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Stats: Geoffrey Boycott: The original English grafter

Geoffrey Boycott : News Photo
Boycott was known for his ability to stay in the crease for a long time
Himank Bhanot
ANALYST
Modified 01 Jan 2017, 17:01 IST
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It was billed as the battle for cricket supremacy, West Indies opted to bat in the 1st test of the 1995 Frank Worrell trophy at Bridgetown, Barbados. Pal Reifel and Brendan Julien quickly tore into the West Indian top order, which was by then only a pale shadow of what it had been a decade ago; think of comparing Sherwin Campbell and Stuart Williams with Greenidge and Haynes and you’ll get what I’m talking about.    

A 10-3 reading at the scoreboard brought two undeniable, and probably the last, bajan geniuses together in Brian Lara and Carl Hooper. From then on till lunch, the Australian bowlers were brought to eye level courtesy some brutal, yet handsome, shots all over the park. Two of the most gifted modern day batsmen were trying to salvage the fortunes of their once mighty kingdom. The counter-attack was not enough, and West Indies went down in the match and the series to officially pass the mantle of dominance to Australia.

Brian Lara and Carl Hooper’s talents were almost equal in their measure, yet still they yielded contrasting results. They were dismissed at scores of 65 and 60 respectively and while Lara would go on to register monumental scores over his career, Hooper continued to disappoint when he looked the most promising. When in full flow, Hooper’s fans were not just exasperated by the exercise of his gifts but they were equally fearful of him losing his wicket all too softly in the midst of it.

Also Read: Test match batting, the Geoffrey Boycott way

Although a serious re-assessment of his numbers is required to gauge his true stature, Hooper nonetheless makes you wish that his numbers were as great as Lara’s or Richards’, thus leaving out the scope for any justifications.

Hooper’s tale often brings other players to mind (the casual, languid style of David Gower and Rohit Sharma often gives the impression of talent sans application) and is one end of the spectrum. At the other end, are cricketers who make up for a lack of general skill by showing unwavering dedication. In the case of Yorkshireman Geoffrey Boycott, the dedication came at the cost of almost everything else in life. A keen student of the game from an early age, Boycott was not a prodigiously talented kid as were other great English batsmen before him. But if there was one thing evident at that age, it was his absolute dedication to batting.

This often came at the expense of his personality which did not open out to anyone or anything apart from a singular ambition to be a top batsman. His tale, of a player regarded as a run of the mill talent to becoming the most prolific run scorer in Tests is a lesson in rewards that hard work can reap.  

Boycott played for England in 108 Tests, of which England won 35 and lost only 20 (W/L Ratio: 1.75). Post his retirement in 1982 till 31 Dec 1999, England played 188 matches, won 42 and lost 75 (W/L Ratio: .56). For a man who earned detractors everywhere he stepped foot, this is a fitting portrait of his value to his team; a solid, uncompromising opening batsman who made sure that wickets did not fall in heaps when he was at the crease.

People who were busy howling about his ‘rude’ demeanour, were ruing his absence after his retirement. How did Boycott’s career pan out, and how does it compare with his contemporaries and others?

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Boycott’s career can be divided into two parts, from his debut in 1964 to 1970, and from 1970 onwards till his retirement in 1982. Boycott enjoyed a stupendous series in Australia in 1970/71, scoring 657 runs at 93.85, and from here his numbers started to progress from impressive to being stellar. In the last 12 years of his career, Boycott averaged 50.50, scoring 16 of his 22 test centuries.

Geoffrey Boycott
Boycott in action at Lord's

This included a three year period from 1974 to 1977 when he made himself unavailable for national selection owing to differences at the appointment at Mike Denness being made the England captain and his own commitment to reviving Yorkshire’s dwindling fortunes in the County Championship.
 

 

Matches

Inns

n.o.

Runs

Avg

100s

50s

4 Jun 1964 - 21 Aug 1969

41

70

9

2609

42.77

6

13

27 Nov 1970 - 1 Jan 1982

67

123

14

5505

50.50

16

29

Overall

108

193

23

8114

47.73

22

42

Table 1: Boycott Career Split

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During his peak from 1970 to 1982, Boycott’s numbers stood up well against the numbers of his contemporaries. Boycott’s run tally (5505) is exceeded only by Sunil Gavaskar and Greg Chappell whereas his average is also bettered only by Viv Richards, Sunil Gavaskar and Greg Chappell. This period also included his triumphant 100th first-class century at Headingley vs Australia in 1977. 
 

Player

Mat

Inns

NO

Runs

Ave

100

50

Viv Richards

45

70

4

3971

60.16

13

16

Sunil Gavaskar

73

131

9

6630

54.34

24

29

Greg Chappell

71

126

15

5976

53.83

19

28

Geoff Boycott

67

123

14

5505

50.50

16

29

Dennis Amiss

45

80

9

3487

49.11

11

11

Ian Chappell

44

82

6

3578

47.07

10

18

Roy Fredericks

49

90

7

3809

45.89

8

22

Table 2: Top batsmen from Nov’70 – Jan’82
 

Even almost 35 years after his retirement, Geoff Boycott is placed 5th on the list of highest scoring opening batsmen. It would give him some happiness to find a fellow Englishman (Cook) at the top of the tree here. But it is a testament to his achievements that even after 35 years, it has been surpassed only by a few batsmen.

Player

Mat

Inns

NO

Runs

Ave

100

50

Alastair Cook

133

240

13

10430

45.94

28

51

Sunil Gavaskar

119

203

12

9607

50.29

33

42

Graeme Smith

114

196

12

9030

49.07

27

36

Matthew Hayden

103

184

14

8625

50.73

30

29

Virender Sehwag

99

170

6

8207

50.04

22

30

Geoff Boycott

107

191

23

8091

48.16

22

42

Graham Gooch

100

184

6

7811

43.88

18

41

Mark Taylor

104

186

13

7525

43.49

19

40

Gordon Greenidge

107

182

16

7488

45.1

19

34

Michael Atherton

108

197

6

7476

39.14

16

45

Desmond Haynes

116

201

25

7472

42.45

18

39

Chris Gayle

99

173

10

7028

43.11

15

36

Table 3: Highest scoring Opening Batsmen (Qual – 7000 runs)

What is amazing about this phase of his career is that he scored all these runs after having crossed the age of 30; Boycott is the 5th highest run scorer after the age of 30 amongst English batsmen, and the 3rd ranked opening batsmen overall. What’s even more fascinating are the runs he scored after the age of 35. Only Graham Gooch, Misbah-ul-Haq and Sachin Tendulkar have scored more runs than Boycott’s 3535.

Player

Mat

Inns

NO

Runs

Ave

100

50

Graham Gooch

52

96

2

4563

48.54

12

21

Misbah Ul Haq

59

105

16

4182

46.98

8

35

Sachin Tendulkar

53

91

8

4139

49.86

12

19

Geoff Boycott

45

83

9

3535

47.77

10

16

Rahul Dravid

47

85

8

3493

45.36

12

13

Alec Stewart

58

101

12

3310

37.19

5

18

Shiv Chanderpaul

43

74

17

3291

57.73

9

14

Younis Khan

35

67

7

3224

53.73

13

6

Patsy Hendren

44

69

9

3189

53.15

7

18

Table 4: Most runs after the age of 35

Being an opening batsmen gave Boycott the opportunity to score in partnerships (even though some would claim that he batted in utter disregard of his partner). During his career, Boycott was involved in 47 century partnerships which was an English record at that time. Even today, only two other batsmen have surpassed this figure - Alastair Cook and Ian Bell.

Batsman

No. of century Partnerships

Alastair Cook

72

Ian Bell

51

Geoff Boycott

47

Pietersen

46

Colin Cowdrey

42

Len Hutton

41

Andrew Strauss

41

Graham Gooch

41

David Gower

38

Alec Stewart

37

Table 5: Century partnerships by England batsmen

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Throughout his career, Boycott returned favourable numbers against all opposition, another hallmark of his consistency. But appropriately, it is against Australia that his record is the most ominous. Boycott’s overall tally of 2945 runs is only bettered by Jack Hobbs and David Gower on the all-time list, and taking a cut off of 2000 runs into account, his average (47.50) is placed sixth.

Those are not bad given the names that follow him on the list. His centuries (7) are also bettered by Jack Hobbs, Wally Hammond and Herbert Sutcliffe (all pre-war batsmen).

If we consider batsmen who made their debut post-1946, Boycott emerges only behind Gower as the most prolific post-war England Ashes batsman, his average is also 3rd best after Ken Barrington and John Edrich. 
 

Player

Mat

Inns

Runs

Average

100

50

Herbert Sutcliffe

27

46

2741

66.85

8

16

Ken Barrington

23

39

2111

63.96

5

13

Len Hutton

27

49

2428

56.46

5

14

Jack Hobbs

41

71

3636

54.26

12

15

Wally Hammond

33

58

2852

51.85

9

7

John Edrich

32

57

2644

48.96

7

13

Geoff Boycott

38

71

2945

47.5

7

14

Kevin Pietersen

27

50

2158

44.95

4

13

David Gower

42

77

3269

44.78

9

12

Alastair Cook

30

55

2117

39.2

4

11

Colin Cowdrey

43

75

2433

34.26

5

11

Graham Gooch

42

79

2632

33.31

4

16

Table 6: England batsmen vs Australia (Qual-2000 runs)

I made a mention of Boycott's magnificent performance vs Australia in 1970/71, the series where his transition to being considered a world class batsman began. His tally of 657 runs in that series remains the 6th highest aggregated by an England opener against any opposition. Needless to say, England won that series and it effectively ended Bill Lawry’s career both as a captain and a player.

Batsman

Opposition

Mat

Inns

NO

Runs

Ave

100

50

Alastair Cook

Australia (2010/11)

5

7

1

766

127.66

3

2

Graham Gooch

India (1990)

3

6

0

752

125.33

3

2

Herbert Sutcliffe

Australia (1924/25)

5

8

0

701

87.62

4

2

Dennis Amiss

West Indies (1973/74)

5

9

1

663

82.87

3

0

Jack Hobbs

Australia (1911/12)

5

9

1

662

82.75

3

1

Geoff Boycott

Australia (1970/71)

5

10

3

657

93.85

2

5

Andrew Strauss

South Africa (2004/05)

5

10

1

656

72.88

3

1

Len Hutton

West Indies (1953/54)

5

7

0

647

92.42

2

3

Michael Vaughan

Australia (2002/03)

5

10

0

633

63.3

3

0

Michael Vaughan

India (2002)

4

7

1

615

102.5

3

1

Table 7: Most runs in a series by England opener
 

Boycott, given his pugnacious attitude, fittingly also mastered the toughest ask for a batsman in Test cricket. Many a great name (Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara to name a few) performed mediocrely in the 4th Innings of a Test match. Boycott had no such problems; for batsmen who scored more than 1000 runs in the 4th innings of a Test, Boycott’s average is the highest, followed very closely by the man who overtook his runs tally in 1983, Sunil Gavaskar.

Player

Mat

Inns

Runs

Ave

100

50

Geoff Boycott

36

34

1234

58.76

3

7

Sunil Gavaskar

34

33

1398

58.25

4

8

Younis Khan

44

37

1441

55.42

5

6

Gordon Greenidge

41

38

1383

53.19

3

6

Graeme Smith

42

41

1611

51.96

4

9

Ricky Ponting

56

43

1462

50.41

4

6

Matthew Hayden

39

39

1287

49.5

1

9

Graham Gooch

30

29

1121

44.84

3

5

Desmond Haynes

45

45

1092

43.68

2

4

Table 8: Most runs in 4th Innings 

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Young cricket fans of my generation have only known Geoffrey Boycott as a logical, straight talking commentator who calls it as he sees it. His batsmanship too was pretty much a reflection of his own personality; a no-nonsense, performance-obsessed exercise.

While his record is well known, what is not is how hard he worked on his limited abilities to get there. Dicky Bird once said in an interview that Geoffrey Boycott is perhaps the greatest self-made cricketer the world has ever seen. Boycott’s story has a lot to teach about the value of hard work and his numbers are perhaps the most emphatic output of that rare virtue.

Published 01 Jan 2017, 16:31 IST
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