Former England opener Geoffrey Boycott has not included an Indian player in his all-time World XI. Currently in India as part of BBC’s Test Match Special commentary panel, the 76-year old addressed a gathering in Mumbai and was asked to select his dream team.
Despite the audience expecting names such as Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar to feature in his side, the forthright commentator categorically asserted that he was not here to select any Indian cricketer just to cater to the audience.
Boycott insisted, “I can't pick Indians just to please you. I can't get into the team myself. Gavaskar was a wonderful player and friend. Can I pick him ahead of (WG) Grace and (Jack) Hobbs? Grace's numbers would look rubbish with 30 something. But you can't compare with today where wickets are wonderfully prepared. Back then, pitches were full of stones. They would have to wait till 2 pm to make the pitch dry. Today, they would get mad if they are given wet wickets.”
While Gavaskar scored more than 10,000 Test runs at an average of 51.12 in the intensely competitive era of the 70s and 80s, Sir Hobbs and Grace plied their trade when the sport was in its formative years. The former's only opponents were Australia and South Africa even as the latter featured exclusively against the Aussies in the international arena.
Grace averaged only 32.29 from 22 Tests despite being the game’s first superstar. Widely credited for popularising cricket, he once continued to bat despite getting dismissed because he thought that the crowd had only come to witness him in action.
On the other hand, Hobbs scored over 5000 runs from 61 Tests at an average of 56.94 in a career spanning from 1908 to 1930. Nicknamed ‘The Master’, he was the inaugural professional cricketer to receive a knighthood.
For the middle-order, Boycott left out the game’s all-time leading run scorer in Tendulkar and went with George Headley to accompany the likes of Sir Don Bradman, Sir Viv Richards and Sir Garry Sobers. Headley scored 2190 runs from 22 Tests at an average of 60.83 with 10 tons and 5 fifties between 1930 and 1954.
The Yorkshireman explained, “Headley may have played only 20 something games but they called him the ‘Black Bradman'. He played at a time when West Indies were not doing well. You have to look at the relativity of the players of that era. Look at Bradman, he was twice as good as me.”
He picked Pakistan icon Imran Khan to lead his team as ‘he was strong and could handle the players’. However, Imran’s contemporaries like Kapil Dev and Ian Botham were not able to break into the eleven.
Boycott declared, “Kapil Dev was a wonderful bowler. So, was Ian Botham. But, I can't put them ahead of Sobers. If you want me to be nice because I am in India, I would pick five Indians but that's not me.”
Not the one to mince any words during his playing days as well as in the commentary box, he played 108 Tests and scored 8114 runs at an average of 47.72 with 22 centuries and 42 fifties.