25 JULY 1992, Page 47


Barmy about Boycs

Frank Keating

GEOFFREY BOYCOTT is back in the box-seat at Headingley. He has taken to the microphone with just as assured a certainty — and even more of a decorative flamboy- ance — as he occupied for all those years the two batting creases on the 'rugby side' and the Kirkstall Road end. To hear Geof- frey's Yorkie relishingly announce, 'This is a real creek-it week-it, this is' is going to be one of the singular catch-phrases for many summers to come.

It strikes me that very few former leading practitioners down on the field have trans- lated satisfactorily to the sports commen- tary-box, especially as 'inter-round sum- mariser', which is a very different job from commentating — certainly on television where pith is of the essence. Boycott knows his stuff like no other — both the aspects of pure technique in batsmanship, as well as the spiritual mettle required. He has always called a spade a shovel but now, in his criti- cisms, he is seen to be constructive instructive — and enlightening, at the same time enthusiastically keen to give credit where it is due. Nor does he chew inces- santly on growling personal grudges like some have done so tediously at the micro- phone down the years — Trueman on Willis, and Mosey on Botham, for instance.

As an inter-round man, Boycott is already in the top class of the late Ron Pickering at athletics; Jim Watt, the out- standing ITV boxing summariser, and Mur- ray Walker's sidekick at the racetrack, James Hunt. Mind you, meat to one man is another's poisson. Especially when it comes to broadcasting. So don't all write in at once over me being barmy about Boycs. In the Daily Mail last year, Ian Wooldridge, who has been at the game far longer than I, greeted Boycott's first full season at the microphone by launching a hostile bom- bardment of bumpers. Boycott's was, he wrote, 'a querulous, carping voice of cricket that leaves a sour taste'. The Yorkshire- man, he said, was 'the meanest-spirited commentator in the history of televised sport, incapable of voicing criticism with either sympathy or sensitivity'; and all this

`with a limited vocabulary and.no wit'.

Boycott admits that he was hurt sorely by the attack so early in his new career at the microphone — although, with his famous wonky, vulnerable grin on full tilt, he said the line that caused most offence had been Wooldridge's introduction to the article in which he claimed they 'had been friends for 27 years'.

His first full season in the BBC box coin- cided with Graeme Hick's debutant bow, also at Headingley, last year. The young man was out at once — hung, drawn, Curtleyed and Ambrosed. The nation pre- sumed it a one-off aberration for the new messiah of English batting. Not Geoffrey — it seemed at the time sacrilege for him to be saying, 'He never needed to play it, but his back-foot movement is all wrong basically against top pace.' Prescience which soon became all too apparent, alas.

Boycott calls it as he sees it, as he always has. At Old Trafford last week, Lewis is clunked on the pad — 'very adjacent', as they say. Up goes the appeal from Pakistan. 'Not out'. Over the slow-motion replay, Jack Bannister gives the umpire the benefit of the doubt, 'Yes, probably missing off- stump' — which Geoffrey caps with his wry certainty, 'Aye, and hittin' middle.'