|Full name||Geoffrey Boycott|
21 October 1940 |
Fitzwilliam, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
|Nickname||Boycs, Geoff, Fiery, GLY (Greatest Living Yorkshireman), Sir Geoffrey, Thatch|
|Height||5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)|
|Batting style||Right-handed batsman|
|Bowling style||Right-arm medium|
|Test debut (cap 422)||4 June 1964 v Australia|
|Last Test||1 January 1982 v India|
|ODI debut (cap 1)||5 January 1971 v Australia|
|Last ODI||20 December 1981 v India|
|Domestic team information|
|Source: CricketArchive, 7 December 2008|
Geoffrey Boycott OBE (born 21 October 1940) is a former Yorkshire and England cricketer. In a prolific and sometimes controversial playing career from 1962 to 1986, Boycott established himself as one of England's most successful opening batsmen and since retiring as a player, he has found further success as a cricket commentator. Boycott made his international debut in a 1964 Test match against Australia. He was noted for his ability to occupy the crease and became a key feature of England's Test batting line up for many years, although he was less successful in his limited One Day International (ODI) appearances. He accumulated large scores – he is the equal fifth highest accumulator of first-class centuries in history, eighth in career runs and the first English player to average over 100 in a season (1971 and 1979) – but often encountered friction with his team mates. Journalist Ian Wooldridge commented that "Boycott, in short, walks alone", while cricket writer John Arlott wrote that Boycott had a "lonely" career. Others, however, have stated that the extent of his introverted nature has been exaggerated, and that while he was "obsessed with success" he was not a selfish player.
After 108 Test match appearances for England, Boycott ended his international career in 1982 as the leading Test run scorer with over 8,000 Test match runs, earning an OBE for services to cricket. When dropped from the Yorkshire team in 1986 he was the leading run scorer in first-class cricket. In 1965 while still a young player he had been named as one of five Cricketers of the Year by Wisden, the cricket almanack, and he was inducted into the International Cricket Council's Hall of Fame in 2009.
After his playing career ended, Boycott became an often outspoken and controversial cricket commentator on both radio and television. In 1998, he was convicted of assaulting his former girlfriend Margaret Moore; he was given a suspended sentence and fined. In 2002, after being diagnosed with throat cancer, he underwent successful radiation treatment, and went into remission. He revived his commentating career in 2003, and continues to attract both criticism and praise. He is currently a member of BBC Radio 4 Longwave's Test Match Special commentary team, and in March 2012 became President of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, succeeded in March 2014 by Dickie Bird.
- 1 Early life
- 2 County career
- 3 Test Match career
- 4 Commentator, controversy and personal life
- 5 Playing style
- 6 Written works
- 7 Records
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Boycott was born in the mining village of Fitzwilliam, near Wakefield and Pontefract in the West Riding of Yorkshire. He was the eldest of three sons of Jane (née Speight) and Thomas Wilfred Boycott, a colliery worker from Shropshire. When Boycott was eight years old, he was impaled through his chest by the handle of a mangle after falling off an iron railing near his home. Boycott nearly died, and in the efforts to save his life, his spleen was removed. In March 1950, Boycott's father had a serious accident while working as a coalminer. His spine was severely damaged after he was hit by empty coal carts; Thomas Boycott never fully recovered, and died in 1967.
Boycott attended Fitzwilliam Primary School. There he won a Len Hutton batting award for scoring 45 runs and capturing six wickets for 10 runs in a school match. At age 10, he joined Ackworth Cricket Club, demonstrating "outstanding ability." At the age of 11 he failed the examinations that would have taken him to grammar school, and instead went to the local Kinsley Secondary Modern School. A year later, however, he passed his late-entry exams, and transferred to Hemsworth Grammar School. His cricket prowess was such that he captained the school's Cricket First XI at the age of 15. During winters he attended an indoor cricket school, where he was coached by former county professional Johnny Lawrence.
While studying for his O-levels he began to have difficulties reading the blackboard and was initially devastated when told he would need glasses. At first, he played poorly at school, encumbered by the fragile spectacles, before a more robust pair was fashioned for him at the behest of his uncle, similar to those glasses worn by cricketer Roy Marshall. His uncle would go on to be a strong influence on Boycott's early game. In 1958, Boycott left school with seven O-level passes and the school's Individual Cricket Cup. That summer he played for the Leeds United under-18 football team alongside Billy Bremner and attracted the attention of Leeds United scouts. During the winter he continued to play nets of uncle Lawrence.
Boycott told the BBC in 1965 that he chose to leave school at 17 because he no longer wished to be a financial strain on his parents, and because he wanted to pursue his cricketing career. He worked as a clerk in the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance in Barnsley from 1958 to 1963, at the same time playing for a number of cricket clubs. Boycott captained the South Elmsall district team, and achieved a batting average of 70. He also played for the Yorkshire Federation's Under-18 team, and for Barnsley, where he was noticed by Clifford Hesketh, a member of Yorkshire's County Cricket team committee.
Boycott began playing for his home county in 1962 after topping the averages for Leeds, Yorkshire Colts and Yorkshire Second XI. In 414 matches for Yorkshire he scored 32,570 runs at an average of 57.85, with a highest score of 260 not out against Essex, and 103 centuries in all. He scored another 8,699 runs in List A cricket, averaging 40.08. Boycott twice averaged over 100 in an English first-class season: 100.12 in 1971, and 102.53 in 1979. He is one of only two players to have achieved this twice, Mark Ramprakash being the other. Boycott was appointed captain of Yorkshire in 1971, but was sacked in 1978 after failing to win a trophy while in charge. He was then dismissed as a player, but reinstated after a members' revolt. During his career Boycott frequently clashed with other strong personalities at the club, including Fred Trueman, Brian Close and Ray Illingworth, but remained popular with the Yorkshire crowds.
Before he played in first-class cricket, Boycott played for the successful Barnsley Cricket Club, making his debut in 1959 and becoming a regular team member in 1959 alongside Dickie Bird, Bill Foord and Michael Parkinson. In one match, Boycott faced a delivery from Foord which he dispatched to the boundary for four. Foord turned to Parkinson and asked: "Christ almighty, what's this lad's name?" Bird remembered his "application, concentration and absolute belief in himself. He had one great gift, mental strength. You can have all the coaching in the world but the most important thing is to be mentally strong." Though Bird later left Boycott out of his choice XI, he would write: "of all the great players I have seen, if I had to pick a batsman to bat for my life, I would go for Geoffrey." He made his Yorkshire Second XI debut on 6 July 1959 against Cumberland at Penrith, scoring five and 15.
Boycott made his Yorkshire first team debut on 16 June 1962 against the Pakistan touring team. He opened the batting, scoring four in both innings – the first from a boundary off of his first ball in first class cricket – and taking one catch, but he did not bowl. He then went on to play his first County Championship match the next day, on 20 June, against Northamptonshire. Batting at number four, he scored six and 21*.
Early in his career, Boycott continued to play in his spectacles, and later switched to contact lenses. He feared his career would have ended had he not used such aids as his eyesight was poor. Boycott's initial appearances for Yorkshire failed to impress, and he was compared unfavourably to his main rival, John Hampshire. When Brian Close took over from Vic Wilson as captain of Yorkshire in 1963 he persuaded the committee to keep Boycott on, and was rewarded when, on 2 June 1963, Boycott scored 145 against Lancashire. His century was also part of a 249-run fourth wicket partnership which became a Yorkshire record. Boycott cemented his place in the Yorkshire XI in the 1963 season with successive scores of 76, 53, 49 not out and 50, and on 29 August made a century partnership in both innings of a match against Leicestershire with Ken Taylor. Boycott handed in his notice to the Ministry of Pensions that same year. After a brief loss of form he kept his place with scores of 62, 28 and 113 in the following matches. This second century again came against Lancashire, making Boycott the first Yorkshire cricketer to score his first two centuries in a Roses match, as the hotly contested Yorkshire versus Lancashire matches were termed.
Boycott went on to hit his highest score thus far, 165 not out, against Leicestershire, and ended his first full season with 1,446 runs at an average of 46.64, placing him second in the 1963 national batting averages. He was awarded his county cap on 2 October. At the start of the 1964 season Boycott hit 151 against Middlesex, followed by another hundred against Lancashire in May, and then played for the MCC against the Australian touring side at Lord's, where he scored 63. On 16 May he completed a third consecutive century, and on 31 May he was called up for the First Test against Australia at Trent Bridge. By the end of the 1964 season, Boycott had topped the country's domestic averages with 59.45.
Although he later became renowned for his ability to occupy the crease for hours of defensive play, he was capable of playing attacking cricket. His highest one day score, a match-winning 146, came in the 1965 Gillette Cup final against Surrey. In his previous Gillette Cup match, the quarter-final against Somerset, Boycott took 32 overs to accumulate 23 runs. According to captain, Close, at Lord's after Yorkshire had slowly reached 22/1, Close promoted himself to number three in the batting order so that he could urge Boycott into action. "I joined Geoffrey in the middle and said to him: "Listen, if I call, you bloody well run." Boycott later claimed this plan had been agreed on a fortnight previously, and denied such an incident ever occurring. Boycott subsequently hit 15 fours and three sixes, even though the modern-day fielding restrictions, which facilitate rapid scoring, did not exist in 1965. One shot, a lofted straight drive off England paceman Geoff Arnold was nearly caught by Boycott's team mates on the players' balcony in the pavilion. Close and Boycott added 192 runs for the second wicket, as Yorkshire posted a then record total of 317. Cricket writer John Woodcock wrote in The Times that "his magnificent innings contained every stroke in the book. "
In the 1966 season Boycott scored two centuries in one match for the first time, against Nottinghamshire on 18 July. Against Leicestershire on 15 June 1968 he carried his bat through an entire Yorkshire innings of 297 all out, remaining unbeaten on 114*. It was the first time he had been unbeaten at the end of an innings. He ended the season top of the national averages for the first time. On 27 July 1970 he scored 260*, his highest first-class score in England, against Essex. At the end of the season, Close was sacked by the club committee in what Boycott called in 1987 "one of the cruelest incidents in the history of sport." Boycott, on tour in Australia, was awarded the captaincy.
Boycott captained Yorkshire for eight seasons from 1971 to 1978, having been appointed following the sacking of Brian Close in 1970. Despite well publicised conflict between the two players, Boycott recorded in 1987 that he regretted Close's removal from the club, and wrote him a letter in admiration for his contributions to Yorkshire. To captain Yorkshire had been one of Boycott's aims since he started county cricket in 1962. Yorkshire's scorer Ted Lester commented later that Boycott "never got the support he deserved from the committee. After the captaincy was decided on a casting vote, the half that didn't want him never wanted him." Some members of the committee wanted to remove him almost immediately. He also caused strife between his fellow players, including a reciprocated dislike for Richard Hutton, with many players leaving the club citing personal differences with Boycott as the reason for their departure. After his first season as captain he spent the winter of 1971 playing in South Africa for Northern Transvaal. He played only one match, however, scoring 107 and 41.
Boycott's eight seasons of captaincy were among Yorkshire's least successful. The club failed to win any competitions and ranked low in the Championship table, in contrast to their one-time dominance of English cricket. The beginning of the end of his captaincy came after BBC Radio Leeds interviews in which two Yorkshire committee members and former players, Don Brennan and Mel Ryan, said that a change in leadership was needed. Boycott himself did not suffer a loss of form to mirror that of his county; in his first year as captain, he scored 2,503 runs at an average of 100.12, included a century in his first match as captain. His success was cited by Trueman as evidence that his selfish nature was harming Yorkshire. Boycott headed the national batting averages in 1972 with 72.35, and was second in 1973 with 63.62. In 1973, however, Yorkshire failed to win any of the 8 championship games with Boycott in charge, and Wisden called the season "disturbingly unsuccessful". It led to further calls for Boycott to be stripped of the captaincy. He was also coming into increased conflict with Richard Hutton, Close, and several members of the committee and senior players. "Looking back," Boycott wrote in 1987 "I wish I had given up the Yorkshire captaincy at the end of that year."
In 1974 Boycott's form dipped, when he scored only 75 runs in the first innings of the season, other than a non-championship century against Cambridge University. He did, however, score 152* against Worcestershire on 15 May to complete his tour of centuries against every first-class county. Both he and Yorkshire suffered through 1975 and 1976, as did his international career, since he refused to play for England from 1974 until 1977. During the summer of 1978 Boycott broke a finger, so John Hampshire temporarily took over as captain. Boycott returned later in the season, scoring 968 runs at 50.94, but this was second to Hampshire's 1,463 at 54.18. A poll of the dressing room showed that 95% of the players wanted a permanent change in the captaincy. On 15 September 1978 Boycott's mother, to whom he was very close, died of cancer, placing further pressure on him. On 29 September, the Yorkshire club committee met with Boycott to discuss terminating his captaincy. A statement by the club outlined Yorkshire's intention to retain Boycott as a player while giving the captaincy to Hampshire. Boycott, in response, attacked the Yorkshire club and its decision in an appearance on the BBC's flagship chatshow Parkinson on 7 October, prompting both strong criticism from the club and strong public support for his own position.
Boycott, after much thought, continued as a player at Yorkshire, scoring 1,941 runs at 61.70 in 1979, hitting six hundreds to pass Len Hutton's record of 129 first-class centuries. In 1980 he scored his ninth Roses century, equalling Herbert Sutcliffe's record. He also finished the season with an average of over 50.00 for a record eleventh consecutive year, surpassing the achievement of Jack Hobbs. He would experience growing friction with Hutton's son, Yorkshire's Richard, as well as with later Yorkshire captain John Hampshire. In the early 1980s Boycott continued his run of form, although a slow 347-ball knock of 140* incensed captain, Ray Illingworth, and created friction between Boycott and the rest of the Yorkshire Committee. In 1982 Boycott and Graham Stevenson added a record 149 runs for Yorkshire's tenth wicket against Warwickshire, Stevenson scoring 115 of these runs.
On 3 October 1983 the friction between Boycott and the committee culminated in a unanimous decision not to offer Boycott a contract for the next season. This generated much protest from Boycott supporters, who rallied, calling for his reinstatement at a meeting on 9 October in Ossett, Yorkshire. Bill Athey left the club at this time, and while Boycott in his biography maintained that he had no reason to believe that his actions had caused Athey's departure, Athey later stated to biographer Leo McKinstry that "Boycott's attitude and the atmosphere he created had everything to do with my decision to leave Yorkshire." The "Members 84 Group", consisting of strong supporters of Boycott, met regularly to clamour for the batsman's reinstatement. Their leader, Peter Briggs, stated "Geoffrey Boycott is a giant playing among pygmies."
On 21 January 1984 the Yorkshire Club committee, in the face of this rising pressure, agreed to offer Boycott a contract for 1984. Several members of the committee, including Trueman, Billy Sutcliffe and Ronnie Burnet, resigned. Of the replacement members, 17 were from the Members 84 Group, and Boycott himself was elected, leaving him with both a position on the team and on the Yorkshire Club committee. The 1984 season was, however, not the most prolific for Boycott. McKinstry records that he scored slowly in several matches: 60 in 52 overs against Somerset; 53 in 51 overs against Hampshire; 17 in 26 overs against Leicestershire; 77 in 67 overs against Sussex. This was coupled with continued friction between himself and both players and club members. In particular, Boycott's place on both the team and the committee led to feelings of distrust from both – though Boycott denies this – which led to the loss of support from long-term ally Sid Fielden.
His success on the field resumed in 1985, where he scored 1,657 runs at 75.31, second only to Viv Richards in the national averages. He also shared a record opening partnership of 351 with Martyn Moxon. In contrast to the poor relations between Boycott and the senior players, many junior members of the team remember 1985 and 1986 as pleasant times to be around Boycott, who often coached them on their technique. 1986 saw Boycott score 890 runs at 52.35, his season cut short by injuries which were becoming more frequent as he passed the age of 45. This season was the first since 1962 that he had not hit an overall total of 1,000 runs; he finished eight short in his final match, when he was run out for 61. He advised the then captain to enforce the follow-on, and did not bat again. Since 1984, support for Boycott had waned in light of his slow scoring, multiple injuries and the general atmosphere around him. Both Brian Close and Ray Illingworth increasingly advocated his removal to Yorkshire's committee, and on 23 September 1986 it was confirmed that he would not be offered a contract for the following year. A few months later, captain David Bairstow, a long term ally of Boycott whose leadership had Boycott's support, was ruled out of the running for captaincy for the following season, which was instead given to Phil Carrick, of whom Boycott disapproved. Boycott paid tribute to the Reform Group in 1987, describing them as "dedicated Yorkshire members with a heartfelt stake in their club." He suggests that Close and Illingworth feared his popularity. Boycott was offered contracts by other counties, including Derbyshire and Glamorgan, but he never took these offers up, nor played professional cricket again. At the time of his retirement he had scored more first-class runs than any other player.
Test Match career
Over Boycott's 18-year career he scored 8,114 runs in 108 Test matches for England. He was the first England cricketer to pass 8,000 Test runs and, as of 2012, is fourth on England's all-time run scoring list (behind Graham Gooch, Alec Stewart and David Gower). His average of 47.72 runs over 193 innings is the highest completed career average among England players since 1970. His Test career included 22 centuries (an England record held jointly with Wally Hammond, Colin Cowdrey, Kevin Pietersen, and current England captain Alastair Cook until December 2012 when Cook made his 23rd England century). England did not lose a Test match in which he scored a century and only 20 of his 108 Tests ended in defeat. John Arlott wrote in 1979 that "any expectation of an English win, except in freak bowling conditions, is based on a major innings from Boycott."
Boycott began his Test career on 4 June 1964, only two years after his first-class debut, in the first Test against Australia. He top scored with 48 runs from 118 deliveries before he was bowled by Grahame Corling. The match ended as a rain-affected draw, and Boycott did not bat in the second innings as he had suffered a cracked finger. He made 58 at Old Trafford, and then hit 113 at The Oval, his maiden Test century. He finished his first Test series with 291 runs at 48.50. In the winter of 1964, Boycott was selected for the England team touring South Africa. After a series of low scores during the warm up matches, he was more successful in the Test series. His innings included scores of 73 runs in the opening Test, 76 in the fourth, and 117 in the fifth and final match. He averaged 49.66 in all first-class cricket during the tour, and took five wickets with the ball as England won the Test series 1–0. He made a mixed impression on the other England players, who were impressed by his talent but perplexed by his introverted attitude each time he was dismissed.
England hosted New Zealand and South Africa in 1965. Against New Zealand, Boycott scored 23 and 44 not out in the first Test at Edgbaston and 76 in the second at Lord's, but missed the third Test owing to injury. He returned against South Africa at Lord's, but after scores of 31 and a slow 28 in 105 minutes, the press began to speculate that his may lose his place in the team. In the second Test, Boycott made a duck in the first innings and later took 140 minutes to score 16 runs when England needed to score quickly; Wisden described the latter innings as a "dreadful effort when courage was needed". Subsequently, Boycott was dropped and replaced by Eric Russell. Boycott returned to the team at the end of the season for the tour to Australia. In the 1965-66 Ashes series, illness dogged his performance initially. He then hit a form of "brighter cricket" during the First and Second Tests. Uncharacteristically, he hit a four from his very first delivery at Perth, and put on 98 in 16 overs with Bob Barber in the Second Test. In the Third Test, Boycott and Barber shared an opening partnership of 234 in four hours; Boycott hit 84, his highest score of the series. But in the Fifth Test he monopolised the strike, ran out Bob Barber and took 75 minutes to make 17 runs. His form deserted him again when the MCC went on to tour New Zealand.
In 1966, England faced the West Indies. Boycott was omitted from the first Test, but shared a partnership of 115 with Tom Graveney. However, he struggled during the series, and managed an average of 26.57. It was a disappointing year for Boycott both for England and Yorkshire, and his average for the former fell to 36.60. Furthermore, he had only passed 50 twice in his last 12 first-class innings. The following summer, he rediscovered his form. On 8 and 9 June 1967, he made his highest Test score of 246 not out against India on his home ground of Headingley. Batting for 573 minutes, Boycott struck thirty fours and a six at a strike rate of 44.32. He began his innings slowly, taking six hours over his first 106 runs; he scored 17 in the first hour and 8 in the second. This particularly frustrated the England selectors as the pitch was excellent for batting, and the Indian attack was weakened by injury. Their frustration was exacerbated when Boycott added 140 runs in four hours on the second day. Ian Wooldridge wrote in the Daily Mail that Boycott "could not be excused by his nearest and dearest relations." He did not bat in the second innings and England won by six wickets.
Boycott's slow scoring led to increasing media pressure, and owing to his perceived selfish attitude, he was dropped from the team after the match. He remembered in 1987 that "the decision stunned me at the time, though looking back now I see that it had become inevitable. I was mortified with embarrassment and filled with an angry, burning sense of injustice which I can remember clearly and painfully to this day." A combination of low confidence and a throat infection limited Boycott to two further Test appearances, playing once more against India and once against Pakistan, for the rest of the year. He nevertheless again topped the domestic averages with 1260 at 48.46. In 1967, Boycott toured the West Indies with England, where he hit a rich seam of form. He scored 463 runs at 66.14 in a series England won 1–0.
Over the next two years, Boycott appeared only intermittently in the Test team. A back injury forced him to miss half of the 1967 season, and an average of 32.40 against the Australians during the 1968 Ashes was unspectacular. Domestically, his injury also limited his contribution; however, he did hit five centuries before he was forced to stop playing in June 1968. Health problems with his spleen and trouble adjusting to wearing contact lenses meant that Boycott missed the tour of Pakistan in 1967–68, but he returned to the team by the summer of 1969, scoring 128 against the West Indies at Old Trafford, and another century at Lord's. However, he lost form in the rest of the season; he scored 12 and 0 in the third Test and averaged only 20.20, with two ducks, in the three Tests against New Zealand.
Boycott was left out of the first three Tests against the World XI in 1970,he played in the fourth and scored 15 and 64, and in the final Test of the summer scored 157. He won the Walter Lawrence Trophy for this century. He was selected for the 1970–71 tour of Australia, and averaged 95.93 over all first-class matches. He scored 173 in the opening first-class game, followed by 124 against Queensland. In the third Test match, having hit good partnerships in the first two, Boycott made 77 and 142 not out. During the second match, Boycott allegedly told Basil D'Oliveira, the latter having just announced that he had worked out the action of Australian spinner Johnny Gleeson, that he had "sorted that out a fortnight ago." This incident was used as evidence for Boycott's selfish attitude for many years after. His highest score was 142 not out in the second innings of the Fourth Test at Sydney, in a 299-run victory. The Fifth Test was drawn, Boycott making 12 and 76*, and in the Sixth Test he was run out for 58. Boycott initially refused to leave the ground in disbelief, and eventually walked off to jeering from the crowd. He made 119 in the second innings but injured his arm against fast bowler Garth McKenzie in a following one day match and missed the final Test, when England retained the Ashes. He later maintained that the injury permanently affected his wrist, and that he carried a squash ball in a sock in his pocket, which he could squeeze to keep his wrist strong. He ended the series with 657 Test runs at 93.85.
In 1971, Boycott made his One Day International debut against Australia, the press by then touting him as the best batsman in the world. He was the first batsman to receive a ball in a one day international and his was the first wicket to fall, after he had scored eight runs from 37 balls. In the summer of 1971 he enjoyed an average of over 100 in domestic cricket, and scored 121 not out against Pakistan at Lord's. He played only two Tests in 1972 owing to a series of injuries, but rejoined the team in the West Indies under Denness' captaincy. Boycott was dismissed for 99 in the first innings against the West Indies at Port-of-Spain in 1973–74 and scored 112 in the second, followed by a career-best first-class score of 261 not out against a West Indies Board President's XI. Boycott and Denness did not get on well, and at the end of the tour they clashed over Boycott's preference for a one day match over a three-day game against Bermuda. Boycott recalled in his autobiography that when Denness confronted him on the issue he replied "Get out of here before I do something I'll regret." Boycott had "no confidence in Denness's professional ability and no respect for him as a man and another tour like the previous one to the West Indies was the last thing I wanted."
Between 1974 and 1977, Boycott elected to make himself unavailable for England. He claimed in 2006 that he had simply lost his appetite for Test cricket and the stress became too much for him. Boycott's biographer, McKinstry, speculates that the self-imposed exile may also have been linked to the appointments of Mike Denness and then Tony Greig to the England captaincy, in preference to Boycott. Boycott was very critical of Denness's captaincy and his standard of batting in his autobiography in 1987, citing it as a factor in his decision, along with the pressures at Yorkshire. His weak immune system was a recurring motivation for not touring the Indian subcontinent. This period of exile coincided with the peaks of several fast bowlers' careers, including Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson, Andy Roberts, and Michael Holding. However, he later came back to face the West Indies pace battery at its most fearsome in the late 70s and early 80s.
Boycott has responded to these accusations by pointing out that Lillee had been out of cricket for 21 months suffering from a serious back complaint and that Thomson had not played in Tests for 23 months before the 1974–5 Ashes series, since an unsuccessful debut Test against Pakistan (Thomson's match figures were 0–110). Furthermore, he was dismissed for 99 in the first innings against the West Indies at Port-of-Spain in 1973–74 and scored 112 in the second, followed by a career-best 261 not out against a West Indies Board President's XI. All of these teams included Roberts, with a young Holding representing the Board XI.
When Boycott returned to the Test side against Australia at Trent Bridge in 1977 he ran out Derek Randall in front of his home crowd before going on to make a century. In this match, in which Ian Botham made his England debut, Boycott batted on each of the five days of the match: his first innings 107 started at the end of the first day, he batted throughout the second day and was dismissed on the third day; he started his second innings at the end of day four and batted throughout England's successful run chase scoring 80 not out, scoring the winning runs in partnership with Randall. Among England batsmen, only Allan Lamb and Andrew Flintoff have emulated this feat of batting on all five days, and both subsequent to Boycott. He also had a 215-run partnership with Alan Knott. Botham later remarked that "The Aussies, shell-shocked at having to bowl at Boycott for twenty-two and a half hours, capitulated without much of a fight. "
On 11 & 12 August 1977 he scored 191 against Australia in the fourth Test in front of a full house at his home ground of Leeds, becoming the first cricketer to score his one hundredth first-class century in a Test match. Boycott reached the milestone from the bowling of Greg Chappell with an on drive for four. In the match, Boycott became the fourth English player to be on the field for the entire duration of a Test. Boycott ended the series 442 runs at an average of 147.33.
Appointed vice-captain for the tour of Pakistan and New Zealand that winter, Boycott assumed the captaincy in 1978 for two Tests when Mike Brearley was injured, and brought with him his successful summer form. However, he was replaced upon Brearley's return. While the rest of the England team took part in warm-up matches, Boycott remained in Lahore and organised a special warm up match where the team would play itself. However he went on to occupy the crease for a long period of time, limiting the amount of time other players had to practice. He later stated that, as the number one batsman, he should have the most time in the middle. In the second Test match, he scored 79 and 100 not out, increasing his statistics since his return to the England team to 684 runs at 136.80. It was between this match and the third Test that Brearley broke his arm, giving Boycott the captaincy. Boycott led England to a draw in the third match, his leadership meeting mixed reviews.
Following Pakistan, Boycott and the England team travelled to New Zealand. England were defeated in the opening Test for the first time in 48 years. Boycott took seven hours and 22 minutes to score 77 runs, and England were bowled out for 64 when chasing 137 to win. In the second match, Botham's first Test century took England to 418, but by the end of the match England needed to score quickly to force a win. Boycott, however, told his team that he would play the way he always had, and proceeded to accumulate runs very slowly. Derek Randall was run out, and Botham went out to bat with his captain, informing the dressing room that "Boycs will be back in here before the end of the over." Botham then ran Boycott out, later claiming in his autobiography that he had done it deliberately. Indeed, some have suggested that this was a team order. Boycott disputes the suggestion that the run-out was deliberate in his autobiography, referring to Botham's account as "a story that gets bigger and more fanciful with every telling". The tale does nevertheless remain a renowned story. Boycott then delayed his declaration, much to the frustration of England bowler Bob Willis. England did eventually declare, and Willis took 4/14. New Zealand were bowled out for 105 and England won by 174 runs. Boycott suffered a scratch on his cornea and missed the last two days of the final match, and by the start of the 1978 season, Brearley had taken the captaincy back from Boycott.
Ashes series, West Indies and India
During the 1978–79 Ashes series, Boycott unusually went in at No. 11 in the second innings of a match against state side South Australia (not due to injury). At Perth on 15 December, he also scored 77 runs without hitting a boundary – the highest total of this nature – though it did include an all-run four. England went on to win the six-Test series 5–1, with Boycott struggling overall through three of the Tests with 263 runs at 21.91. Boycott then played in the 1979 Cricket World Cup held in England, taking two wickets in the opening match against Australia, which England won. The hosts then went on to win their next two games and topped their table for the opening round. Reaching the final after a close victory against New Zealand in which Boycott scored only two, he hit 57 from 105 balls as England chased Viv Richards 138 not out-inspired 286 to win, falling 92 runs short at 194 all out. Boycott ended the competition with the sixth highest strike rate of 42.99 and an average of 23.00.
Following the World Cup, against Australia during a Test match at Perth in 1979–80, Boycott became the first man to be marooned on 99 not out in a Test when he ran out of partners. England then toured the West Indies. Here, Boycott again faced the West Indies' feared pace attack, but succeeded in scoring centuries off the likes of Holding, Roberts, Colin Croft and Joel Garner, despite having passed the age of 40 the previous year. Other batsmen, such as David Gower found the attack difficult to cope with, and the later England captain stated that Boycott often had no sympathy. Boycott was the third most successful batsman, behind Gooch and Gower, during a tour where England went down 2–0. He scored 70 in the opening match, the only England player to pass 50. In the third match, in Bridgetown, Barbados, Boycott was to face what was later said to be Holding's greatest over. Boycott was hit on the gloves by the first delivery, played-and-missed the second outside off stump, was hit on the thigh by the third, fended the next two deliveries away with his bat, and was then bowled by the final delivery. Though in 1987 Boycott would claim a 1966 delivery by Gary Sobers to be the best he ever faced in cricket, he noted of Holding's over that "for the first time in my life I can look at a scoreboard with a duck against my name and not feel a profound sense of failure. " Boycott led an England fight back in the fourth Test. Having watched Holding's over several times on video, and worked in the nets on his game, Boycott came out and made 38 in the first innings and then hit his twentieth Test century. His career run total was now 7,410, gaining on Gary Sobers' record of 8,032.
Boycott was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1980 Queen's Birthday Honours "for services to Cricket." He then played in the 1981 Ashes series, despite being aged 40. During the second Test at Lord's Cricket Ground Boycott was dismissed 40 short of a hundred by Dennis Lillee, and was "crushed" given that, as it was his hundredth Test match, he wished to score a century. Forever keen on the England captaincy, Boycott's hopes were cut short when Botham's 149 not out secured victory in Boycott's 101st Test match, and Mike Brearley's position as captain was made secure. During the series, Boycott became concerned with his form and that he may be dropped before he could chase Sobers' record in the upcoming tour of India. He had scored only 10 and 37 in the Fifth Test, however in the drawn Sixth Test at The Oval he scored 137, passing Colin Cowdrey's record of 7624 runs and becoming England's highest run-scorer. He ended the series behind only Botham, with 392 runs at 32.66.
"Bye bye Boycott"
By now, Boycott's fame and constant attention from the media had begun to affect his personal life. He was again refused the captaincy for the next Test series against India over the winter of 1981–82. Angered by this decision, he stated that "even the Yorkshire Ripper got a fair trial in the dock but I've not been given a single chance." He later battled Keith Fletcher over his slow scoring rate, playing Fletcher's comments to him during a press conference using a tape recorder. The series against India was to be his last. In his final ODI match during England's tour he scored 6 from 12 deliveries. During the following Test series he passed Sobers' career run record, hitting 60 in the first Test, 36 and 50 in the second to take him 81 runs short, and in the third Test he overtook the record with a flick off his pads for four. He thus became the leading Test run-scorer. In his last Test match, the fourth of the tour, taking place in January 1982, he scored 18 and six. During the tour, Boycott claimed that he was too ill to field in a Test Match, but it was later discovered that he was playing golf while his team mates were still out on the field.
This led to Boycott being dropped from the side and forced to return to England, despite apologising via a note to the England dressing room. He claimed in his autobiography, however, that he went to the golf course following medical advice to get fresh air. Later in 1982 he was instrumental in organising, in defiance of a United Nations and a TCCB ban, a so-called "rebel" tour of apartheid South Africa by 13 current and former England Test cricketers, who were almost all nearing the end of their careers. All the players were banned from international cricket for three years as a result. By the mid-1980s, with Boycott in good county form and physical shape, there was speculation that he might return to the England side. David Gower, England captain of the time, however, stated that "Geoffrey's been a marvellous servant for England but we have to look to the future and, in view of his age, it wouldn't make an awful lot of sense to pick him again." This was confirmed by the return of Graham Gooch and Tim Robinson's 175 against Australia at Leeds, which prompted Botham, who had once remarked that Boycott was "totally, almost insanely, selfish", to sing "Bye bye Boycott" from the England balcony.
Commentator, controversy and personal life
Cricket commentator and statistician Simon Hughes states that Boycott is fastidious in the commentary box, always immaculately dressed, and never socialises with the other commentators or production staff. Bill Sinrich, an official of Trans World International, commented that Boycott "fulfilled all our hopes. He was animated, intelligent, informed, with opinions that got the attention of most people." Boycott claims to have invented the phrase "corridor of uncertainty" as a reference to the area outside the off stump where a batsman is unsure whether he should leave or hit the ball, and is noted for using a key to measure the hardness of the pitch, until this was outlawed by the International Cricket Council.
Boycott was offered a role by talkSPORT. He continued to commentate for the station, along with various satellite and Asian channels, until 2003, when his career was further threatened by throat cancer. Having successfully undergone treatment, Boycott enjoyed a renaissance in his career as he returned to high-profile commentating with Channel 4, which had meanwhile taken over from the BBC in televising England's home Test games. In November 2005, Boycott rejoined the BBC's Test Match Special to provide commentary for England's 2005 tour of Pakistan. In January 2006, Boycott joined Asian channel Ten Sports. He delivered the Colin Cowdrey Lecture in 2005, speaking about the need for cricket to adapt to changing circumstances and embrace innovations like Twenty20.
Boycott worked on Cricket on Five with Mark Nicholas and Simon Hughes as co-commentators, and was a member of the BBC Cricket Team for commentary on the 2006/7 Ashes series. His role, as in his other commentary-related work, was to contribute to discussion of the main talking points. During England's 5–0 whitewash by Australia, Boycott stated that the team were undeserving of their MBEs and that he felt "so bad about mine I'm going to tie it round my cat. It doesn't mean anything any more. It's a joke". Boycott has been credited as having a high level of influence in the game, with Yorkshire's Chief Executive Stewart Regan crediting Boycott over the completion of a deal for Younis Khan to play county cricket for Yorkshire in the 2007 season. On a larger scale, Boycott has worked towards scrapping the rule at Yorkshire regarding the number of overseas players. He stated that he believed Brian Close and the other selectors to be living in past times, and that he wished to encourage a growth in the number of players from Pakistan, the West Indies or India.
His on air commentary has caused controversy. As a commentator, Boycott has renewed his 'pull-no-punches' style in contrast to most of his fellow commentators. In particular he is known for criticising players, often in a caustic and strident style. After witnessing a dropped catch, he said "I reckon my mum could have caught that in her pinny", and in 2005 he mocked the Australian captain Ricky Ponting for electing to bowl first on a batsman-friendly pitch, saying he was a "nice man" for being so generous to the England team. In 2006, he was initially receptive to the difficulties endured by Marcus Trescothick during his periods of stress-related illness; however, he was not always as amiable. In March 2008, recently dropped Steve Harmison attacked Boycott in an article in the Mail on Sunday where he referred to Boycott as a "waste of space." This was in response to Boycott's statement a few days previously on 19 March 2008 that if Harmison "gets a central contract this summer then a lot of us will be screaming favouritism and a total waste of money. England should forget him".
Nevertheless, Boycott has enjoyed a successful commentating career, and his opinions are sought across a number of cricketing media. As well as newspaper columns, Boycott contributes to several online blogs, podcasts and question and answer sessions, notably on the BBC News website and CricInfo. He is also popular among cricket pundits and biographers, being the subject of three significant biographies from 1982 to 2000, while his comments are reproduced across a number of published cricketing quotes collections.
Boycott's personal life has continued to enter the spotlight on occasion since his retirement from England and the beginning of his commentary career. In 1996, Boycott assaulted Margaret Moore, a former lover. Boycott denied the charges, claiming she had fallen over and injured herself. He pointed to the fact that Moore was in financial difficulties and said that he would never hit a woman. However, in the second trial beginning on 20 October 1998, Boycott, having missed the first trial in January where his conviction had been set, appeared before a French Magistrates court and was given a three-month suspended sentence, and his £5,300 fine was confirmed. He was criticised by the Magistrate for the way he conducted his case and for "rudely interrupting" Mrs Moore's barrister.
According to Boycott, Moore had grown angry when he refused to marry her, stating that "he was not the marrying kind" and had fallen when throwing his clothing from the window, hitting her head on the carpet. However, when he again appealed against his conviction, Moore's version of events that Boycott had attacked her by punching her in the face, causing bruising, was upheld, in the light of photographs of her injuries shown to the court and the testimony of a doctor that the injuries could not have been caused in the way described by Boycott. Boycott nevertheless later married Margaret Rachel Swinglehurst on 26 February 2003 at Wakefield Register Office, and they have a daughter, born October 1988. They lived in Woolley, and Boycott and his family currently divide their time between Boston Spa, Jersey in the Channel Islands and Cape Town, South Africa.
At the time of the conviction he was working for BSkyB and BBC Radio, commentating on England's tour of the West Indies. He was sacked from both roles. He was also sacked from his columnist's job in The Sun, which announced the dismissal in an article on the front page with the headline "Sun Sacks Boycott the Brute", although the Sun gave Boycott an undertaking in writing that they would continue to employ him regardless of the result of the court case, as did Talk Sport. A BBC television spokesman said "Geoffrey Boycott is not under contract with the BBC [television] and there are no plans to use him in the future."
Boycott's commentating career continued, however, as he was able to carry on working overseas, particularly in India. He hosted The Sunny and Boycs Show with Sunil Gavaskar and he hosted the touring Indian team at his home in August 2002. He also worked in South Africa and coached the Pakistan cricket team upon request. In 2001, as resentment towards him in the British media following the court case died down, he was reinstated as a writer for British newspapers, and there was speculation that he would lead Lancashire Cricket Club following the departure of Bobby Simpson, though Mike Watkinson eventually took the role.
talkSPORT, as well as both Indian and South African television programs, continued to use Boycott as a commentator in 2002, during which he suffered a continual sore throat. Finding a lump while shaving, Boycott returned to England, and on 20 August 2002 was examined at Leeds General Infirmary. By 3 September, he was informed that he had four cancerous tumours in his throat. Initially, surgeons recommended an eight-hour procedure to remove the tumours; however, their size and proximity to his voice box eventually persuaded them to recommend radiotherapy, of which Boycott had 35 sessions from 22 October. By December, scans revealed that the majority of the tumours had disappeared, and the final tumour's disappearance was confirmed in early 2003. Although initially reluctant to discuss his health with the public, he spoke privately with his daughter, Emma, and then released a statement publicly, which evoked a significant emotional response. On 16 August 2003, he was given his own standing ovation by the crowd at Trent Bridge as he and a number of other cricketers did a lap of the ground in vehicles to celebrate Trent Bridge's 50th Test match.
Return to commentary
Following this public support, Boycott resumed writing for the Daily Telegraph and commentating on Channel Four for the Cheltenham and Gloucester Championship Final and the following summer's cricket. Radio Five Live then hired Boycott in early 2004. His fellow commentators state that his illness has altered his voice and led to a more pleasant personality, but that he is still prone to unpleasant behaviour. Channel Four producer Gary Francis stated "I think Geoff is a lot more mellow now. He still has his moments, like when the taxi does not arrive and he is not happy, as he makes extremely clear. But overall he's great fun to work with." In September 2004, Boycott wrote for the Daily Telegraph a posthumous tribute to lifelong friend Brian Clough. In early 2008 there was speculation that Boycott would be awarded a role amongst the England coaching staff, pertaining in particular to the coaching of Andrew Flintoff back from injury.
On 8 May 2008, however, the ECB revealed that Boycott would not hold such a position. The two had been involved in the past, and while Flintoff is an admirer of Boycott, the ECB stressed any coaching relationship would only be informal. Boycott, however, used to give informal talks to younger cricket players during his career, and the media speculated that he might find a place coaching the England U19s. Boycott continued in his commentating career for TMS, criticising the England team's approach to the ODI matches under Pietersen in India in November 2008. Also in November, Daily Mail contributor Leo McKinstry published a new biography on Boycott. On 2 January 2009, Boycott, along with 54 others, was inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame. He continued to be an active member of the cricket community, voicing his support in late April 2009 for Pakistan player Saeed Ajmal, and calling for the legalisation of the doosra spin-bowling delivery.
Boycott continued to be vocal in matters cricket. He levelled criticism in July 2009 against Kevin Pietersen for his captaincy difficulties and in September against Andrew Flintoff for his apparent favour of club cricket over internationals. On 29 November 2009, he was commentating an ODI between England and South Africa when he was heard swearing on air following a catch taken by Paul Collingwood dismissed Ryan McLaren. The BBC released a statement on 30 November which read: "An off-air comment made by Geoffrey Boycott in a live broadcast was heard by some listeners which we apologised for as soon as we realised it had been audible." He nevertheless continues to be a part of the commentating team, most recently broadcasting on the 2013 Ashes series.
Presidency of Yorkshire
In March 2012 Boycott was elected to become President of Yorkshire County Cricket Club. Elected at an annual meeting, he gained 91.09% of the vote. He election came on the back of Yorkshire's relegation from the first to the second division of the County Championship, the reversal of which Boycott targeted immediately upon taking up the post. He remarked to the media that "The only thing that really matters to the membership is that Yorkshire do well in Championship cricket." His tenure also presided over the clubs 150th anniversary in 2013. In February 2014 it was revealed that former Test umpire and Yorkshire player Dickie Bird would replace Boycott.
Boycott (then 18) met Anne Wyatt (then 32) while they were both working at the Ministry of Pensions in Barnsley in 1958. For 20 years they lived in the village of Woolley, near Wakefield, West Yorkshire. They bought a house in Sandbanks, Dorset in 1996, though Boycott remained in Yorkshire and the relationship disintegrated. Wyatt died from lung cancer at the age of 82 in 2009. In 1998, Boycott was convicted of assaulting his former girlfriend Margaret Moore; he was given a suspended sentence and fined. In 2002, after being diagnosed with throat cancer, he underwent successful radiation treatment, and went into remission. Boycott and new partner Rachael Swinglehurst moved to Jersey shortly afterwards, for his health, and married in 2003. Boycott also maintains a house on a golf estate in Paarl, South Africa. In March 2013, it was reported that Boycott and Swinglehurst had purchased the Grade II listed Boston Hall in Boston Spa, West Yorkshire, citing a desire to be closer to family, friends and Yorkshire County Cricket Club.
Boycott's playing style revolved around intense concentration, solid defence and attention to detail, while avoiding heavy hitting or slogging. He was described in The Complete Encyclopaedia of Cricket as "one of the greatest opening batsman that the game has known. He dedicated his life to the art of batting, practising assiduously and eschewing any shot that might even hint at threatening the loss of his wicket." Through his Test career, he scored 15.4% of England's runs, and England won 32.41% of the Tests in which Boycott played. This compares with England's 34.76% victory rate over all Test cricket history. Richard Hutton, Yorkshire and England batsman and son of Len Hutton described Boycott as a "one-pace player", suggesting that he was unable to alter his playing pace as the match circumstances dictated. Nevertheless, Boycott maintained an "impeccable" defensive technique, and possessed a temperament ideally suited for five-day Test matches. Arlott wrote that "his technique is based on a defence organised as near flawlessness as may be." Boycott himself remarked, in 1981, that: "Given the choice between Racquel Welch and a hundred at Lord's, I'd take the hundred every time." His careful batting is reflected in his 22 centuries for England, of which only two had a strike rate of over 51.00. Former England bowler Frank Tyson wrote in 1987, in The Test Within, that "the greatness of Boycott the batsman and the gaffes of Boycott the man had common roots in an unceasing quest after perfection."
While this style facilitated his solid defensive play, it inhibited him as a stroke player and made him susceptible to hand and arm injuries. Such injuries would be common throughout his career. One such injury almost required the tip of a broken finger to be amputated. He was occasionally vulnerable to left-arm bowlers, either due to his inability to adjust his line of stroke or because during his career there were few fast left-hand bowlers for him to practice against in the nets. Boycott himself disputes this. In spite of that, he was never vulnerable to any one particular bowler. Pace bowler Dennis Lillee was the most successful against him in Test matches, with seven dismissals. Gary Sobers also dismissed him seven times, but Lillee did so in fewer matches. Peter Lever, a Test colleague, discussed with Boycott his vulnerability when playing the hook stroke, which was to get him out on more than one occasion. Overall in Test cricket, 54% of Boycott's dismissals were by being caught, with lbw and bowled taking 14% and 16% respectively.
Boycott was also a very occasional medium-pace inswing bowler. He was never a genuine all-rounder, but took seven wickets at Test level at an average of 54.57, often bowling wearing his cap turned back-to-front to assist his vision. At the start of his career, Boycott was a below average fielder, having received no coaching on this from Yorkshire and with little inclination to rectify it when concentrating on his batting. A fellow Yorkshire batsman Ken Taylor worked with Boycott, who was "limited in [fielding] ability, " but had "tremendous determination". With further help from his two brothers Boycott's fielding improved. He became a safe pair of hands generally at cover point, though he continued to lack power and pace in the field, never taking more than two catches in a Test innings, and averaging 0.170 dismissals per innings with 33 career catches in all. He would remark in his autobiography that his usual fielding positions depended not on the tactical situation but on whether the captain was one of Boycott's critics, who would therefore banish him to a remote part of the field.
Throughout his career in international cricket and well into retirement, Boycott has written a number of works on cricket, including his own autobiography and a joint project on the biography of umpire Dickie Bird:
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Geoffrey Boycott|
- Geoff Boycott's Book for Young Cricketers, 1976.
- Put to the Test, 1979.
- Opening up, 1980.
- In The Fast Lane, 1981
- Sir Geoffrey. 21 Years of Yorkshire Cricket, 1984.
- Boycott: The Autobiography, 1987.
- Free as a Bird: Life and Times of Harold "Dickie" Bird with David Hopps, 1997.
- Boycott on Cricket, 1990.
- Geoffrey Boycott on Cricket, 1999.
- The Best XI, 2008
- Wisden, a Cricketer of the Year for 1965, when he played nine Test matches, scoring 617 runs with one century and four fifties at an average of 47.46.
- Winner of the Walter Lawrence Trophy in 1970.
Boycott's abilities in the Test match theatre during his career of 17 years and 216 days have left him with a number of Test cricket records. He is the sixth most capped player for England in Tests, and is the fourth highest career runs total for an England player, 8114, behind Graham Gooch, Alec Stewart and David Gower. He was the fourteenth quickest player to reach 8,000 runs, taking 190 innings. He topped the national averages for six seasons, the highest of any post-World War II player, and is tied for second in the list of centuries for England behind Alastair Cook. Boycott was also the first player to score 99 not out, and the first to score 99 and then a century in a Test match. The forty-eight century partnerships he was involved in remains a record for any England player. In 1977 against Australia, Boycott became the first England player to bat on all five days of a Test match. He spent the 629 minutes at the crease for 191 runs in 1977.
Such was Boycott's longevity in the game that he had 16 opening partners for England. (Note that the figures in the Innings column below show all his Test Match partnerships with his opening partners (not just his partnerships with them for the first wicket). For example, he did have 46 partnerships with John Edrich but only 35 were opening partnerships).
|Partner||Innings||Runs||Partnership average||Highest partnership|
|Opposition||Matches||Runs||Average||High Score||100 / 50||Runs||Wickets||Average||Best|
One Day Internationals
Boycott's ODI career was noticeably less productive than his Test. He did, however, face the first One Day International ball ever bowled, and was the first batsman to be dismissed in what was the first ever ODI game. The match, considered a one-off at the time due to ODI cricket being in its infancy, was hastily arranged to cover a washed out 1970-71 Ashes Test.
|Opposition||Matches||Runs||Average||High Score||100 / 50||Runs||Wickets||Average||Best|
|Geoffrey Boycott's only ODI Century|
|2||105||Fifth ODI||Australia||1979||Sydney Cricket Ground||Sydney||England||England won by 72 runs|
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- Player profile: Geoffrey Boycott from ESPNcricinfo
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- "Under the duvet with TMS for the Ashes (Containing an audio commentary of Boycott's 100th Century)". Test Match Special. BBC.
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