, 12:00 GMT)

Above all, the dropping of Boycott was an insult to the opposition. The England selectors were effectively saying that a hundred against Indian bowling was worthless unless scored quickly, and a double hundred scarcely more significant. India had lost nine of her last ten Tests in England and never won one. Similar arrogance was shown towards Pakistan and New Zealand. Later that summer, Asif Iqbal overheard the man of the match award being decided as he walked out to bat, riling him into playing one of the great Test innings. Two years earlier Barrington was dropped after a slow century against New Zealand at Edgbaston. New Zealand had never won a Test in England either, and Pakistan just one, back in 1954 when the hosts over-confidently rested Bedser, picked five batsmen and no all-rounder, and Fazal made them pay. Of course after 1967 the tables would soon be turned. Four years later Pakistan enforced the follow-on at Edgbaston, and the Indians won their first series in England.

Posted by hotwife on (September 24, 2012, 20:18 GMT)

Laughable really. Givent that the scoring rates of the rest of the team werent exactly stellar it makes a mockery of the decision. Cowdrey scored 150 in the next test only marginally faster than Boycotts scoring rate, but was presumably saved the same fate because he was more aesthetically pleasing. I don't think Lillee's presence or not had anything to do with Boycott playing in '77. After all, he went on to play against him repeatedly in future years - and took a few centuries off him as well. No one could question his courage either. Even in his late 30's he batted successfully against the West Indian quicks.

Posted by ElectronSmoke on (September 24, 2012, 16:45 GMT)

Boycott could be a bit self-centered at times, caring a bit much about his record and stats... but this story shows proves the "enduring stupidity" of English selectors - a trend they proudly carry to this day.

Posted by whiskeysour on (September 24, 2012, 16:31 GMT)

This doesn't even come close to Gavaskar scoring 36 N.O opening batting in a 60-over ODI.

Posted by theswami on (September 23, 2012, 23:36 GMT)

I suppose even his mo'om could have batted faster ..... Boycott style

Posted by   on (September 23, 2012, 18:51 GMT)

Whither grace and art and beauty ? Certainly not in T20.

Posted by doubtingthomas on (September 23, 2012, 17:42 GMT)

That's classical test batsmanship y'all are pelting stones at. I don't see anything particularly wrong with the innings per se, but no doubt precedents about Boycott's approach helped this being blown out of proportions. So much so, that it's still being talked about 40 years hence. I genuinely enjoy Boycs' commentary and his delightful insights on cricket. We need more of that old stuff in cricket.

Posted by   on (September 23, 2012, 16:35 GMT)

Just goes to prove, England selectors then and now are no different from other selectors in other countries! To quote Jimmy Amarnath, "A bunch of jokers".

Posted by AdrianVanDenStael on (September 23, 2012, 10:58 GMT)

@george204: "There's also the small matter of the 1977 Ashes when he returned to the England side, scoring his 98th & 100th first class hundreds in the tests against Lillee/Thompson etc." Incorrect. Lillee was not on that 1977 tour, which perhaps partly explains why Boycott was willing to play in the 1977 Ashes, when he hadn't played in the 1975 Ashes series, even though his alleged objection to Denness was removed when Greig replaced him as captain.

Posted by george204 on (September 23, 2012, 8:45 GMT)

@ mikey76 - Dead right, Boycott had his flaws but lack of courage wasn't one of them. There's also the small matter of the 1977 Ashes when he returned to the England side, scoring his 98th & 100th first class hundreds in the tests against Lillee/Thompson etc. Actually England never lost a test match when any of their 3 joint record century makers (Boycott, Cowdrey & Hammond) made a hundred.

Posted by zoot on (September 23, 2012, 7:29 GMT)

Boycott was facing spinners on a first day pitch at Headingley so he deserved to be dropped.

Posted by kayarr on (September 23, 2012, 2:29 GMT)

A small point to note- perhaps the 60s was not a time when statistics played a key roles in the assessment and consequent dissection of player performances (e.g. the numbers game column by Rajesh). So it is possible that perception rather than reality clouded selectors judgments and perceptions and that might have led to Boycs being hard done.

Posted by Biggus on (September 23, 2012, 2:12 GMT)

Much as I'm no great fan of Boycott the batsman my understanding of his absence from the 74/75 tour had to do with him not wishing to play under Mike Denness, whom he made little secret of not respecting, although I can't help feeling that his feelings in regard to Denness may have had something to do with him thinking he ought to have been captain. Either way, they missed him greatly on that tour.

Posted by Baddabing on (September 23, 2012, 0:45 GMT)

So scoring at 25 runs per hour was considered very slow back then? I would suggest that about 80% of batsmen who have played Test matches could not do much better. Jayasuriyas 340 was scored at the same rate of 25 runs per hour, I dont remember anybody calling for him to be sacked? Brian Laras 2 big scores of 375 and 400 were scored at 29-30 runs per hour, as were both of Chris Gayles 300s,yet they were all hailed as heroes, the only real difference is that Boycotts innings resulted in his team winning the match,the others I mentioned resulted only in draws.

Posted by mikey76 on (September 22, 2012, 20:25 GMT)

To question boycotts courage is pretty stupid. He faced down Wes hall and Charlie Griffith in the 60's. When he was in his 40's he stood up to holding, croft and garner. Holding famously dismissing him in "that" over in 81 I believe. He met lillee in the 81 ashes as well as Len pascoe and Rodney Hogg so the whole avoidance thing carries no water. He was courage and grit personified, yes selfish. But surely that is a good trait in an opening batsman? Invariably when boycott scored hundreds England won test matches.

Posted by yorkshirematt on (September 22, 2012, 20:21 GMT)

Every man or woman in Yorkshire over the age of 50 claims to have been there to see this. And everyone over the age of 40 claims to have seen his hundreth ton at Headingley in 77!

Posted by   on (September 22, 2012, 17:09 GMT)

Rosspa, 250 from 600 balls of a bowling attack having Morkel, Steyn, Kallis is I think a little different from 246 from 555 balls against a 2nd string Indian bowling line-up where the fastest bowlers bowled slower than they ran. The selectors probably made an example of Boycott since - given the time he spent, he should have been leading the batting attack, rather than selfishly trying to plod his own way back into form. I have no arguments with those selectors.

Posted by FredBoycott on (September 22, 2012, 15:04 GMT)

Proper Cricket. We need more of this instead of this T20 stuff they keep dishing up. #digin is the way forward.

Posted by PakCricSpin on (September 22, 2012, 14:20 GMT)

What an awesome name - John Woodcock. :P

Posted by shillingsworth on (September 22, 2012, 12:16 GMT)

@scored-100-at-the-beach - Boycott 'dodging' Lillee and Thomson in 1974-75 is a frequently repeated fallacy. Prior to the series, when Boycott actually announced that he was pulling out, Thomson was virtually unknown and had a modest test record whilst Lilllee was returning from a major injury. His decision to miss the series was certainly inspired, but only with the benefit of hindsight.

Posted by   on (September 22, 2012, 11:17 GMT)

great article...keep such stories coming Mr.williamson..

Posted by Stark62 on (September 22, 2012, 11:16 GMT)


I couldn't stop laughing!!

Love the fact, he was dropped after this match but he deserved it.

Posted by abhyudayj on (September 22, 2012, 11:16 GMT)

perhaps The Trends continue Boycott era and Players should understand to follow ECB Instruction and played according and players are not bigger than Game

Posted by Mikecricket on (September 22, 2012, 11:15 GMT)

246 Still great though for a test match

Posted by maddy20 on (September 22, 2012, 11:13 GMT)

Why on earth would they sack him? SR of 44 is not bad for test cricket. Really weird!

Posted by   on (September 22, 2012, 11:00 GMT)

To those saying he shouldn't have been dropped for slow batting, and that there were slower scores made, i say remember the context, India lost 2 front line bowlers and were forced to use weaker bowlers for almost the entire match. It should not have been this hard to score.

Posted by vatsap on (September 22, 2012, 10:19 GMT)

Mr. Williamson, keep these stories coming. The stories of 60s and 70s put some of the current controversies in real perspective.

Posted by Rosspa on (September 22, 2012, 9:31 GMT)

Ridiculous. Of the eight scores of 50 or more in this game two were scored at a rate slower than Boycott's 44.32, two were just around ONE run per hundred balls more than Boycott (45.03 and 45.71) and of the remaining three none were struck at faster than 60 runs per hundred balls (49.73, 55.00 and 59.56)! Not to mention that Boycott was highest scorer in the game by nearly 100 runs and all when he was battling his way out of terrible form and making a huge contribution to the winning of a Test match! It just goes to show how Boycott was (and often still is) vilified and persecuted on the basis of his personality and his reputation rather than any kind solid evidence...Fair enough he was hated by some of his team mates and that can destroy a dressing room, but to drop someone for the slow scoring rate of a match winning double hundred in a test match is just absurd. Damn, England could have certainly done with someone to hit 250 off 600 balls this summer just gone against South Africa!

Posted by ygkd on (September 22, 2012, 8:56 GMT)

Was 246no off 555 balls pedestrian enough to warrant the sack? Surely not.

Posted by   on (September 22, 2012, 8:22 GMT)

C'mon. Boring? It was a TEST match. 30 fours and a six. AND ENGLAND WON. The second half of the innings was quite brilliant. His captain wanted his premier batsman to stay. The selectors of the time were pompous asses. I believe sometimes Boycott must have wished he was born in another country where the people were more appreciative of his skills. Edrich, Barrington and Graveney scored at a similar rate an Dasil was only marginally faster. 246 runs. Many of his detractors never had the feeling on accomplishment that comes with the achievement of scoring a double century.

Posted by rojclague on (September 22, 2012, 8:12 GMT)

I agree with Mark smith. Boycott scored a match winning double century and should not have been dropped.

Barrington, from Surrey, scored slowly and got the batsman award. Pataudi scored a total of 212 slower than Boycott.

Posted by   on (September 22, 2012, 8:06 GMT)

Would second Mark Smith - If a batsman in the 1960s is the cornerstone of your batting effort, scores some 45% of the total at 2.7 runs per over and helps a team achieve a run rate of 3.0 per over and helps his team win the test (remember this is the 1960s), it is preposterous to rubbish his effort considering that the final innings target was achieved at under 3.0 runs per over. If I recall, Javed Miandad's 260 at the Oval in 1987 was scored at less than 3 runs an over. I am sure that Glenn Turner's doubles in the West Indies were sluggish. I am also very sure about Gary Kirsten's doubles - he too played very slowly so they should certainly be on the wrong side of a 50% strike rate.

Posted by   on (September 22, 2012, 7:44 GMT)

Totally agree with Mark Smith and want to add that we Pakistanis are treating Misbah-ul-Haq in the same manner too although he has revived our test side to some extent with his patient approach. Almost everyone said Pakistan had no chance of surviving South African pace attack at Dubai but it was his approach that saved our faces but he was criticized for not trying to win one of those matches which I think would have been lost if he had got out. It looks as if things haven't changed during the last fifty years people want entertainment only laying foundation for a win or saving the day for a team means nothing to most of them.

Posted by Reverend-Cavalier on (September 22, 2012, 7:38 GMT)

As Tony Grieg said of Boycott: "Such a complex character." Selfish indeed and boring to watch. He dodged Lillee and Thommo in 74-75. They would have killed him.

Posted by george204 on (September 22, 2012, 7:38 GMT)

@ Mark Smith - yes, but that first hundred probably took over 300 balls & a strike rate around 30. As the article shows, he batted much more freely on the second day, probably scoring the last 140 at a rate around 70.

Posted by AKATAK23 on (September 22, 2012, 7:34 GMT)

It shows that the england selectors have struggled in the past and are now, with KP.

Posted by vishnuas on (September 22, 2012, 6:46 GMT)

so, there is nothing to be surprised about the KP issue.

Posted by   on (September 22, 2012, 5:24 GMT)

I find this a staggering article. When you consider Boycotts strike rate of 44 in the first innings, it was indeed better than several of his team mates, and indeed pretty much everyone in Englands 2nd innings when he was not even given the chance to bat. In the context of the game, I believe from this distance of time and space that his innings to be match winning.

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Martin Williamson Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.

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