Cricket in politics: Theresa May idolises that ‘dull, dour’ batsman Geoffrey Boycott
British Prime Minister Theresa May’s style in office compares rather well with the stonewalling technique on the pitch that Boycott was famous for.world Updated: Sep 10, 2017 07:52 IST
If, as the saying goes, your favourite actor, sportsperson or musician says a lot about you as a person, who is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s favourite cricketer? Despite a deluge of books and articles about him in recent years, we don’t quite know the answer.
Across the seas, Prime Minister Theresa May – unlike Modi – is a known cricket lover. On Friday, she was at Lord’s for the England-West Indies test match, where she declared her admiration for a batsman who was for many years the scourge of bowlers and spectators around the world — Geoffrey Boycott.
For political pundits, her Boycott fixation is not exactly a surprise — her style in office first as the home secretary and now in Downing Street compares rather well with the dull and dour stonewalling technique on the pitch that Boycott was famous for.
Going by the trenchant criticism May has faced during the June elections and on Brexit, she may well say to the pundits, “It’s just not cricket”, but accompanied by her cricket-loving husband Philip May, she batted for herself during a chat with BBC’s Jonathan Agnew at Lord’s.
Asked on the Test Match Special programme if Boycott did not “bore you to tears”, she replied: “The whole point was he stuck at it. He had a plan and he got on with it, and more often than not delivered.
“I have made brownies for TMS before, once when Geoffrey Boycott was invited. I brought some brownies up. I handed them to Geoffrey but I don’t know whether they ever made it into the TMS box…All I will say is that Geoffrey Boycott’s still got my Tupperware.”
May has attracted some epithets in recent years, such as “ice maiden” by former cabinet colleague and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, but one that has stuck, due to her robot-like answers to questions on television and in public meetings is “Maybot”.
As if she agreed her tactics in interviews were like a “Boycott defensive block”, she said: “It suited Geoffrey well,” but denied she deliberately went out of her way to refuse to answer questions: “That’s not evasion, it’s just giving a different answer than the one the interview wants.”
May said she did not like being characterised as repetitive and impersonal: “I get frustrated. People use the term ‘robotic’ about me. I don’t think I’m in the least robotic.” In an earlier interview, she admitted to tearing up when her party did not win the June election.
The enigmatic Boycott is reported to be rather pleased with May’s admiration for him. When she became Prime Minister last year, he predicted that she will be “like Margaret Thatcher”, adding: “She has views and she’s strong. Life is about integrity and principles – it should be. We want politicians like that with integrity, with principles, with honesty.”
The Yorkshireman, who is now an expert on TMS, was recently the centre of a row when he remarked that he would need to “black up” in order to receive a knighthood. He later apologised and the BBC confirmed that he will not be asked to resign from his role.
Boycott played in 108 tests for England and scored over 8,000 runs in a career spanning 1962 to 1986.
On the political pitch, May faces constant talk about her longevity in office after she failed to lead the Conservatives to a majority in the election. But like Boycott, she has promised to go on and on, seeing herself leading the party at the next election, due in 2022. One can already sense that familiar frustration and ennui among many in Westminster and beyond.