Geoffrey Boycott - Playing Style

Playing Style

As I stood at the non-striker's end, I felt a wave of admiration for my partner; wiry, slight, dedicated, a lonely man doing a lonely job all these years.

– Mike Brearley admiring Boycott's talent with the bat in 1979.

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 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.

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