BOOK REVIEW: The old blocker cuts loose

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The Independent Online
PUT A BAT in Geoff Boycott's hand in the old days and you could guarantee runs (and occasionally run-outs). He was compulsive viewing whether for Yorkshire or for England. These days if you stick a microphone in his mitt you know he will have something to say, not just something, everything, anything. He is not so much a wordsmith as a production line of opinion.

Whatever the topic Boycott will broach it. And, agree with him or not, he is compulsive listening. So now that he is not cruising the mainstream electronic media outlets, it will no doubt gladden the hearts of his most fervent fans and most ardent adversaries to discover that he has produced a book (Ebury Press, pounds 16.99).

Naturally it is no ordinary tome. It bristles with his views on everything cricket (for example David Acfield, one-time chairman of cricket on the now defunct Test and County Cricket Board, is described thus: "A third- rate county spinner, who happened to be a Cambridge University graduate and international fencer", while in the same paragraph Boycott calls himself "a batsman with masses of international experience and an outstanding playing record").

His target area is wide, challenging what has been accepted as history. For example, Ian Botham's reason for pulling out of the 1982 rebel tour of South Africa. Boycott states: "This was a crippling blow... and it was not easy to take Botham seriously when he claimed his change of heart had been brought about by his friendship with Viv Richards - we all knew that his hand was on his wallet rather than his heart."

This is ultimately Boycott attempting to put the record straight, as he sees it. For example on that South African tour, for which he and his band of rebels were banned from Test cricket for three years, Boycott gives his side concerning his refusal to lead the party after the South Africans refused to accept Alvin Kallicharran (West Indies born but with English qualifications by then) as part of the England tour party. "Yorkshire's greatest son", as the book's sub-title dubs him, explains his reasons for walking out of a meeting with Joe Pamensky, explaining: "Various accounts... have been aired publicly, mostly to my discredit, but the truth is that I did not cause a major row or lose my temper... It is ironic that at time when I was standing up for Kallicharran I should be accused of supporting apartheid."

The disagreement between Boycott and Brian Close in 1984 is also given another rinsing, with Boycott concluding: "The sorry consequence of this farcical and prejudiced mismanagement is that only three of the 12 district representatives... possess first-hand experience of first-class cricket." And he then proceeds to lambast one of the trio, Phil Sharpe, claiming: "He sits on the fence so often I am surprised he does not have splinters in his backside."

There is one howler deserving of mention. When talking about the way Lenny Pascoe of Australia was pulled up by umpire Dickie Bird for giving Boycott a "working over". The anecdote loses something when Boycott writes: "Pascoe had been given full reign", confusing the rule of a monarch with the rein of the adage.

Still nothing is perfect. Get provoked anyway and add this to the collection because at worst it is entertainment. At best it may well prove to be accurate and worthwhile archive material.