Sir Geoffrey Boycott reels off anecdotes in much the same way he once scored runs – methodically, one after another, with a straight bat and often with a flourish.

Geoffrey Boycott

The world’s greatest living Yorkshireman – with apologies to non cricket-lovers – was in sparkling form on stage at the Garrick, reliving a life full of controversy.

The man whose highest Test score of 246 not out against India in 1967 led to him being dropped for allegedly selfish batting, has now notched up 81 not out in years in a life packed with incident, and was happy to share his fund of memories with a richly appreciative audience in Lichfield.

In a fascinating question and answer session with interviewer Simon Fielder, Boycott showed that nearly 60 years in the public eye after first revealing himself as England’s great batting hope in the early 60s has brought him fame, fortune and occasional heartbreak.

He recalls with relish his early days learning the county game at the hard school of Yorkshire cricket along with the now deceased characters who played alongside him – all-time greats such as Fred Trueman (“a phenomenal character”), Brian Close (“he was mad, absolutely crackers, no cricket ball could hurt him”) and David Bairstow, who took his own life in 1998 (“he was never down for a second, the last person you would think would commit suicide”).

More than probably anybody else on earth, Sir Geoffrey can offer compelling insights into the brutal fast bowlers he once faced, particularly the great West Indians of the 70s and 80s. He rates Michael Holding as the fastest, the late Malcolm Marshall as the best and Colin Croft as the nastiest.

He had little time for former England captain Mike Denness though, a factor in his three year self-imposed exile from the Test Match arena in the 70s before returning in triumph in 1977, only to run out local hero Derek Randall at a horrified Trent Bridge in his comeback Test. He recalled: “It was a moment when you wanted the ground to bury you.”

Sir Geoffrey talked of his recent heart problems and eight hours under the surgeon’s knife, his beloved Manchester United and his fond memories of great friend Brian Clough, another maverick spirit who often rocked the establishment.

The evening was interspersed with television footage of his great days at the crease, including his 100th first class hundred at Headingley along with the wonderful wind up in the Test Match Special commentary box, when Aggers convinced him on air that one of his centuries had been chalked off by statisticians, depriving him of an anniversary celebration.

It would have been a pleasure to hear more of his days at the microphone, which have sadly now come to an end, depriving listeners of quite possibly the most knowledgeable cricketing expert around.

Afterwards I briefly joined the famous cricketing knight in his private quarters behind the Garrick stage, swapping lifelong cricketing memories, ranging from the Randall run out (I was at Trent Bridge that day in 1977), Harold Larwood and the Bodyline saga, and precious boyhood reminiscences. Boycott was politeness personified, a down to earth Yorkshireman resolutely unafraid to speak his still sharp as a tack mind. 

“I still absolutely love it, I really do,” Sir Geoffrey said of the game which made him world-famous as we disappear into the night sky.

Still speaking from the heart, as ever.

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2 Comments

  1. Went to the Garrick last night to see An evening with Sir Geoff Boycott and it was truly a brilliant time listening to the interesting and funny tales of this master sportsman. The only trouble was I and I’m sure everyone else in the audience did not want the night to end!

  2. ‘twould have been nice to have had some interaction between Sir Geoff and the audience, eg via a Q&A. No complaints though.

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