Geoff Boycott 246

When Geoffrey Boycott was dropped for double century against India

Sir Geoffrey Boycott is acknowledged as one of the most prolific opening batsman to have represented England. Boycott was born on this day, i.e., on 21st October, in the year 1940 at Yorkshire. He represented Yorkshire in county cricket for 414 matches, amassing 103 centuries for this club.

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As a result of his brilliance in the game, Boycott got his call to play test cricket for England in the year 1964 versus Australia. Thereafter, he had an epic journey in international cricket. In 108 test matches for England, he had accumulated 8114 runs at 47.72. During his test career, he scored 22 centuries including his top score of an unbeaten 246 against India. His service to English cricket led him to earn a prestigious spot in the ICC Hall of Fame in 2009.

Geoffrey Boycott and Controversy

After retirement as a cricketer, Geoffrey Boycott pursued a career in cricket commentary. He earned both popularity and criticism as a commentator, for his outspoken attitude. Both in his columns and commentary, Boycott never paused to criticize the approach of modern era batsmen. He defeated throat cancer in 2002 to continue his stint as a top commentator till retirement early this year.

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Like his commentary, his cricket career was no less controversial. Often considered by teammates as a ‘reserved’, introverted person, Boycott almost never allowed this to make an impact on his performance for the country. However, his knock of 246 not out aforementioned did get him dropped from the squad of next test. Ironically, it was his test best that got him axed. Moreover, Boycott had to face steep criticism from the British media instead of praises for the knock.

India’s Tour of England, 1967

In the summer of 1967, team India made a three-month long tour to England. Nawab of Pataudi Jr., Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi was leading the Indian team in the tour. They played a total of 18 first-class fixtures, winning just 2 of them. Injury of Indian lead bowlers turned out to be prime reason behind such an unfortunate performance. In addition, it has always been difficult for Indian bowlers to excel in English conditions.

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On the other hand, Brian Close, the Yorkshire skipper led the English side in the 3-match test series versus India. Boycott was not in form prior to this series. In fact, he could score just 124 runs in his previous nine first-class innings. Even there were discussions in the media about his selection in this series.

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1st Test, Leeds, June 8-13 1967

England won the toss and chose to bat first on a flat track. Boycott’s co-opener John Edrich got out cheaply at his score of 1. Indian left-arm medium pacer Rusi Surti had him nicked an edge to wicket-keeper Farokh Engineer. But, Surti injured his knee soon and Indian lead spinner Bishen Singh Bedi pulled his thigh muscle. Both of them could not bowl anymore in the game. It appeared to be a huge blow for the Indian side. The visiting bowling attack could raise minimal questions to the established English batting lineup.

No. 3 batsman Ken Barrington scored 93, no. 4 Tom Graveney complemented with his knock of 59. Meanwhile, no. 5 Basil D’Oliveira scored his first century for England, escaping his native South Africa from the apartheid controversies.

On the other end, Geoffrey Boycott remained unbeaten throughout the innings as Close declared on 550/4 on the second afternoon. Boycott amassed 246 runs to his name, which was also the then highest individual score in a test match involving England and India. Later, Graham Gooch surpassed this record with his 1990 triple century knock in Lord’s.

Geoffrey Boycott en route to his test best of 246 not out

But, instead of appreciation, Boycott received immense criticism for this knock. Both the public and the media turned out unhappy at his approach in the knock. It is rare to face consequences of scoring a test double century, but Boycott was axed from the next match for his innings.

What did go wrong to have imposed such a harsh decision on him?

Outrage on Geoffrey Boycott’s unbeaten 246

It was the slow batting technique from Boycott that created such a fuss. As mentioned earlier, he was trying to get back into form after a tough season. The flat track and the lackluster Indian bowling formation seemed to be the perfect dish to propel on.

Boycott started off slow, scoring just 25 runs in the first session of play. Moreover, he had a runless duration of 45 minutes in that session. Coming to resume his innings in the next session, he could manage only 50 runs. The match took place at Leeds, the home ground of Yorkshire and the home of Boycott as well. Even the home crowd showed their disgust as they started leaving the ground in packs after tea. The deliberately safe and unhurried batting from Boycott instantly became the discussion of the hour.

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In the final session, Boycott scored just 31 runs. He left for the pavilion for 106 runs at the end of play, after batting a full day. The media was outraged. The Daily Mirror newspaper made a headline as sharp as SLING BOYCOTT OUT!

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On the next day, Boycott resumed his innings with a different mood. He attacked every Indian bowler from the first session itself. It took him just four hours to add 140 runs as he ended the innings at unbeaten 246. Pataudi had to use nine bowlers including himself to bear the wrath of English batting.

But, this did not help Boycott recapture his lost charisma. Instead, the media complained that if he could be so attacking on the second day, what was he doing on the first one. It was later revealed that even a selector appeared at the ground to ask the English captain to order Boycott pace up his innings.

An English victory and consequences

After the first innings battering, it was not easy for the Indian side to give a befitting reply. Instead, they fell for 164 all out and was asked to follow-on. Thanks to a fighting 148 from the skipper himself, India managed to score 510 in the third innings.

England had to chase a meager target of 125 on the final day. They chased it down with six wickets left within 48 overs to register a victory. Ken Barrington top scored in this innings with 46 runs to his name. However, Boycott did not feature in this innings. He twisted his ankle earlier while fielding so Boycott ended up at the reserve for the rest of the game.

India had a poor run at the 1967 test series in England

Following the game, the English selectors met for squad selection for the second test of the series. The selection committee featured Alec Bedser, Doug Insole, Peter May and Don Kanyon. Brian Close, the English skipper was also present in this meeting. The selectors decided to drop Boycott for his knock terming it ‘selfish’. Close was not in favor of the decision but he was outvoted. As a result, the decision to axe Boycott stayed much to the surprise of the cricketer. It divided the cricket fraternity of England into two halves.

The selectors made it sure that the message reaches Boycott. They mentioned that this kind of selfishness from an English cricketer could not be tolerated. As a result, even the relation between him and his Yorkshire and national captain Close deteriorated.

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John Edrich opened in place of Boycott in the second test. The Indian side subsequently lost this game too, this time by an innings and 124 runs.

Aftermath

Boycott returned to county cricket after the selectors dropped him from the England squad. There, he showed some great form including a double century against Northamptonshire. Consequently, the selectors called him back for the third and final test of the ongoing series versus India.

But, it was not easy for Boycott in his quest to reestablish his name in the cricket fraternity. The media was all set to tear him down even if provided a single chance. Boycott found himself in tremendous pressure during the first innings of the third test at Edgbaston. Hence, he decided to go all out on the messy Indian bowling because he was frightened of even playing a maiden. He said, “I felt as if the whole press box was waiting for me to play a defensive stroke.”

England squad in the 1st test versus India, 1967

Eventually, on his score of 25, Boycott tried to step out and hit Bedi for a sixer. Instead, he missed to make a connection and Engineer had him stumped. He made an unimpressive 6 runs in the second innings. It did not matter much as England ended up beating India yet again, this time by a margin of 132 runs.

Sir Geoffrey Boycott went to on feature for England as its prime opening batman in test cricket till his retirement in 1982. But, he could never forget the stain of himself getting dropped after scoring his highest score in test cricket. Boycott mentioned his displeasure about the incident many a times as a commentator later.

Cover Image Courtesy: Geoffrey Boycott batting vs NZ. February 1978 by https://ndhadeliver.natlib.govt.nz/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE28334707, Wikimedia Commons is licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Modified from Original

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