Sport Book of the Week

Click to follow
Geoffrey Boycott on Cricket

By Geoffrey Boycott Ebury Press pounds 16.95

THE FIRST reaction is imaginable and un- derstandable: so what's the Old Barmpot on about now ?

More than you think. Only devout and unreconstructed Yorkies need bother with the first three chapters, which deal with all the usual targets, including Fred Trueman, Brian Close, Bob Appleyard, Ray Illingworth, Richard Hutton; indeed they may well form part of a later publication - Memoirs of the Civil War.

"A woman called Margaret Moore" is mentioned on three pages, in passing, while Henry Blofeld gets a blast for withdrawing as a character witness. But all this is merely the froth on a pint of good old English ale.

Get to Chapter Eight, "The state of play in England", and this book suddenly becomes extremely relevant, trenchant, sharply analytical and bang on target. It begins: "English cricket is in a mess and the most worrying aspect of our ongoing national decline is the fact that no one with the power to change things is ready to acknowledge this basic fact."

He lists the errors made by the TCCB/ECB in the last 30 years, all of which are too obvious to be mentioned again here, making the equally obvious point that a successful England team will only emerge from successful county cricketers and, while the first-class game continues to be denigrated and handicapped, new stars will not rise.

He advocates 10 county teams but, knowing the counties will never vote themselves out of existence, proposes a dramatic method of raising standards: allow the counties to recruit as many overseas players as they wish. He would also imitate football's Premiership by permitting a proper transfer market with fees.

What else? He wants to scrap the "Mickey Mouse" Sunday/National League. It lacks "variety and any great skill". He has doubts about "the stampede towards the use of floodlights", pointing out climatic differences between the hemispheres.

Some leading England batsmen are analysed and there is a catalogue of the attempts to involve him in managerial or coaching capacities. Boycott knows his cricket and his cricketers but, until he is prepared to put his knowledge and wisdom to practical use, in public, in restoring English fortunes, he will continue to be marginalised in the commentary box.