Boycotting Reality

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.



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6 responses to “Boycotting Reality

  1. I didn’t hear Boycott commentating on Pietersen’s dismissal, but I did have the misfortune to hear the crowing he directed at the Sri Lankan commentator Roshan Abeysinghe as the collapse developed. No doubt Boycott would claim he was doing it in jest, but, as with many of Boycott’s comments, there was a distasteful undertone of malice and unpleasantness.

    Personally I’ve always quite liked him as a pure commentator. His technical knowledge is exceptional and I like the fact that he’s prepared both to criticize and give praise when he feels it’s due.

    He does, however, increasingly come across as an ignorant and unpleasant human being, his comments about Michael Yardy during the World Cup being typical of his utter lack of any sensitivity whatsoever.

    Drop him from TMS and bring back the excellent Mike Selvey.

    • Thanks for this comment Brian and for your greetings a few days back. The quality of your work at is a source of great enjoyment and a cause of much admiration. TM has even seen the Squire ‘thumb’ through its pages with the help of one of his Personal Digital Assistants.
      No doubt you will be discovered propping up the bar in Q stand with the rest of the cavalry tomorrow afternoon.

  2. diogenes

    thanks for the flattery, TM but your pieces often lead me to throw out questions and attempt to find answers. I am intrigued by the Sri Lanka collapse and think, if I understand rightly, that you might have found the reaason. They were not mentally prepared to bat again in the match – I am sure they would have expected England to bat out time. The loss of quick wickets then triggered a panic becuase they did not have enough time to nthink out the route to survival.

    Another comment about Boycott – a recent discourse by the Old Batsman on Chris Tavare brought back to mind the total stasis of his partnership with Boycott at Old Trafford in 1981 – before Botham enlivened proceedings. Boycott scored 37 runs in 170 interminable minutes. Their partnership was worth 72 runs in 156 minutes – extraordinary stuff. A very ordinary slow-left armer – Ray Bright – whom Boycott’s mother could play with a stick of rhubarb, sent down 12 maiden overs in this innings, most of them surely to this particular partnership. As the senior pro, surely Boycott should have attempted to score faster. Not thaqt Tavare was blameless but it was his third test match and he very obviously did not want to get out cheaply. The Australians had been bowled out for 130, conceding a lead of 100 runs, and the English foot should have been applied firmly to the throat. Their partnership seemed as if it were letting the Australians get back up.

    • Man is a time traveller. This can be his curse; that it is difficult to exist in the now without rslipping back into the past or lurching into the future unable to direct his attention, especially when caught by Surprise.

  3. Sadly, TM, I will not be making an appearance at Lord’s until 21st July, when India will be the opponents.

    I am, however, old enough to remember ‘Q’ Stand, although I rarely frequent it. I’m more a pavilion balcony or Warner Stand man.

  4. John Halliwell

    I suppose Geoffrey is, well, simply Geoffrey, as sharp and insensitive to the hurt he inflicts as the axe that chopped off the old King’s head. He certainly isn’t going to change the habits of a lifetime at 70. I smiled when revisiting Trueman’s autobiography ‘As It Was’, in which he recalls the feistiness of Boycott who was getting earache from Ken Higgs in a Yorkshire v Leicestershire match in the 70s:

    ‘Higgs denounced Boycott with a tirade of language that would have embarrassed Bernard Manning. Boycott’s reply was not exactly diplomatic either. The battle of words grew in intensity with every Higgs delivery, until umpire Don Oslear, in his first season on the county circuit, stepped in. Oslear spoke to Higgs. He then spoke to Boycott. It made not one iota of difference. Before Higgs delivered his next ball he issued a threat to Boycott. Boycott’s reply was not essentially conciliatory. Following Higgs’ delivery the two were at each other’s throats again.’

    I can’t see TMS giving him the boot, Brian. I bet they view Boycott as the Simon Cowell of cricket pundits – arrogant, outrageously self opinionated, provocative, and just what the younger listener wants.

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