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Cricketing legend Sir Geoffrey Boycott in one-man show
Just as he did throughout a highly successful career with England and Yorkshire, cricketing legend Sir Geoffrey Boycott meets everything that life throws at him with a straight bat. He scored more than 8,000 runs in 108 Tests for his country - the first Englishman to reach the milestone - before going on to achieve further success as a cricket commentator on both radio and television. But he has also never been far away from controversy, both on the cricket field and for comments made off it. Weekend Notes caught up with Sir Geoffrey ahead of his one-man show, entitled An Evening With Sir Geoffrey Boycott, which comes to the Lichfield Garrick theatre in Staffordshire on October 29. He last appeared on stage in 2017, since when a great deal has happened, as Sir Geoffrey, in his frank and forthright way, is only too happy to discuss. The first major episode could well have signalled Sir Geoffrey's last when, on a break in Cape Town, South Africa, he discovered he needed major heart surgery. Sir Geoffrey, whose cricket career ran from 1962 to 1986, recalled: "I was in Cape Town feeling tired after the 2017-18 Ashes in Australia, so I just went for a check-up and they found four areas of concern around my heart. They said I was going to have a heart attack, it could be a week, a month, or a year. So I ended up having a quadruple heart bypass in Leeds. It was a big shock but if someone tells you it needs to be done you just get on with it."
Former England cricketer and pundit Sir Geoffrey Boycott
Better news was soon to follow when Boycott, now aged 80, finally became Sir Geoffrey in 2019. "It was very nice but I don't have any doubt that the Margaret Moore episode in. France counted against me (not receiving it before)." The episode in question was Sir Geoffrey's conviction in 1998 of assaulting his then-girlfriend, a charge he has always strenuously denied. He adds: "You get adversity but if your conscious is clear you have to be true to the man in the mirror. Unfortunately, I can't get rid of it (the stain on his character) so I live with it." Sir Geoffrey's show, which is being run in aid of the Professional Cricketers Association, promises a mixture of honest opinions, hilarious anecdotes and film footage from his incredible career, followed by questions from the audience. Sir Geoffrey says it also includes "funny commentating moments" with his former Test Match Special radio colleague Jonathan Agnew, which, he adds, "I should still be doing because I enjoyed it so much". The reason he isn't doing it anymore - he retired in 2020 - is sadly down to the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown restrictions that followed. He says: "At my age. I couldn't cope with living in a bio-secure bubble, locked away for weeks on end. It's been a struggle for the current players and these are young fit men who are saying it's tough. It's like being in jail, you've got to stay in your room for almost 24 hours a day. So, for me, in my 80th year, do I need to do that. The BBC were also looking at political correctness and making changes with the older people best to go."
Boycott in action against New Zealand in 1978. By Archives New Zealand -https://ndhadeliver.natlib.govt.nz/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE28334707, CC BY 2.0,https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=84768745
So how did Sir Geoffrey cope during lockdown? "It's been difficult and I think I'd had enough by the time we started being able to go out. I understood the necessity and I still think we have to be careful because the virus is still around. My wife Rachel got it bad. She's beginning to get better but I think if she hadn't had two vaccines she would have struggled for life. If people had seen her poorly they would change their mind about not having the vaccine. Fortunately, I didn't get it off her, but after I had cancer of the tongue in 2002 I've been taking lots of complementary tablets to boost my immune system." Sir Geoffrey's thoughts return to the present day and the current England team. He says: "They miss Ben Stokes by a long way. He's in the mould of the great all-rounders like Ian Botham, Imran Khan. Without them you really need 12 people. I think England also miss a high-quality fast bowler, so can Jofra Archer get fit and do it for 20 overs and then come back the next day." So can England win the Ashes in Australia this winter? "I'm not convinced they're going to play. Who's going? Players are saying they don't want to go if it means spending even more time away from their wives, girlfriends and kids. There's a limit to what they can do."
Lichfield Garrick hosts the former cricket legend on October 29