Geoff Boycott May 6, 2014

Never another like Geoffrey

Boycott represented a peak moment in the evolution of the game - the natural conclusion of a long era
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If you lived in the UK in the 1970s, chances are you didn't miss watching Boycott's momentous achievement © PA Photos

Michael Vaughan recounts a tremendous Geoffrey Boycott story about going to visit the great man at his home in South Africa, where he appeared on his balcony wearing a T-shirt and not much else. On the front it read: "Were you there?" and on the back simply: "Legend. Headingley, 11 August 1977."

I wasn't there on that long-gone summer's evening when Boycott completed his hundred hundreds with a dream-like on-drive from one of Greg Chappell's wobbly seamers, but I know exactly where I was: me and my dad, who had left work early to see if Geoffrey could do it, were in our next-door neighbour's living room, all staring intently at the television as Chappell ran in. In truth it was an undistinguished delivery for such a momentous achievement, but that barely mattered. I understood that this was a moment of significance, indeed a moment that has never been, and will now never be, repeated: a batsman scoring his century of centuries in a Test match on his home ground, an innings played at a high emotional pitch with half the country looking on. In the 1970s there were three television channels in the UK. If you spent all day batting on one of them, then you were at the centre of a shared experience. Geoffrey's 100th century was water-cooler TV long before any office in England had a water cooler.

He was in the midst of one of his comebacks at the time, this one the most dramatic of all after three years of exile from Test cricket. It was the kind of situation that only Boycott could get himself into, its causes opaque to everyone but him. He was one of the few sportsmen, along with Brian Clough and Muhammad Ali, who in the pre-celebrity age reached beyond the sports pages and into the national consciousness. He could appear on Michael Parkinson's chat show or on the nine o'clock news, and people who didn't know anything about cricket knew who Boycott was.

That century is almost 38 years ago now, and Boycott the player is receding into the past. Many people who have heard him talk may not have seen him bat. I was just a kid but I remember the last part of his career. I saw him play in a John Player Sunday League match at my old home ground at May's Bounty. He opened and got about 20 before he was caught at cover, trying to force a boundary down the hill towards the school wall. I remember he wore a cap rather than a helmet, because one of the odd rules in the John Player League was that bowlers could only have a limited run-up - eight yards, marked with a chalk line on the outfield.

He represented a peak moment in the evolution of the game, the point at which batting reached the kind of technical perfection that uncovered pitches and a league of very fast bowlers had been demanding for several generations

I was urged to watch Boycott bat by my dad. Geoffrey was his hero on account of his impeccable technique. He bought me a book called Boycott On Batting, an instructional manual which, up the side of each page, had a series of pictures that worked like a flicker book and let you see Geoffrey performing the forward and back-foot defence, a cover drive and a pull shot. That's what life was like before Youtube, kids.

Geoffrey was 36 when he made his 100th hundred, and he went on to make another 51. Fifty one!

To place that figure in context, Mike Atherton made 54 first-class hundreds in his career. Kevin Pietersen has 49.

Boycott was ruthless in his way, but he understood how hard the game is. His batting was awesome in its proficiency, but he never made it look easy. His effort was palpable, whether it was manifested through the thousands of hours in the nets, in his obsessive nature, the meticulousness of his preparation, the depth of his concentration, the obviousness of his despair when it went wrong. His struggle was the point: it gave his successes a soulful weight that sustained his desire for so long. As a young player, it felt impossible to emulate the obvious genius of Barry Richards or King Viv, but Boycott offered another way.

The edifice of his stats is vast and unapproachable, news from another, bygone age. One-hundred-and-fifty-one first-class centuries - no one's going to do that again, or make a thousand first-class runs every season for 23 years. No one is ever going to bat like Geoffrey Boycott again either, but he represented a peak moment in the evolution of the game, the point at which batting reached the kind of technical perfection that uncovered pitches and a league of very fast bowlers had been demanding for several generations. Batting would - and does - continue to change and reinvent itself; Boycott presented it with the natural conclusion of a long era.

When he had to let it all go and give in to the years, it shattered him. He couldn't keep a bat in his house after he had retired, because it was too painful to pick it up. The memories surged through him. Before his passion was leavened by cancer and the passing of time, he said that he would give up the rest of his life for five more years of batting at his peak.

To me, though, he was never finer than in those last years as he raged against the fading light. Everyone remembers Michael Holding's over to him in Barbados in 1981, indeed it's held over Boycott with a strange kind of glee, as if it was some kind of ritual humiliation. Yet he was 40 years old when he faced it, and he made a hundred in the next Test. He was unbreakable.

Boycott is an intriguing paradox of a man, about whom there are hundreds of stories, some good, many bad and others extremely funny. Here's a personal one.

He once attended the re-opening of Lillywhites sports store in Piccadilly. My dad had worked on the building, and was one of the many people there to see him. Boycott was in a rush but when my dad introduced himself and explained he was a fan, he took him aside and spent ten minutes talking about cricket as his driver waited, a small kindness that meant an awful lot.

John Arlott made a telling and melancholic point about Geoffrey. "He had," Arlott said, "a lonely career." That is true, but in essence the great batsmen are alone, or at least they are when they bat. Geoffrey is, in his quirky way, less alone now. I'm glad of that, and I'm glad I saw him play.

Jon Hotten blogs here. @theoldbatsman

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on May 7, 2014, 7:56 GMT

    GB played at my club (Tring) against Northants in a Refuge Assurance game when we were about 13. I distinctly remember him opening with Bill Athey and hitting cover drives in through the gap in the member's enclosure where we were all sitting; he was sublime. Mum also did the teas at the club and he went up to the table to get some food and complained loudly about the size of the triangle sandwiches to which mum replied "Don't bloody well have any then!" GB later apologised to her without being prompted after the game and after a long chat with us as kids listening in awe, he let me take his coffin out to his car and happily signed my "Who's Who Of Test Cricketers". What we'd do for his grit in the national team now......

  • harshthakor on May 6, 2014, 3:31 GMT

    Few cricketers in the history of the game have displayed the exemplary dedication of Geoffrey Boycott.He posessed phenomenal powers of concentration,water-tight technique and was the ultimate batsmen to bat for your life.Watching Boycott face the great West Indian pace quartet was like seeing a boulder defying a tractor.Arguably no batsmen knew the grammar of batting better and he was the hardest batsmen to dislodge in his era.

    Statistically his first class statistics were phenomenal being the only batsman ever to average over 100 run sin 2 seasons.He also took only 638 innings to score 100 centuries,slower only than Bradman,Compton and Hutton.

    Although he batted very slowly it was often a century or a fifty of Boycott in a low scoring 1st innings that set the base for a victory Sadly often he batted for himself,against the overall interests of the team.In the final count it is his phenomenal consistency that secured him a place amongst the great batsmen of all time.

  • Big_Chikka on May 9, 2014, 22:10 GMT

    he played against some feisty bowling attacks, and did well,still like listening to him talk about the game, a cricketer at heart i think.............

  • on May 8, 2014, 14:08 GMT

    I watched the terrific innings of 146 Richard Turner mentions above. A few years later, playing golf against Surrey CCC, I discussed it with a couple of their bowlers. They had the idea "bowl full to Boycott -- he doesn't drive". That day he DID drive; the Surrey plan thus backfired. Boycott (and Close) enjoyed that bowling! For those who didn't see him play it's worth mentioning that people tended to keep their eye on Boycott even when he was just fielding -- from my memory, generally cover or thereabouts. Somehow he stood out.

  • ygkd on May 7, 2014, 22:44 GMT

    @waspsting - Yes, Gooch wasn't all that pretty which is probably why I personally remember Boycott's innings more affectionately. As for strike rates, (which wasn't my point in mentioning Gooch, although it was with Tavare) Gooch did bat at about a 10% faster clip in ODIs than Boycott, but then he was still playing over a decade later than Boycott, when strike rates and team scores did increase overall. Thus, if you take that into consideration, wherein lies the difference? Strike rates for Tests in Boycott's era were not something always considered. Boycott was a product of his times. I wasn't trying to compare Boycott with Gooch and Tavare etc, but rather point out that people seem to sometimes have an opinion formed of him which is totally second-hand (not everyone was around back then) or, even if they were, perhaps too influenced by the public thoughts of others. One can bat slowly without being boring. One can bat quickly and be as boring as watching the outfield grass grow.

  • bford1921 on May 7, 2014, 22:25 GMT

    a bloody minded man, that showed in his performance. Valued his wicket, in a game where to win taking 20 wickets was the primary requirement. Stood up to the best bowling around but never really a team man. He would walk into any test side in the world today. We now all benefit from the effort he put into batting as he dissects batting techniques with a man who understands how to play all types of bowling. A man you shouldn't like, but yet I find myself admiring immensely, not blessed with the talent of other players but squeezed out every bit out of what he had. If only others had his dedication.

  • Divinetouch on May 7, 2014, 19:25 GMT

    Gavaskar was way better than Boycott as a batman.

  • Insightful2013 on May 7, 2014, 18:51 GMT

    Lovely article. I admire Boycott tremendously for his temerity, tenacity and facing the music. He is a man to have a few pints with and a guaranteed good conversation. However, he appears to be selfish and grumpy. The attributes of a wonderful Granddad. Always cross! I cannot admire in the least his approach to batting or his technique. Too selfish and uninteresting! I use to have Yorkshire in-laws and rellies and they were the same. Opinionated and stubborn and all had 3 or more A levels. Well smart they were, except where social norms were required. That is Boycott, in my opinion!

  • Almaz on May 7, 2014, 16:54 GMT

    Re - pushes comment. If Yorks were playing the 1980 West Indies Team I'd want Boycott opening the batting. Sutcliffe was never, to my mind, tested against sustained high pace from 3 or 4 very quick bowlers. In Hutton ' s early career Australia did not field a great fast bowler. When Miller and Lindwall came along he stood up well.

  • nafzak on May 7, 2014, 15:42 GMT

    There is and will only be one Geoffrey Boycott. Many of us are too consumed with T/20 and fast scoring these days that we forget what it takes to be an openening batsman in a cricket match. Look, I love the entertainment value of T/20 batting, but let us not compare it to batting in a Test match. Even the bats of today offer a lot more power and are way lighter that in the days of Boycs. Not to mention the pitches (wickets), which are now much more favourable to the batsmen. As a West Indian, I did not care much back in the 70's for Boycs, but after he retired, the respect and appreciation began and contnue to sink in. The man was simply a legend. Also one of the 1st cricketers if not the 1st., to have a likenes of himself at Madame Tusaauds in London.

  • on May 7, 2014, 7:56 GMT

    GB played at my club (Tring) against Northants in a Refuge Assurance game when we were about 13. I distinctly remember him opening with Bill Athey and hitting cover drives in through the gap in the member's enclosure where we were all sitting; he was sublime. Mum also did the teas at the club and he went up to the table to get some food and complained loudly about the size of the triangle sandwiches to which mum replied "Don't bloody well have any then!" GB later apologised to her without being prompted after the game and after a long chat with us as kids listening in awe, he let me take his coffin out to his car and happily signed my "Who's Who Of Test Cricketers". What we'd do for his grit in the national team now......

  • harshthakor on May 6, 2014, 3:31 GMT

    Few cricketers in the history of the game have displayed the exemplary dedication of Geoffrey Boycott.He posessed phenomenal powers of concentration,water-tight technique and was the ultimate batsmen to bat for your life.Watching Boycott face the great West Indian pace quartet was like seeing a boulder defying a tractor.Arguably no batsmen knew the grammar of batting better and he was the hardest batsmen to dislodge in his era.

    Statistically his first class statistics were phenomenal being the only batsman ever to average over 100 run sin 2 seasons.He also took only 638 innings to score 100 centuries,slower only than Bradman,Compton and Hutton.

    Although he batted very slowly it was often a century or a fifty of Boycott in a low scoring 1st innings that set the base for a victory Sadly often he batted for himself,against the overall interests of the team.In the final count it is his phenomenal consistency that secured him a place amongst the great batsmen of all time.

  • Big_Chikka on May 9, 2014, 22:10 GMT

    he played against some feisty bowling attacks, and did well,still like listening to him talk about the game, a cricketer at heart i think.............

  • on May 8, 2014, 14:08 GMT

    I watched the terrific innings of 146 Richard Turner mentions above. A few years later, playing golf against Surrey CCC, I discussed it with a couple of their bowlers. They had the idea "bowl full to Boycott -- he doesn't drive". That day he DID drive; the Surrey plan thus backfired. Boycott (and Close) enjoyed that bowling! For those who didn't see him play it's worth mentioning that people tended to keep their eye on Boycott even when he was just fielding -- from my memory, generally cover or thereabouts. Somehow he stood out.

  • ygkd on May 7, 2014, 22:44 GMT

    @waspsting - Yes, Gooch wasn't all that pretty which is probably why I personally remember Boycott's innings more affectionately. As for strike rates, (which wasn't my point in mentioning Gooch, although it was with Tavare) Gooch did bat at about a 10% faster clip in ODIs than Boycott, but then he was still playing over a decade later than Boycott, when strike rates and team scores did increase overall. Thus, if you take that into consideration, wherein lies the difference? Strike rates for Tests in Boycott's era were not something always considered. Boycott was a product of his times. I wasn't trying to compare Boycott with Gooch and Tavare etc, but rather point out that people seem to sometimes have an opinion formed of him which is totally second-hand (not everyone was around back then) or, even if they were, perhaps too influenced by the public thoughts of others. One can bat slowly without being boring. One can bat quickly and be as boring as watching the outfield grass grow.

  • bford1921 on May 7, 2014, 22:25 GMT

    a bloody minded man, that showed in his performance. Valued his wicket, in a game where to win taking 20 wickets was the primary requirement. Stood up to the best bowling around but never really a team man. He would walk into any test side in the world today. We now all benefit from the effort he put into batting as he dissects batting techniques with a man who understands how to play all types of bowling. A man you shouldn't like, but yet I find myself admiring immensely, not blessed with the talent of other players but squeezed out every bit out of what he had. If only others had his dedication.

  • Divinetouch on May 7, 2014, 19:25 GMT

    Gavaskar was way better than Boycott as a batman.

  • Insightful2013 on May 7, 2014, 18:51 GMT

    Lovely article. I admire Boycott tremendously for his temerity, tenacity and facing the music. He is a man to have a few pints with and a guaranteed good conversation. However, he appears to be selfish and grumpy. The attributes of a wonderful Granddad. Always cross! I cannot admire in the least his approach to batting or his technique. Too selfish and uninteresting! I use to have Yorkshire in-laws and rellies and they were the same. Opinionated and stubborn and all had 3 or more A levels. Well smart they were, except where social norms were required. That is Boycott, in my opinion!

  • Almaz on May 7, 2014, 16:54 GMT

    Re - pushes comment. If Yorks were playing the 1980 West Indies Team I'd want Boycott opening the batting. Sutcliffe was never, to my mind, tested against sustained high pace from 3 or 4 very quick bowlers. In Hutton ' s early career Australia did not field a great fast bowler. When Miller and Lindwall came along he stood up well.

  • nafzak on May 7, 2014, 15:42 GMT

    There is and will only be one Geoffrey Boycott. Many of us are too consumed with T/20 and fast scoring these days that we forget what it takes to be an openening batsman in a cricket match. Look, I love the entertainment value of T/20 batting, but let us not compare it to batting in a Test match. Even the bats of today offer a lot more power and are way lighter that in the days of Boycs. Not to mention the pitches (wickets), which are now much more favourable to the batsmen. As a West Indian, I did not care much back in the 70's for Boycs, but after he retired, the respect and appreciation began and contnue to sink in. The man was simply a legend. Also one of the 1st cricketers if not the 1st., to have a likenes of himself at Madame Tusaauds in London.

  • Almaz on May 7, 2014, 14:41 GMT

    Interesting discussion of an interesting man. History is subjective. If an objective analysis of bowling quality is considered as well as pitch quality, I'd bet you would find Boycott opened the batting in a period that contained some of the best attacks the world has ever seen. Look what happens when England come up against one really quick bowler these days. Boycott had guts by the bucket load. Difficult sometimes? Maybe, but because he was his own man. I'd want him in my team and if you read his books, he respected strong captains. Slow scoring vs valuable runs? I watched Boycott bat against Middlesex in 1986 at Lords. He ground out 60 or so (memory fails), with "flair" players such as Jim Love struggling to get the ball off the square. Boycott was lambasted by some of the Press the following day for boring cricket. Result of game? Yorks won by about 60 runs! All is not what it seems, but one thing is for sure. When you look at bowling quality and pitches, Boycs was a great!

  • puskas on May 7, 2014, 12:57 GMT

    Geoff always had a strange mixture of arrogance, verging on a lack of respect for his contemporaries and downright belittling batsmen of later generations, with a balanced view of his place in tradition. He could only open for an all-time Yorkshire XI if the "selector" were creative, perhaps pushing Sir Len down to 3 and pretending that Wilfred Rhodes was a bowling allrounder.

    This is as I believe he sees himself. He would have been right at home partnering Herbert Sutcliffe on a bad wicket in an attritional Roses or Ashes match.

    His honing the skills of a previous generation left him unsuited to the novelties of his day - one day cricket - but as a beacon to modern players that the skills of an earlier age had value, too. I for one am pleased to have seen the purity of his style.

  • JJJake on May 7, 2014, 11:45 GMT

    as an Australian, Boycott's wicket was the one you really celebrated. He was so hard to remove. He was the rock of the English side.. and a great character to.

  • on May 7, 2014, 11:43 GMT

    Boycott was one of the greatest batsmen of the 1960's and 70's who made tons of runs against most teams. However, strangely enough, he didn't have much of a record against India (arguably the weakest team of all in the 1960's and 70's). Save for a slow double hundred against them in 1967 (for which he was dropped from the next test !) and I think a century in 1981-82, he really didn't achieve much against India. He was lbw cheaply to Abid Ali in the 1 st. Test (when he tried to rub the wrong leg but the umpire was not fooled !) and didn't play in the other two. In 1974 he became Solkar's bunny and again he dropped out for the next two tests !! Once Derek Randall was run out due to Boycott's slovenliness and during the lunch break, Randall demonstrated the same along with his infant son, much to the amusement of one and all. Interesting player, very interesting

  • flickspin on May 7, 2014, 10:33 GMT

    a lot of ex cricketers have huge respect for geoff boycott, ive never seen him play, apparently he could bat

    but my dad used to call all the kids in my street who were not batting aggresively enough a "boycott", apparently he could bat for hours and not score many runs.

    it soon caught on and we would call each other "boycott" if the scoring was not fast enough

    the insult for dropping catches was "tuffies" named after phil tufnell who was the worst fielder in international cricket at that time

  • Cool_Jeeves on May 7, 2014, 8:51 GMT

    After his comeback series, after nearly 70 tests, Boycott averaged 51. He was already 38. At the age of 41, he averaged 41, against the West Indies, over 9 tests, scoring nearly 675 runs, all as opener. That particular attack was the best combination West Indies put together, with all 4 quicks firing with terrific backups like Clarke, Marshall and Daniel.

    In this age, too much importance is given to glamour, style, aggregates, "strike rate", and other unimportant parameters (though they may be important from an individual cricketer's marketing perspective). But measured by the parameters that really count, Boycott was up there with the best, as a batsman.

  • waspsting on May 7, 2014, 5:52 GMT

    as much as Tests, perhaps uniquely. Took time off in his prime from Eng because he wanted to give his all for Yorkshire when he was made captain.

    - great bad wicket player (forgotten art, undervalued these days) and top player of spin. would've loved to see him take on Murali and Warne

    @ygkd - Gooch more boring than Boycott? Gooch wasn't pretty but he was a couple of streets a faster scorer than Boycs.

    - finally, not a "stylish" player. Gavaskar and Dravid were slow but graceful as could be which gave them aesthetic value, but Boycs for his technical correctness... didn't have touch that makes a player stylish.

  • waspsting on May 7, 2014, 5:46 GMT

    addressing several points -

    slow scoring - yes he scored slowly usually but that's not a bad thing. it was pretty common for openers to do so and I think there's a place for such a player in the context of a batting line up (as opposed to an individual). he brought stability to the middle for his side - I have no problem with it.

    "selfishness" - reading his books, I get the sense he was a "self-absorbed" man, but "selfishness" is neither here nor there as far as his play goes.

    how can trying to not get out and score as many runs as you can be anything but good for the side?

    he could be slow when team needed fast runs... just as Viv could be attacking when the team needed stability... that's not "selfish" in a -ve sense, more inflexibility of style.

    -courageous against fast bowling. his writings about what it was like I think reflects honesty, just how scary it can be to get in line with the quicks... but he didn't cave to fast bowling.

    -he valued FC cricket (cont)

  • whoster on May 6, 2014, 22:32 GMT

    There's no denying Geoff Boycott's greatness as a batsman, and whatever people's views about him are, that should always be remembered. It's unfair for some to suggest that his self-imposed exile was to avoid Lillee, Thomson and the Windies quicks. As Boycott himself argued, Thomson was an unknown at the time, and Lillee wasn't long back after an injury that nearly finished his career. He certainly showed great courage in 80/81 against the West Indies quicks - home and away, and aged 40, did better against them than most world batsmen.

    I don't think anybody could argue that sometimes Boycott's batting wasn't in his team's interest, but I'd put that down to his sheer dedication to his craft rather than selfishness. Whatever, Boycott should be remembered first and foremost for being a great batsman.

  • AndrewBT on May 6, 2014, 21:59 GMT

    I remember seeing GB bat on two occasions. The first time, I was nine: it was in 1980 at a benefit match for David Bairstow. Boycs scored 108 in quick time and then signed autographs for the huge line of children queuing up.

    The second time was in a Championship match at Abbeydale Park, Sheffield in 1985. The rest of the Yorkshire team where overwhelmed by a much stronger Surrey side, but Boycott carried his bat for 55* before coming out again in the follow on.

    My dad told me it would be a very long time before Yorkshire, or even England, saw his like again.

    Geoff Boycott's record for both county and country are immense and probably under-rated by many people these days.

  • on May 6, 2014, 20:58 GMT

    I remember watching that century on TV. Boycott was a contrary and often difficult character, and Arlott's description of "lonely" is probably right. But the great West Indian bowlers of the time prized his wicket more than any other (even when he was over 40). Malcolm Marshall had great respect for him even in his mid 40's. Boycott is still his own man at 70 odd, summarising on Test Match Special. it is certainly wrong to suggest he was unwilling to play fast bowling.

  • EdwinD on May 6, 2014, 20:03 GMT

    One piece of Boycott nostalgia that not many people comment on is that when he was dropped for 'slow-scoring' for his 246* he was going at 44 runs per 100 which is actually not that slow especially in that era...and England won the Test with half a day to spare.

  • EdwinD on May 6, 2014, 19:53 GMT

    @Martensad - your facts are incorrect - Boycott was 42, when the rebel tour was playes, and in those days international players were not big-earners like they are these days - Botham and Gower being exceptions. He was at the end of his international career, and justifiably looking for a final big payday. Finally, the other 'rebels' had to serve a 3 year ban, which if you consider an international cricketer's career as being around 10 years, was substantial - only Gooch and Emburey played more than 10 tests on their return.

  • on May 6, 2014, 19:08 GMT

    "Every time someone reaches 100 hundreds, commentators say he will be the last person to do so". I remember that being pointed out back in the 80s, and several people have got there since. So we can always hope that an exceptional player - another Mark Ramprakash, perhaps - will make a test comeback and repeat Geoffrey's feat of making his 100th hundred in a test.

  • steve48 on May 6, 2014, 16:22 GMT

    Lovely article, genuinely affectionate. Only in England perhaps, do dressing room tensions so colour the nation's view of a highly successful sportsman, media bandwagon I guess. For example, a flippant comment from Tony Greig about GB not fancying the quicks in order to force him to come and help us 75/76 is actually given credence by some, despite the heroic performance alluded to in the article, where he averaged 40 at 40 against perhaps the best Windies attack of all! Would be a national treasure in other cricket playing countries. For some reason, we accept, even take to our hearts, disruptive players who are gregarious; make no bones about your ambition and worth and we love to put you down! Great article, even greater player.

  • on May 6, 2014, 16:12 GMT

    This article is fantastic especially the part Boycott met the father of the author...that is what cricket is all about. Youngsters dont understand how thin bats were in those days. Your hands shook at you hit the ball..now you dont feel a thing.

  • Prodger on May 6, 2014, 15:05 GMT

    Amen to that! I worshipped at the Church of Boycott 63 to 86 inclusive. As long as Geoffery scored runs, however slowly, we were happy. The result of the game was immaterial, a pedestrian 50 made in 4 hours, obviously not out, was what we craved. Never again will self absorption reach such heights again

  • EdwinD on May 6, 2014, 14:57 GMT

    The best compliment you could give Boycott is that during the majority of his Test career, his was the wicket most cherished by the opposition.

  • BobCo on May 6, 2014, 14:16 GMT

    I was in Australia for a bit of last southern summer when Johnson was bowling at his frightening peak against the hapless English. Boycott was doing specialist comments for the radio and a couple of commentators made a comment to him about how he wouldn't have liked facing Johnson. Boycott's reply was priceless: come on, come on, back when I was playing we had the West Indies, who had 4 Johnson's, not one like this England team has to face. (or words very close to that) I got the impression that, contrary to his colleagues' views, he would have loved to be out there -- I had not heard of the 5 years at his peak for the rest of his life comment, but it fits him perfectly.

  • on May 6, 2014, 13:53 GMT

    Following the 1971 Ashes series on the Radio was enjoyable. - Geoff Boycott and Brian Luckhurst scoring tons of runs. In-fact the whole English team under Ray Illingworth in that series were very special. From the fiery John snow to reliable Alan Knott at no.7 and the best the world has seen behind the stumps. Then there was John Edrich at No.3, Keith Fletcher at 4, Basil D'Oliveira at 6 and his ability to break partnerships. Derek Underwood who was almost unplayable on drying wicket. That was a very good side.....

  • on May 6, 2014, 12:37 GMT

    Great article about a controversial but equally dedicated personality!

  • Martensad on May 6, 2014, 12:17 GMT

    I can never forgive him for joining the rebel tour to South Africa, and don't understand how he and other English "rebels" were so quickly and completely reintegrated.

  • on May 6, 2014, 11:42 GMT

    Some people remember Boycott from the way he played at the end of his career, grinding out milestones at a rather slow scoring rate. I've always regarded that as extremely unfair. In his prime in the late 60s and early 70s he was most certainly a truly great batsman. I recall him going whole seasons without being bowled or out for nought. When it did happen in 1971 it was mentioned on the National News that evening. On 2 occasions he averaged over a hundred for a whole English cricket season, at a time when most of the Game's great performers were playing county cricket, not the backwater it has now sadly become. He was also the cornerstone to England's Ashes win in Australia in 1970-71 and in the Caribbean in 1968 and 1974.

  • funnykid on May 6, 2014, 11:37 GMT

    I consider myself lucky to have watched Boycott bat in a three day game at Services Ground Peshawar when England toured Pakistan in 1978. I was 17 then and studying in a College at Peshawar. We used to skip our studies and watch cricket match at the ground. He scored a century and was very hard to dislodge. Only left arm spinners created difficulties for him then. I think he got out to Raqib a left arm spinner and also in a test match at Lahore he was bowled by Iqbal Qasim, another left arm spinner. Now when he is on tv doing the commentary, I tell my grown up sons that I have seen this guy bat. He was a great batsman.

  • on May 6, 2014, 11:33 GMT

    1965 Gillette Cup final at Lords

    G Boycott c Storey b Barrington 146

    Yorkshire won by 175 runs.

    Maybe the best innings he ever played.

  • on May 6, 2014, 11:25 GMT

    This is beautiful, Jon. One of the best things I've read about Boycott.

  • on May 6, 2014, 9:52 GMT

    Lovely piece, John.

    I remember corralling Geoffrey in a Test match press box to ask him about a couple of games he'd lost to Minor Counties while at Yorkshire. He told me to bring him the scorecards at 8.30am the next morning. I did, and he generously gave me 25 minutes of his time, speaking with great magnanimity about the games and -- surprisingly to me, given his tendency, at times, to talk across others on TMS who haven't played top-class cricket -- listening respectfully to my questions.

    As an analyst of batting, a talker about the game, he has, I think, few peers. The key is that, despite the occasionally grating bumptiousness, he is sympathetic to the batsman's task, fully understanding that it's not a game of absolutes (although he of course strove to apply a 'model technique', where possible), but one of getting-the-job-done. And in that he has always moved with the times.

  • george204 on May 6, 2014, 9:48 GMT

    I love that 4th-from-last paragraph about the Holding over. I doubt whether any batsman of more recent times could have played it any better.

    Dickie Bird once wrote "Let nobody doubt that Geoffrey was a great batsman. If I had to nominate someone to bat for my life, it would be him". Hard to disagree with that.

  • TripleCenturian on May 6, 2014, 9:32 GMT

    The T shirt was something that a fans website The Corridor of Uncertainty , dreamed up to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the 100th hundred in 1977. I too have one at home. Mrs Boycott picked the winning design and afew were sold to raise money for charity although i suspect Geoffrey will have received a free one. The man was a batting legend who had to bat slowly on occasions due to the inability of others in both the Yorkshire and England teams to bat long enough. It was a shame that his period of leadership with Yorkshire came as many of the greats of the 60s retired and other counties drafted in 2 or 3 overseas superstars (proper cricket superstars) and not just the mediocre overseas players they snap up today. Boycott had to single handedly bat for Yorkshire on occasions. Yes, he could upset people, yes he could be selfish, yes he could bat slowly - but he was bloody good, technically correct and he can still spot a weakness in a batsman today that needs to be ironed out

  • MaruthuDelft on May 6, 2014, 8:17 GMT

    @harshthakor, Gavaskar was not much faster than Boycott if any. Observe fairness.

  • ygkd on May 6, 2014, 7:49 GMT

    I remember Boycott. Yes, at times he did bat slowly, but not as painfully slowly as Chris Tavare did in Tests, I seem to recall. At times he was boring, but not as boring as Graham Gooch was, I felt. Yes, he was probably stubborn, which may have contributed to an off-again-on-again career, but aren't good openers and Yorkshire cricketers supposed to be unyielding? Yes, batting today is different. Openers have a more attacking style, but then they're playing now, not back in the days when great fast-bowlers were everywhere and helmets were only worn when riding a motorbike. Was Boycott one of the best? Well, I remember him back when I was a kid in Australia. I would have said "yes" then and I'd still say that now. His batting was, after all, a product of the times.

  • Clyde on May 6, 2014, 6:51 GMT

    Good article. Boycott is my favourite batsman, and probably just because of his controversial personality. It would be interesting to know what kinds of people like what kinds of batsmen (and bowlers). The notion of cricket psychologist could be expanded from support staff to those who analyse not by, for example, an ink blot but by style of cricketer. Those who used the service could get a free pie.

  • elvis57 on May 6, 2014, 5:15 GMT

    Great article about a great batsman. I wasn't any good but he inspired me to try to open the batting for my local team...and I'm an Australian!

  • TheTrueView on May 6, 2014, 5:03 GMT

    a terrific heartfelt article about one of the greatest players of all time. Boycott deserves more credit and acclaim.

  • harshthakor on May 6, 2014, 3:44 GMT

    The most debatable aspect whether Geoffrey Boycott would be classed as a 'very good' or a truly'great' batsmen.In the technical sense he could be classed amongst the top 5-6 of all time with Len Hutton,Sunil Gavaskar and Barry Richards.His batting was like giving a lesson to school boy and was a perfect manual; for the coaching book.However Boycott batted excessively slowly which often reduced his team's chances of winning unlike Viv Richards or Greg Chappelll.Sunil Gavaskar resembled Boycott but kept the scoreboard ticking,far more consistently.No doubt his efforts in low scoring 1st innings won many a game for England but he often bored spectators and took the gloss out of batting unlike Viv or Barry Richards.

    On statistics Boycott would definitely be rated a great batsmen in test cricket and amongst the top 10 first class batsmen of all time.However morally his selfishness and lack of consistency in winning games made his evaluation as a true' great' debatable.

  • harshthakor on May 6, 2014, 3:44 GMT

    The most debatable aspect whether Geoffrey Boycott would be classed as a 'very good' or a truly'great' batsmen.In the technical sense he could be classed amongst the top 5-6 of all time with Len Hutton,Sunil Gavaskar and Barry Richards.His batting was like giving a lesson to school boy and was a perfect manual; for the coaching book.However Boycott batted excessively slowly which often reduced his team's chances of winning unlike Viv Richards or Greg Chappelll.Sunil Gavaskar resembled Boycott but kept the scoreboard ticking,far more consistently.No doubt his efforts in low scoring 1st innings won many a game for England but he often bored spectators and took the gloss out of batting unlike Viv or Barry Richards.

    On statistics Boycott would definitely be rated a great batsmen in test cricket and amongst the top 10 first class batsmen of all time.However morally his selfishness and lack of consistency in winning games made his evaluation as a true' great' debatable.

  • TheTrueView on May 6, 2014, 5:03 GMT

    a terrific heartfelt article about one of the greatest players of all time. Boycott deserves more credit and acclaim.

  • elvis57 on May 6, 2014, 5:15 GMT

    Great article about a great batsman. I wasn't any good but he inspired me to try to open the batting for my local team...and I'm an Australian!

  • Clyde on May 6, 2014, 6:51 GMT

    Good article. Boycott is my favourite batsman, and probably just because of his controversial personality. It would be interesting to know what kinds of people like what kinds of batsmen (and bowlers). The notion of cricket psychologist could be expanded from support staff to those who analyse not by, for example, an ink blot but by style of cricketer. Those who used the service could get a free pie.

  • ygkd on May 6, 2014, 7:49 GMT

    I remember Boycott. Yes, at times he did bat slowly, but not as painfully slowly as Chris Tavare did in Tests, I seem to recall. At times he was boring, but not as boring as Graham Gooch was, I felt. Yes, he was probably stubborn, which may have contributed to an off-again-on-again career, but aren't good openers and Yorkshire cricketers supposed to be unyielding? Yes, batting today is different. Openers have a more attacking style, but then they're playing now, not back in the days when great fast-bowlers were everywhere and helmets were only worn when riding a motorbike. Was Boycott one of the best? Well, I remember him back when I was a kid in Australia. I would have said "yes" then and I'd still say that now. His batting was, after all, a product of the times.

  • MaruthuDelft on May 6, 2014, 8:17 GMT

    @harshthakor, Gavaskar was not much faster than Boycott if any. Observe fairness.

  • TripleCenturian on May 6, 2014, 9:32 GMT

    The T shirt was something that a fans website The Corridor of Uncertainty , dreamed up to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the 100th hundred in 1977. I too have one at home. Mrs Boycott picked the winning design and afew were sold to raise money for charity although i suspect Geoffrey will have received a free one. The man was a batting legend who had to bat slowly on occasions due to the inability of others in both the Yorkshire and England teams to bat long enough. It was a shame that his period of leadership with Yorkshire came as many of the greats of the 60s retired and other counties drafted in 2 or 3 overseas superstars (proper cricket superstars) and not just the mediocre overseas players they snap up today. Boycott had to single handedly bat for Yorkshire on occasions. Yes, he could upset people, yes he could be selfish, yes he could bat slowly - but he was bloody good, technically correct and he can still spot a weakness in a batsman today that needs to be ironed out

  • george204 on May 6, 2014, 9:48 GMT

    I love that 4th-from-last paragraph about the Holding over. I doubt whether any batsman of more recent times could have played it any better.

    Dickie Bird once wrote "Let nobody doubt that Geoffrey was a great batsman. If I had to nominate someone to bat for my life, it would be him". Hard to disagree with that.

  • on May 6, 2014, 9:52 GMT

    Lovely piece, John.

    I remember corralling Geoffrey in a Test match press box to ask him about a couple of games he'd lost to Minor Counties while at Yorkshire. He told me to bring him the scorecards at 8.30am the next morning. I did, and he generously gave me 25 minutes of his time, speaking with great magnanimity about the games and -- surprisingly to me, given his tendency, at times, to talk across others on TMS who haven't played top-class cricket -- listening respectfully to my questions.

    As an analyst of batting, a talker about the game, he has, I think, few peers. The key is that, despite the occasionally grating bumptiousness, he is sympathetic to the batsman's task, fully understanding that it's not a game of absolutes (although he of course strove to apply a 'model technique', where possible), but one of getting-the-job-done. And in that he has always moved with the times.

  • on May 6, 2014, 11:25 GMT

    This is beautiful, Jon. One of the best things I've read about Boycott.