Whatever Geoffrey Boycott was up to in calling for the sacking of the England coach, Duncan Fletcher - mischief, personal publicity, heartfelt sincerity were contenders of varying magnitude - he may have chosen the wrong adversary.
Ashley Giles, veteran of the squad and respectful as they come, replied witheringly to the demand here yesterday.
"We all come in for criticism for our play and some of it is valid, but I don't think this is valid at all," said Giles. "I'm hoping Fletch will not take it to heart because I think it's quite ridiculous. It's disappointing because I think it's quite a personal attack as well."
Boycott said that Fletcher had reached the end of his shelf-life and that the time had come for a change in the dressing-room. "After a while a coach runs out of new ideas and the players get too comfortable and complacent with him," said Boycott.
He had been expressing those opinions privately and often before the pitiful Champions Trophy performance against Australia last Saturday. On deciding to go public, he must have known that the views of a former England batsman who still has the public ear would generate wider publicity. It was difficult to see what he hoped to achieve save enlisting camp followers and the comments could almost have been designed to cause unrest in the squad.
Giles said: "Fletcher doesn't seem to get a lot of praise from this certain individual - when the team does well, it's down to the team and the captain. Yet when the team does badly it's all the coach's fault. Fletch is very strong-minded. He's very quiet and keeps a lot to himself but he has a huge amount to offer this team still, particularly going into this tough winter. I've not played under any other coach who tries to look for newer ways to improve your game." Giles's colleague Paul Collingwood said he was surprised and baffled by the call.
Of course, Boycott could, as a pundit, counter that such responses justify his attitude. But the general feeling was that, though England have played increasingly poor limited-overs cricket, Fletcher's side won the Ashes just 13 months ago.
Giles, who is with the squad as a non-player in the final stages of his recovery from a hip operation, confirmed that he is on course to be fully fit for the first Test against Australia in Brisbane. He might shortly expect calls from Boycott for him to retire.Reuse content