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Cowdrey Lecture 2005

Cowdrey Lecture, 2005


This is the original text of the speech given at Lord’s on 19 July 2005 when GB became the first Englishman to deliver the annual Colin Cowdrey lecture following Richie Benaud, Sunil Gavaskar and Clive Lloyd. Since then Martin Crowe of New Zealand, Christopher Martin Jenkins, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Adam Gilchrist have filled the role. Geoffrey has added up to date comments (Oct 2009) which appear in italic type.


Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen.


Tom Graveney was my boyhood hero.


People say to me, a Yorkshire man, why not Len Hutton? Well I never saw him bat. Twice, I was taken to Bradford to see him but each time it rained so I never saw the great man make runs.


England v India at Headingley in June 1952 was the first Test Match I ever saw. Our Fred got 3 wickets in 8 balls on debut and India were 4 wickets down for 0 runs. Tom top scored for England and as an 11 year old I was captivated with his timing and elegant stroke play.


Fourteen years later, in 1966, here at this famous ground, I was lucky enough to bat with him against the West Indies. Tom made 96 and I had the pleasure of watching him from the other end for many of his runs.


This lecture is named after Colin Cowdrey. Well, as a captain he was brilliant to me. In 1968, just before we left for the West Indies he told me “whatever instructions I give to the rest of the team, you just ignore them. I want you to bat all day and seal up one end”   Well, I thought all my Christmases had come together and after the famous Gary Sobers declaration in Trinidad we batted together to win the match and the series.


We came back, and that summer played Australia for the Ashes. In the third Test at Edgbaston, M.C.C. as he was known, celebrated becoming the first man to play in 100 Tests by scoring his 21st century for England. I had been out LBW to Gleeson for 36. In making his 104 Colin got injured. Wisden records “He pulled a muscle in his left leg and used Boycott as his runner when he had scored 58.”


I was laid on the bench when Tom (our president) came to tell me the captain wants you to run for him. I said “me, run for him, you must be joking.” He never realized how lucky he was to get that century.


Talking about the Australians, I would like to pay them a compliment. They have taken our game to a new level. In the last 10 to 15 years under captains Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh and now Ricky Ponting, and, whatever the changes in personnel, they have been true World Champions. They play a brand of cricket that is exciting, interesting and winning.


Most other teams have been left behind in both One Day and Test matches. We shouldn’t expect Australia to drop their standards to make a level playing field, so, it’s up to every other country to improve and get better if they are to make a challenge for the crown. England, now, have raised their standard, matching Australia in the recent one dayers, and we may well give them a run for their money in the forthcoming Ashes.


Well that was fairly prophetic because we won the Ashes for the first time in 18 years. My reasoning was that I felt we had bowlers who could swing it and were capable of taking 20 wickets.


Way back in January 1971, I played in the first ever One Day International which happened to be against Australia, in Melbourne. England were 1-0 up in the series, and the Test Match was called off due to rain. The outfield was slippery, and not wanting to jeopardize our chances in any way of winning the ashes (which we did, 2-0) we simply treated the game as one would a Benefit or Exhibition match.


When it was announced the Test match had been abandoned and we had agreed to play a one day game – nearly 40,000 turned up, without prior tickets- just turned up and paid at the gate.


So the first One Day International was played purely by accident. The first ball was bowled by Graham McKenzie. The first batsman to receive that ball was me- and the first person ever to be out was me!


There were not many rules – we didn’t have 4 men in the circle – no 2 close catchers – no coloured clothing – no white ball or black sight screens, in fact, at that time nobody had even thought of day/night cricket. There were no strict interpretation of wides and sometimes the pitches were ‘sporting’ or a bit juicy for the bowlers. We didn’t take it seriously. It took us years to treat it more than a bit of fun, tagged on at the end of a Test Match series.


For us Test Match cricket was everything – the thing you had been brought up to be judged on. Little did we know that this was a form of cricket that was to revolutionize the game.


From its chance beginnings, I think the administrators have done a fantastic job. Wherever and whenever it’s played – day on night- the grounds are full. The ICC have been prepared to enhance and improve it, even just recently they have introduced new rules. Some would say “we are already playing to full houses, so, if it’s not broken, why fix it?”


I don’t happen to think substitutes are the answer, but I commend the ICC for seeing there is a dead period in the middle of an innings, when batsmen are trying to consolidate. Most excitement does come in the first 15 overs and the last 10 overs. Regular rule changes are helping to keep the One Day game vibrant and interesting. It is a pity I can’t say the same about Test Match cricket.


With the exception of England, Test match crowds are falling everywhere. Why?

In this modern world people have more choice. And there’s more competition for their leisure time; golf, tennis, the internet, television, more people have cars and all these activities demand people’s time and money.


Even in Asia attendances are down. India used to sell out for every game but now even India against Pakistan, the equivalent of the Ashes, doesn’t bring full houses. Large crowds, sure, but they are not full. In Pakistan and Sri Lanka crowds are so small you can count them.


What worries me is that in this modern world the ICC don’t seem to be doing enough to sell Test cricket and make it more appealing. Life has changed, it’s lived at a much faster pace and people simply don’t have time for a five day cricket match. To ensure job security they have got to work and all those other leisure activities I’ve mentioned are competing for their time and money.


In England there isn’t a problem; crowds are prepared to queue up and pay high prices, and they are high prices, providing the opposition is strong enough. But that’s not the case in the rest of the world.


In Australia the back-to-back Tests in Melbourne and Sydney over Christmas and the New Year are pretty full and they have acquired the status of social occasions. At Newlands in Cape Town it’s a similar story. But elsewhere crowds are dwindling and have been for some time.


There are more Tests now finishing early, a much higher win-loss ratio, and that’s partly because of the one-day game. More shots are played, better fielding and wickets tumbling. If technique is poorer the quality of the entertainment is better and there’s nothing wrong with that.


I can hear people saying, “hang on a minute Geoffrey, that’s not the way you played” but that was then and this is now. There’s nothing personal in this, it’s about looking at the changes in life, the way it’s speeded up. I just want to see the game improved in quality for the paying customer. And we have to get the crowds back into Tests.


This season, England v Australia will play to full houses and as a consequence the atmosphere will be electric. BUT we need to create this in the rest of the world. Players need spectators to bring out the best in them. Cricket Boards in all countries are getting more and more television money, but that will never compensate for the empty seats.


Administrators have to understand that we must reverse the trend .The Test Match game is already on a slippery slope and unless we get more fans and supporters in the grounds Tests will die out in the years to come.


Now I can understand the ICC’s determination to preserve the fundamentals of the game – the size and weight of the ball – size and width of the bats – height and width of the stumps – length of the pitch, and we don’t want to see restrictions on bowlers’ run ups because these are the basics of the game stretching back into history. No sensible person wants to see any of those things changed. But times have changed and cricket needs to change in order to keep pace.


The International Cricket Council has done nothing to change a state of affairs as worrying now as it was when I spoke those words in 2005. People say it’s a lack of quality which keeps crowds away, but it’s not. Last winter South Africa played Australia at home after beating them on their own turf with the chance to become number one in the world for the first time. In Johannesberg there were decent crowds but in Durban and Capetown you could have counted the crowd in 25 minutes and this was for games where number one in the world was playing number two! It’s not purely about cricket but the ICC have done bugger all to rejuvenate the game and NOTHING has changed in the last four years and I think that’s pathetic.


To me, Test match cricket is the heart and soul of the game. Players are judged against each other and those of the past and that is possible because those basic principles have not changed.


I think we should look at the game and ask “what can we do to make it better,

more interesting and more relevant to today’s world and still preserve the character and ethos of the game.”


First of all – I think we should change to four-day Test matches of seven hours each day and we should guarantee fifteen overs an hour. That’s 105 overs a day, 420 in a match. Currently, there are supposed to be 450 overs based on 90 overs a day for five days. However that’s only if you are lucky because on most occasions teams don’t bowl their overs at the required rate and some overs are lost. A large percentage of games finish inside the allotted time and the 450 overs aren’t needed. So I think we need to concertina the game, to concentrate the action while losing none of the skills.


I can hear players saying “we don’t want seven hours” to which I’d reply “Well, hang on a minute, in recent times you have been doing seven hour days because you don’t bowl your overs quickly enough.”


Match referees can and do give allowances in time for moving sightscreens – drink intervals – players changing shoes – injuries and even wickets taken. For example – during 25 days of Test Match cricket last winter, between them neither South Africa or England completed 90 overs in the required hours of play. Yet, neither side was fined for slow over rates, because, under the current rules, the match referee managed to find enough allowances to make it fit.


It doesn’t do cricket any favours and it is not in the spirit of the game.

Those sort of incidents, which they now call allowances, have been going on since time immemorial, so I wouldn’t give any allowances and make it quite clear to the players that 105 overs in the allotted time of 7 hours, means what it says!


To give you another example.


It was difficult to find too many matches at Lords that were not either rain affected or ended in a result and, also had great fast bowlers. At this same ground, 52 years ago

England vs. Australia 1953, it was a drawn Test Match. 529 overs were bowled over the 5 days. 105 ½ overs per day were bowled in 6 hours.


There was a galaxy of big name seam bowlers and fast bowlers. Australia had Ray Lindwall – Keith Miller – Bill Johnston and Alan Davidson. England had Brian Statham – Alec Bedser and Trevor Bailey. No allowances were made, and they didn’t have, or need any rules or guidelines as to how many overs should be bowled. They just did it!


This business of over rates needs sorting out because it’s become a joke.


The ICC can fine teams for slow over rates but the amount of money compared with the players’ earnings is usually so small it becomes irrelevant.


There was a time when play could go on until the necessary number of overs were bowled. This meant, however, that sometimes games were going on for an hour or more after the scheduled close of play. But, the television companies said “hang on a minute, we’ve got to plan our programmes and we can’t do that if we don’t know what time the play will finish.” So now you are only allowed a maximum of half an hour’s overtime per day. In England it’s added on at the end of the day, in sunnier climes at the start. It becomes more complicated if it rains during the day. Then you can extend play in England by one hour.


Let’s be clear about this, it’s nothing but a cheats’ charter.


If a side looks to be in trouble on the third day they could deliberately bowl their overs slowly on the fourth day knowing that any overs not completed are lost forever.

Consequently, they would have to bat for fewer overs on the last day.


What does that do if not encourage gamesmanship? That’s not in the spirit of cricket. I think that’s wrong.


Again the ICC has done nothing and they’re still waffling on about financial penalties. How can a fine be relevant when the top players in India, Australia and England are earning well over £1million a year? ‘Freddie’ Flintoff has turned down an incremental contract worth £25,000 a year because it’s a laughable fee for a man who is capable of earning well over £2m a year.


Some fifteen years ago I wrote that the regulations should be changed to dock offenders ten runs for every over they were short and still make them play on at the end of the day or come back early in the morning to make up those lost overs. For example, no side can afford to be eight overs short at the end of normal playing hours and have to forfeit 80 runs.


I know the ICC say they don’t like penalty runs but we have always had an extra run for a no ball or a wide and what’s that if it’s not a penalty run?

The ICC gives teams monetary fines at the end of the match and can suspend captains for future Tests. But a punishment AFTER the event allows a captain and players to get away with bowling their overs slowly or gamesmanship. Any punishment should hurt a team during the match where the offences are committed.


I looked back at England’s tour of Australia in 1970-71 where we bowled eight ball overs. In the drawn Tests, at Brisbane, Perth, Melbourne and Adelaide where we had played the full hours we got through the equivalent of at least 100 six ball overs in a six hour day, the lowest being 494 overs in five days at Melbourne, the highest 505 in the match at Adelaide.


Both sides had fast bowlers, Garth McKenzie and ‘Froggie’ Thomson for the Aussies and John Snow, Ken Shuttleworth, Bob Willis and Peter Lever for us. No one had a run up as long as Lever and, as some one said at the time, “I don’t go as far as that for my holidays!” Plenty of batsmen got injured, it was red hot everywhere. There were drink intervals and wickets tumbling but we still got through the overs on time without any of these stupid allowances.


Nowadays some captains are a menace the way they dawdle setting fields and talking to bowlers after every ball. Sides get into a huddle at the fall of a wicket, congratulate each other and don’t move until the next batsman is in the middle. The field should be in place, the bowler back to his mark and everyone all set to go as soon as the batsman has taken guard. Incidentally this is also intimidating to the new batsman. It can be done, it used to be done and it must be done.


It’s up to the ICC to impose their authority on a problem which has become increasingly vexing to administrators, the television companies who supply vast amounts of cash and the spectators who, in the end, are everything.


What we need is some leadership, some dynamism, a desire to tackle the problems and promote the game. Not just let it meander along expecting people to turn up at our convenience. Matches must be played over week-ends, at holiday periods and in warmer countries like South Africa, Asia, Australia and West Indies there is a compelling case for day-night Test cricket under floodlights. Families could come along after work and hours of play could be fiddled about with to suit the public. We do it with the one-day game, why not in Tests?


We don’t get any leadership from the ICC just more committees, more talking. Nothing gets done and that’s why people feel that it is ineffective and just a talking shop when the game needs an international body to drive the game forward.


The experiment to turn the lights on when it got gloomy in South Africa last winter was not a success and left the public, the television companies and the England players fuming when an England win was denied in Durban. But this was with the red ball and it should be remembered that the opposite happened in New Zealand the winter before when England were in a sticky situation.


I think if you’re going to allow the use of floodlights with the red ball you’ve just got to accept that conditions are the luck of the draw, just like if you lose the toss over here on a cloudy morning and with a greenish pitch, you won’t fancy batting much. ‘That’s the luck of the draw’, ‘that’s the way it is’. But to have half-baked regulations which only the umpires understand does nothing for the game and sometimes I feel the officials are all too ready to pamper the players while forgetting the paying customer.


We’ve just had an example of that in Manchester where 20,000 people turned up, two days running for a T20 international in fine weather. There were huge amounts of cash spent with the takings of around £1million in gate money. But there was no cricket because of one muddy patch and players might slip and hurt themselves. Give us a break. Is that not shooting ourselves in the foot? Couldn’t it have been covered up and the players told to take care in that area? Just bloody stupid.


They will say that we can’t have day-night Test matches because of the white ball. They always bring this up and it’s nothing more than a red herring. We can get a man on the moon and yet we can’t find a white cricket ball which will last 80 overs.

It’s laughable isn’t it? What I feel is that instead of waiting for the manufacturers to come up with a white ball that lasts 80 overs they should be commissioning their own research. They are awash with money after the World Cup and the ICC Trophy and they should invest some of that cash into doing their own research, not waiting for someone else to supply the answers.


If, after going down every avenue, they can’t come up with a reasonable ball, which I find hard to accept, then they should go back to having a white ball at either end. In the Packer series it used to happen and I can remember playing in games under lights where, because the white ball became badly scuffed so quickly, two balls were used, one at each end so each ball was only used for 25 overs.


Test match cricket under lights could do something similar. Where there is a will there is a way. Changing scuffed, dirty white balls in one-day games has not affected the entertainment or attendances. What we need is someone with some imagination to solve the problem of the white ball because it’s gone on too long.


Again the ICC have done nothing while MCC have. Their World Cricket Committee, of which I am a member, along with a lot of very distinguished cricketers, commissioned Imperial College of Science in London to carry out tests. They found out that the white ball was not dyed the same as the red and discovered that pink and orange balls lasted better. MCC are carrying out trials while the ICC is messing about, STILL talking about day-night Tests and saying only if we can get ‘a suitable white ball’. They also say that they don’t like coloured clothing in Tests played under lights but what alternative is there? You can’t have a white ball and white clothing so let’s play in pastel colours. But for crying out loud let’s get on with it and stop talking. MCC is totally independent and has no vested interests; ICC have and while MCC want to play a day night Test next year on their ground at Lord’s against Bangladesh ICC have yet to make up their collective mind.


I also want to see a standardization of the red ball. The problem with the red ball, as made by SG and Dukes, is that it doesn’t swing and one of the great arts of the game is lost. Some make the mistake of saying that a ball which nips away off the pitch has swung but that’s erroneous, swing is in the air, nowhere else.


Years ago each team had a genuine swing bowler and the great craft is to pitch the ball up, which induces the front foot drive, one of the game’s aesthetic shots and that brings the slips into play. But this skill has almost disappeared from the game. The reason is the ball and the pitches I have seen round the world encourage bowlers to bang it in short but what a pity that one of the great arts of the game has been lost.


Batsmen hardly ever see it these days. As a batsman, playing swing well demands a good technique, you need to see it early and play it late, have soft hands and resist the temptation to go at the ball early, which is the hardest thing to do.


It’s in areas like this I would like to see the ICC pro-active. They should instigate research and development because, after all, the ball is the most important part of cricket. You can’t play without one.


The ICC hasn’t grasped that Test cricket has to change and it must move on at a faster rate and they must also restrict the number of one-dayers played in a year. They’ve been extremely lax about this and there are just too many. Whenever you put on a one-day game against the top sides you get full houses so the administrators just say “play as many as you can, television will pay us a fortune and we’ll fill the ground.”


I think they’re wrong. It’s easy money for them but what is the real cost? Some one has to sit down and answer the question, “what is a reasonable number of Tests and one-day games for a player to perform in without burn out.” Nobody seems to bother about that but the players are knackered. There’s just too much of it.


We’ve just played an Ashes series, two T20s and seven ODIs, then the team flew to South Africa for the Champions’ Trophy ending on October 5. Some players then went on to the Champions’ League in India running from Oct 8 to October 23 and England leave for South Africa on October 31. So many one-dayers it all becomes just another game to get more money from TV and looses all sense of importance. The players are just plain knackered. The problem is that the ICC wants more and more of its own tournaments; a World Cup every four years, Champions’ Trophy every two and sling in as many T20s as possible so it can make a lot of money for itself. There are vested interests at work. And then, to cap it all, after having Australia here this summer they’re back next year for another five ODIs. The new future tours agreement means Australia will come to England to play some form of cricket every two years. The ICC has yet to grasp that more is not better.


Yet the ICC tables for Test and one-day cricket are a nonsense. How can you have a league table when sides don’t play each other the same number of times? England play Australia, South Africa and West Indies in five match series but India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and New Zealand in three and four game rubbers.


In addition to that there are silly two Test match series against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh and there is no doubt in my mind that they are an embarrassment to Test cricket. Nobody wants to see it and the vast accumulation of runs against them does nothing for the game.


My mum would have scored runs and taken wickets against the Bangladeshis.

She’d have wanted to bat and bowl at both ends!!


These are smashing people, and they deserve better. It destroys morale and talent to keep getting hammered. It ruins confidence and holds back their advancement and I believe they should be playing against sides of equal or slightly better ability. It’s the stick and the carrot. Too much stick is no good for anybody and there has to be a chance of some success or what point is there in playing.


In the Tests England bowled out Bangladesh in 40 overs. They could have forfeited the first innings, bowled them out again and knocked off the runs by lunch on the second day. Now how insulting would that have been? The Test figures now are totally meaningless against them and it’s insulting to the public and the television companies to call them Tests.


Zimbabwe are not much better. They were a good side until the internal strife in their country and the row between players and administrators finished some of their top white players.


I realize both countries want to keep their Test status because it brings in TV money but surely you don’t keep countries playing out of their depth just so they can make money. Cricketing ability must be the criteria. Their officials all say they don’t think it would do any good to relegate them from the Test arena. But, in the words of Mandy Rice-Davies, “they would say that, wouldn’t they!!!”

I honestly believe that the ICC should be ashamed of itself for allowing this devaluation of Test cricket to continue. Doing nothing is the politician’s way and it’s totally unacceptable. To look at it positively, the ICC could arrange and help pay to send them on overseas tours. These two countries should play the state sides in Australia, provinces in South Africa, the islands in the West Indies, the states in India and the counties over here. In that way they would be able to grow, become accustomed to conditions overseas, learn from others and have a chance of winning a couple of games which would do wonders for them and put a stop to this meaningless cricket.


It’s a fallacy to compare them to Pakistan when they came into Test cricket in 1952. They may have been a new country following partition in 1947 but they weren’t new boys. Some of them were highly experienced and had played for India. The captain, Abdul Hafeez Kardar, had already toured here with India in 1946 and played with Warwickshire and Oxford University. Fazal Mahmood was an experienced bowler with a lot of first class cricket under his belt and Hanif Mohammed came from a very gifted family.


New Zealand and the West Indies also had a first class system in their domestic cricket before they came onto the international scene in the thirties and a lot of their players had been turning out in the leagues over here.


Bangladesh and the majority of the current Zimbabwe side are absolute novices although one-day cricket is more of a lottery and I accept they could have their moments when playing limited over Internationals.


I know that Zimbabwe are out of Test cricket but I stand by what I said four years ago their cricket is poor and their politics worse and while Bangladesh have made a little progress beating the current disappointing West Indies side doesn’t really say much.


I would like to see a Twenty/20 World Cup. It’s an amazing game which has excited audiences and filled grounds and could easily take the place of the ICC Trophy which last year in this country was a damp squib. I enjoy it. We should treat it as a fun day out that compliments rather than takes the place of Tests and 50 over matches. It could be a big, big money spinner, the public would support it and TV would queue up for it.


Instead of some action we’ve got private promotion companies planning competitions in Asia and another one has been announced for Bermuda next April. There needs to be some urgency here, if it takes a couple of years ‘dilly dallying’ more and more private promoters will get in. So I would ask what is going on? Why does it take so long to do anything? The ICC has all the big names, all the big countries, and there is a pot of gold waiting.


That was prophetic wasn’t it? The one in South Africa in 2007 was a success as was this year’s in England but now they’ve got another planned for the West Indies next year. I think that’s a bit too soon and once again we have overkill. As soon as they see the £ sign the eyes light up and it’s all too much. My mum made a lovely steak and kidney pie on a Monday and I loved it but if she’d served it every day I’d have been throwing it at her by Friday! The IPL has now got the upper hand and well done to Lalit Modi for having the vision to create such a huge global entity.


Another topic that we seem to be always debating is, should there be more or less technology to help Umpires make decisions?


My view is simple: I want more not less. I know that some umpires, like my friend Dickie Bird, are set against it. They feel that the more decisions arrived at by television reduces their status and makes them little more than bean counters. All I can say to that is Television is getting better and better, the standard is improving all the time, with incredible high tech cameras and techniques.


TV replays highlight any umpiring errors or mistakes. With so many cameras and angles they catch almost everything and while we all accept that the umpire doesn’t have that luxury it’s pointless asking the television companies not to show re-runs or discuss incidents. It’s their lifeblood. That’s what they pay a fortune for.


It is a fact, that in our world game of cricket, every country is dependent on TV for income and without it our game would struggle and some countries would be bankrupt. So we can’t tell TV what to do or what not to do. They have an audience who demand to see and know everything that goes on.


Nobody wants to see umpires embarrassed by their mistakes and as a former player I know that all anyone wants is more accurate decisions. Some people will say – “why don’t the players accept the umpire’s decision – like players used to do?” Well, before we had TV it was easier to accept – even if as a player you thought it had been wrong, you had no way of it being confirmed, one way or the other.


When you’re out and the decision is correct, fine, but it’s not okay if you’re given out when you’re not.


Some time ago, Duncan Fletcher floated the idea that each team should be able to challenge the umpire’s decision three times. If the challenge proves to be successful they would still have three left, however, if the challenge failed, on referral to the third umpire, they would lose one and only have two left and so on.


I think it’s a brilliant idea!


For example, if a batsman stands his ground – and challenges the umpire’s decision –                                                         and is then proved to be out, he will walk back to a very quiet, unimpressed dressing room because he has used up one of the teams challenges.


We all ‘eventually’ accept the disappointments of our own mistakes, but the players of today should no longer need to suffer for other people’s mistakes. Careers and reputations are at stake, winning and losing matches are on the line and I want to see the available technology used to the best effect.


It is ludicrous that at the moment we seem to spend more time deciding whether a fielder’s foot has touched the boundary rope, in a diving stop, than if somebody’s nicked it, missed it or got an inside edge on to the pad. The super slo-mo camera detects the slightest thing, the snickometer measures sound and obviously we can’t expect umpires to be as good. It’s impossible for the human eye to detect as much. But replays are so quick now that the old argument about holding the game up doesn’t apply.


The trials in Sri Lanka were a success and a referral system is now in place with two unsuccessful appeals per innings. The players liked it but there was some resistance from the umpires when England were in the West Indies. Certain umpires didn’t want it and didn’t apply it correctly. Some thought they were infallible and there were a few teething problems when the third umpire overruled his colleague out in the middle. Dave Richardson, the ICC general manager of cricket, had to come to Barbados and Trinidad and spell out what should happen . He said: “The third umpires should not change the decision of the on field umpire unless they have a high degree of confidence that the on field decision was wrong”. That’s the key; the replay had to immediately show conclusively that the man in the middle was wrong. MCC has suggested that it might be useful if ICC had an experienced TV man explain to its Elite panel about how to interpret TV pictures. One of the biggest problems in replays is the validity of low catches, often TV suggests the ball has bounced when it hasn’t. Pictures are only two dimensional whereas the human eye sees it in 3D.


I understand, that as an experiment, in October the ICC are going to allow much greater use of television referrals in the Australia versus the Rest of the World game, and this is to be commended. But, I also understand that at the moment they feel that television replays are only accurate 65 per cent of the time and they are looking for a 90 per cent success rate. Well, in my opinion TV is already at that level and some would say higher.


What I don’t want to see is umpires embarrassed by honest mistakes. They are under enough pressure already and one of the problems they face comes from the big screen replays. There is no doubt these have enhanced the matches for spectators , but when a decision goes against the home side, and it is shown to be wrong or doubtful ,the crowd can get quite ugly, particularly if they’ve had a drop of beer and that’s bound to put pressure on the umpires and affect the next decision.


I’ve seen it happen and I don’t like it. Although I’m not sure how you deal with it.

And while on the subject of umpires, I have talked to some international coaches and they feel that we should have the same officials throughout a Test series and not change them half way through as we do at the moment. Every individual umpire has his own style, his own way of doing things and his own inclinations and it would be fairer on the players if they had the same men standing for a whole series.

It’s something that should be looked at.


Another matter which should concern all of us- particularly umpires – is sledging.

I don’t want to say too much about it because Sunil Gavaskar talked a lot about it a couple of years ago and to their credit the ICC are trying hard to stamp it out. I think the umpires have got to be stronger, to report people for foul and abusive language, and then the ICC can and must start dishing out suspensions. There’s nothing wrong with good hearted banter but the sort of language and comments which would end with a punch on the nose, if you said them in the local pub, are not acceptable. If such language is not permitted in a public place why should it be allowed on a cricket field.


I’d like to speak about bowlers.


I think they get a raw deal from the front foot no ball law. The fielding side has the white line on run outs and stumpings but the bowler has to have some part of his foot behind the line. I think this is a bit unfair. If they are an eighth of an inch behind the line or on the line, does it really make a difference?


Well, I can tell you, as a batsman it didn’t make a h’apporth of difference to me, to the pace of the ball or what sort of shot I was going to play.


All the rule changes for a long time have hindered bowlers and made it easier for batsmen. 1937 was the last time the bowlers got a break, with the change in the leg before law, but since then everything has gone against them such as the number of bouncers that are allowed per over.


In the one-day game it’s been worse, with even tighter fielding restrictions, a very strict interpretation of the wide, and limited run ups. To add to all that – when bowling well –they are only allowed ten overs. Today, with the exception of a handful of bowlers, there is a worldwide dearth of quality bowling.


I would like to see the law changed – I would give the line to the bowlers.

Personally I agree with Richie Benaud, an icon in the game and Sir Donald Bradman, the greatest batsman of all time and a clear thinker, that the front foot law is wrong and the worst change to the laws ever. I think we should go back to the old back foot law.


It’s better for the bowlers, better for the umpires and when people talk about dragging then I think the solution is to ensure that any dragging finishes behind the back line. Some people also think that bowlers get injured more because they have to pull away sharply to avoid running down the pitch.


Well, I wouldn’t know about that, I had such a short run-up, but it’s certainly true that more and more bowlers are suffering from knee and back problems. It’s like this throwing business. I’m one of those ex -players who think you either bowl with a straight arm or you don’t.


The boffins now say that everyone throws and always has done to some degree or another and that up to 15 degrees can’t be detected with the naked eye. Well, until they can prove that to me I remain sceptical. To suggest that some of the greatest bowlers ever, like Dennis Lillee, Michael Holding, Sir Richard Hadlee and Fred Trueman, who had the greatest action of them all, threw the ball is rubbish. And what ever the scientists say the controversy over Muttiah Muralitheran is not going to go away.


He hasn’t been filmed playing Test match cricket since the business about flexion came up, because, he’s either been injured or playing county cricket. But as soon as he comes back into the Test arena I hope he’s going to be filmed and filmed taking wickets. We need to be seen to be fair to the lad, but, more importantly, we need to be fair to the other bowlers, like Shane Warne, who is currently competing against Murali for the world record.


Many believe, and I’m one of them, that, when he’s taking wickets to put it mildly, his action is very suspicious. I accept that he’s got a deformed arm but this 15 degree allowance doesn’t sound right.


Recently I was in Singapore presenting prizes to some school kids from Kuala Lumpur. A little lad, no more than 10 or 11, having taken five wickets came up for the man of the match award. I told him “well played” and asked him what he bowled.

“Off spin” he said. “Oh”, I said, “like Murali”. “No” he replied, “I don’t throw it” and he brought the house down.


It would have been easier for me to have avoided this subject, but there’s a lot of credibility at stake here and, as I have said, it’s not going to go away. I want to make it quite clear that there is nothing personal in my comments but I would be failing in my duty as a professional if I didn’t express my doubts.


I’ve never changed my mind on this; I don’t believe anyone can bowl the ‘doosra’ without throwing it. To me this whole business about degrees of flexion is phooey and I know that an awful lot of top people in the game are in agreement but don’t speak out. If you want to allow spinners to throw because it’s good for the game and compensates them for having to bowl on flat, dead pitches, that’s a separate issue but don’t cloud it by saying it’s ‘bowling’ ‘cos it ain’t.


The Cowdrey lecture is in memory of a wonderful batsman and a fine man.


Colin had an impish sense of humour, and he liked to tell stories against himself. My favourite one, 1962 England v Pakistan at Headingley. Unusually, he had opened the innings and was out for 7. As he had lots of time on his hands, over his whites he put on his raincoat, and he walked out of the ground, across the road, for a hair cut. As he sat in the chair the man asked “was he going to the cricket” Colin said yes. So, the barber, not recognizing him, said “you’d better hurry up, one of the so and so’s is out already.”