'I’ve asked Sourav for Chappell’s Christmas card'
It doesn't get much better than this: one of my favourite players being declared Man of the Match on my ground in his 300th match, writes Geoffrey Boycott.Updated: Sep 05, 2007, 00:33 IST
It doesn't get much better than this: one of my favourite players being declared Man of the Match on my ground in his 300th match. When I went into the Indian dressing room to congratulate Sourav Ganguly, I told him that had Greg Chappell not got him sacked, this would probably have been his 350th game. And I told him that if Greg sends him a Christmas card, would he please hand it over to me, because I can make a fortune by auctioning it!
Showing far greater commitment and common sense while batting first, with England having been stupid enough to choose to field, India put on a vastly improved show at Headingley. It always helps if your top four batsmen score half-centuries, and you could see the determination on the faces of the Indian fielders as they went about their task. Yes, a leopard will not change its spots overnight, and India can't become a world-class fielding side just yet, but every cricketer should be able to field decently.
It may have helped that Sharad Pawar was present at the game. It certainly helped that Andrew Flintoff was not. England are just not the same without him, and his absence merely highlights the need for an all-rounder that I keep harping on. Flintoff is the game's best dual-purpose player right now.
The sad bit is that Flintoff may have done too much, too soon. Some time ago, I advised him to ease his way back into the game at the Twenty20 World Championship, where he would have to bowl only four overs per match. The trouble is that he's so good that people want to get the most out of him.
It probably also helped that England had a 4-1 scoreline and thought that the way India were playing, all they had to do was turn up at the ground. You cannot take a strong batting line-up for granted. The way to deal with erratic form of brilliant players like Sachin, Sourav and Rahul is to not publicly humiliate and embarrass them. The best way is for the chairman of selectors or coach to take them aside and ask them gently but firmly to re-focus on the game. What they need is a talking to, not sacking.
The Oval is a good venue for another big score, but India's best chance is still to bat first because the track will be flat and pacy, the outfield lightning fast and India are still one bowler short.