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Monday 13 July 2009

No Boycs With Bumble

Amidst all the on-field talking points from the first Ashes test, some cricket fans have been asking why the Sky commentary team doesn’t include Geoff Boycott. After all, the reasoning goes, he’s wasted on Test Match Special and the C5 highlights. Ah well. There’s a very good reason for that, and he’s on the Sky team. Step forward the apparently kindly and unthreatening David “Bumble” Lloyd.

Bumble used to open the batting for his native Lancashire. He even got to play for England, but Boycs was first choice. In later years the two men, although still in and around the game, found themselves on opposite sides of the fence: Boycott became an established commentator with the BBC, and Lloyd eventually became England coach.

So it might be thought that they wouldn’t encounter one another much. This held true until an end of season test match in 1998, when it became clear to an entire TV audience that Boycs didn’t think much of Bumble, and Bumble wasn’t for sitting there and keeping quiet.

England had just won a five match series against South Africa – including the one with the standoff between Allan Donald and Mike Atherton. But then came a one-off match against Sri Lanka, whose captain admitted that he had only one asset, spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, whose much analysed bowling action had been passed by the authorities. In England’s second innings, he took nine wickets, being prevented from taking all ten as Alec Stewart had been run out. Sri Lanka won easily, and Lloyd was censured for his comments on Muralitharan’s action.

Up in the BBC commentary box, the question was put as to what England needed to do to improve. Boycott, in a typical combination of maximum candour with minimum subtlety, had no doubts. “They need a coach who can keep ‘is mouth shut” he observed. This was not lost on Lloyd, or his players: the TV was on in the England dressing room.

Bumble, never one to back down, was not just angry, but incandescent with rage. He was out of that dressing room and over to the commentary box with some speed, and off air there followed, shall we say, a full and frank exchange of views. It is unlikely that either man backed down, or that there was any meeting of minds. And that, as far as is known, is still true today.

So don’t expect Boycs to appear on Sky any time soon.

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