Big Interview: Geoffrey Boycott

Quite how myself and legendary former England cricketer Geoffrey Boycott got on to the topic of children's television programme of the 1940s and 1950s '˜Muffin the Mule', I am not altogether too sure.

Saturday, 22nd April 2017, 10:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 7:08 pm
Geoffrey Boycott is heading to Preston Guild Hall

‘Do you remember it?’ Boycott asked me down the telephone line in that unmistakable Yorkshire twang of his.

The momentary silence on the other end of the phone must have been deafening for the 76-year-old as he quickly added, ‘Nah, you’re too young, aren’t you’?

‘Err, possibly Geoffrey’, I muttered somewhat confused back down the line.

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Boycott’s unexpected revelation about what used to keep him entertained as a kid may have left my 30-odd-year-old self – in cricketing terminology – stumped.

But the former England and Yorkshire Cricket Club captain and opening batsman was in the midst of describing – in his own eccentric but eloquent way – the wonder of modern-day television.

As someone who has worked prolifically within the media as a cricket commentator and pundit since retiring from playing, 
Boycott can only marvel at the technological advancements which allows sport to be showcased like the world has never seen before.

TV audiences are able to take advantage of a great viewing experience, while modern-day sports stars can get to work safe in the knowledge that their best performances will be on record forever more.

However, it was not quite like that for Boycott when he and his ilk used to don their whites. And there is more than hint of ruefulness in his voice when he recalls just how primitive television was in comparison, back when he was scoring hundreds for 
both club and country.

“I have been lucky enough to see some wonderful things in the game recently,” Boycott said.

“I watched 
England all-rounder Ben Stokes play the most wonderful innings in Cape Town against South Africa at the beginning of last year. His knock of 250 was magical and luckily for that lad, through television, he has a film of every ball he faced and every shot he played.

“I don’t think he made a mistake during the innings but the great thing is he can watch that innings back for the rest of his life.

“In 100 years’ time when he has passed on – when we all have – people will be able to watch that innings and say, ‘Wow that was magic...what a player Stokes was’.

“For myself when I played and the ones before me – Hutton, Compton, Trueman – there is very little film of our playing days.

“Television was in its infancy, so a lot of our magical moments are not on film.

“Look at mine – the 
Gillette Cup of 1965.

“I still hold the record for the highest score in a final of 146 when I helped Yorkshire beat Surrey at Lords.

“I think I have only found two shots of my whole 
innings in the BBC and ITV archives.

“It’s probably the best 
innings in terms of shot-making of my life.

“It is a little bit of a regret of mine.

“Television is wonderful now.

“It has grown and become so much better over the years, as most things do.

“The quality of the picture is so much better with HD, and the TV screens are huge nowadays.

“Crikey when I was about 10-years-old, I remember my Uncle Jack and Auntie Annie getting this great big television, but the screen was only about 10 inches wide.

“Yet it was housed in this huge cabinet – probably about 6fthigh – in their living room.

“Everything about it was so big yet the screen was so tiny.

“But at the time, we all thought that it was magical.

“I used to watch ‘Muffin the Mule’.”

One of the world’s greatest ever batsmen, Boycott hit 8,104 runs in 108 Test matches as an opening batsman for England in an international career spanning from the 1960s through to the early 1980s.

Revered for his sheer technical brilliance, Boycott was a bowler’s nightmare as he often occupied the crease for hours at time – if not days.

But he bristles at the suggestion that his style of batsmanship may not have suited the modern-day Twenty20 era.

He believes all the great players of yesteryear, people like Donald Bradman, would have been able to adapt their games.

“If I played now? It would be a piece of cake,” he said.

“You adapt – that’s the great thing.

“I have always believed that Donald Bradman was a genius.

“You’re not telling me that he could only have been a cricketer.

“If his parents had put him in to a sport like golf, he would have been a fantastic golfer.

“It’s the character, determination, mind... as well as the talent.

“We are all creatures of how we grow up, when we grow up and where we grow up.

“It’s in the DNA of our characters.

“Look at the kids of 
today, they all adapt to the Twenty20 and we would have adapted.

“Hutton, Compton – do you think they could not have adapted? I don’t think so.

“In our day, there was no Twenty20.

“We played on uncovered pitches, wet pitches, turning pitches. We were told to keep the ball on the floor but no I wouldn’t have had any problems.”

While a great fan of the spectacle of Twenty20 cricket, Boycott admits he is slightly concerned for the future of the longer form of the game.

“I like Twenty20, but I’m just a little worried that it’s going to take over from 
everything else,” he said,

“Eventually there is going to be hardly any county cricket as we know it and Test cricket as we know it, except England against 
Australia, because crowds are going down.

“I do worry about those sorts of things but there’s nothing I can do about it. I am not a cricket administrator.”

During his career, 
Boycott struck more than 150 first-class centuries, including 22 in the Test arena – famously hitting his hundredth hundred against Australia in 1977.

His highest individual Test score was 246, struck on his home ground at Headlingley against India in 1967.

Out of all his countless impressive knocks, which one gives him the most pleasure?

“I think if I had to pick one, it would be my 98th 
century,” Boycott said.

“It was my comeback Test match for England at Trent Bridge against Australia 
after I had not played for three years.

“The pressure was 
enormous. I was 36-years-old and most people retire at that age.

“I was thinking, ‘Have I still got it? Can I still play? Was I going to fail?’

“I had all that running through my head. It was a mental test.”

Boycott was able to enjoy success against some of the greatest bowlers the world has ever seen but which one gave him the most trouble?

“I am not telling you that,” he said. “I’m telling nobody.”

Cricket legend Geoffrey Boycott will be appearing at the Guild Hall on Thursday night alongside radio sidekick and former England bowler Jonthan Agnew. An Evening with Boycott and Aggers’ will be a fun-filled night of entertainment as the pair pick the bones out of the latest issues surrounding the game, as well as reminiscing about the days when they used to don their whites for both county and country. Together the pair have been entertaining audiences on the BBC’s revered Test Match 
Special for a number of years. Tickets are priced from £26 and can be purchased by calling 01772 80 44 44 or visiting the Guild Hall website. Show starts at 7.30pm.

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