Diogenes, commenting on ‘Expect the Unexpected’ provides facts, analysis and questions that expose the shallow waters of Third Man’s impressionistic piece. Where TM capitulates like a panic-seized dressing room Di inquires and searches for truth. TM’ll try to do better with this.
In the first Test, Law batted where others might have inserted. The Sri Lankan coach may have seen the risk of delaying the trial his batsman must soon face, and calculated that, by inviting pressure, batting first might foster a sense of responsibility in a way that would speed up his side’s acclimatisation like a cold dip in the briny.
The worst of times for the visitors may thus have been the very circumstances that arose when they were ‘inserted’ by England’s declaration on Day 5. The early fall of wickets, including two ‘great’ players, would have swept away the rigging like a bark dismasted in a tempest.
Diogenes then raises the issue that is uniquely Geof Boycott; namely his inability to see any doubt in the dismissal of Pietersen and his cheek, as a one who was dropped for his slow and selfish batting, in criticising Trott.
Third Man has come to wonder whether in fact Boycott is now so self-aware (after much CBT) and so steeped in Austin (after much discussion at All Souls) that everything he says and does is super-ironic. Otherwise his boorishness makes as much sense as the attractions of a ‘shock-jock’. ‘Active but odd’, comes to mind.
It is impossible to rate Trott’s innings without knowing the instructions he was under.
The reaction of his team mates does not suggest that these instructions were other than those he appeared to be carrying out. That is not to deny that a characteristic of his batting is its metronomic pace.
His first hundred came in 196 balls, his second in 202. But, then, on how many occasions in Test cricket does a team require something other from their Number 3 than a double hundred so scored?
Does it seem to affect negatively his batting partner and those yet to bat?
It would seem not. When Trott joined Cook the latter was going well. Trott took a greater share of the strike than the established batsman at a rate of 2:1, with singles off balls 5 or 6 featuring consistently, but the Vice Captain appeared unconcerned and may have welcomed the rest.
Some batsmen are very difficult to bat with. They take the strike when they should have a mind to the requirement for rhythm of their fellow batsmen. Some consistently seek the easier end. Some spread their nervousness like the measles. Some disrupt concentration with their poor running. In short: some irk, some shirk.
But this is a ‘solid unit’ that has come through the Australian and World Cup experience with its highs, its exhaustion and its lows. They are playing at a level greater than the sum of their individual talents. Trott is ‘one of us’, one of the Band of Brothers, which Boycott never was.
Only Close in an early Gillette Cup Final ever managed to make him risk his wicket to dominate an attack for the good of the team. The result was awesome but never repeated. The lesson unlearned. The potential unrealised.
The pit village escapee, with his aproned mother, settled back into being a cricketer who irked, who wasn’t the quickest to take the toughest end and who was a dreadful and selfish runner.
His grit, determination and public image propelled him from awkward rooky to dressing room isolate before he could say, “Good shot, Geoffrey” as he repeatedly did to the vexation of every side he played against.
But was it his fault that he was given the mantle of the ‘never say die’ Brit soldiering on when all about him was crashing down (often because of his own part in creating pressure for others to shoulder)?
As John also commented this week, in the Fifties England were the best team in the world. The Sixties, that saw the rise of Boycott also saw ‘The Wind of Change’ blowing through the game with the rise of the fortunes of other national sides besides Australia. Those who pined for the loss of Empire had only this odd man from Fitzwilliam to console them.
It was a heavy burden for one so unsophisticated. Perhaps Boycott’s service to humanity is to be the living embodiment of a Cautionary Tale – not so much in his own behaviour but in that of those who used him to cling to the past because they could not greet change any more imaginatively.