On the Front Foot: Silence is golden as Fletcher's spat with Boycott rumbles on

  • @stephenbrenkley

To have a front-row seat at Newlands on Friday was the stuff of dreams. It was the confrontation all cricket-lovers had been waiting for at one of the greatest of all grounds. Geoff Boycott, legendary figure of the game, and Duncan Fletcher, a former England coach, were sharing a commentary box. But this was no normal exchange of press-box punditries. There was no exchange at all. Boycott and Fletcher do not speak to each other, as they cringingly demonstrated throughout the third one-day international in which both men were summarising for 'Test Match Special'. There were two occasions when they passed in the commentary box, as one took over from another at the microphone. On the first Boycott attempted a smile and a nod, Fletcher looked the other way. It seems Fletcher felt slighted by Boycott's comments about his time with England, culminating in a call for his departure, and is not about to forgive the slight. Fletcher, whose mean-spirited, self-serving memoir about his period as England's most successful coach was ultimately one of the saddest of autobiographies, spent much of the day avoiding those whom he adjudged former adversaries. He barely spoke to members of the press corps who gave him an easy ride until the last few catastrophic months when he became the first coach to guide England to a 5-0 Ashes defeat. He ignored many completely. Again it was a sad aspect to a man whose skills as a cricket technician are in no doubt. Boycott, still revered by millions, and Fletcher will renew joint 'TMS' duties during the Third Test at Cape Town, where Fletcher lives. Five days of two grown men not speaking should test the resolve of all their colleagues.

We're all going rupee loopy

The hot topic of debate on England's tour of South Africa so far is not the improvement in the one-day team, the dramatic change in strategy, the low-key return of Kevin Pietersen or the startling advent of Jonathan Trott. It is the infernal Indian Premier League. Every briefing seems to contain a series of questions about who may be joining the lucrative tournament. If it is not a distraction in the dressing room, it certainly is in the press box, where they are going rupee loopy. The IPL is becoming an annual spectre at the feast of international cricket that precedes it each year. Will he, won't he, should he, shouldn't he? Younger players are already being ensnared by the lure of the fast buck and Graeme Smith, South Africa's estimable captain, has alluded to it more than once on this tour. There is no easy solution but there is a sense of foreboding that cricket will be the loser.

Petersen's proud pop

It is a thoroughly pleasant journey from Port Elizabeth airport to the hotels on the seafront, and it was made more convivial yesterday by the company of Isaac Petersen. He is the taxi-driving father of the recent South African batting discovery, Alviro. Isaac is immensely proud of Alviro, who has scored half-centuries in the first two one-day internationals having been handed the middle-order spot of which Herschelle Gibbs has been relieved. Petersen, 29, had to move from PE to Johannesburg to get his chance in first-class cricket. "I'm hoping he'll stay at home tonight," said Isaac ahead of the fourth one-dayer.

Umar's heroics in vain

Radically contrasting fortunes in the First Test between New Zealand and Pakistan in Dunedin: Tim McIntosh became the 27th player to be dismissed by the first ball of a Test match, Umar Akmal became the 57th to score a century in his first Test innings. It was McIntosh, however, who finished on the winning side.