Boycott blames it on injury, illness, paternity leave

Published: Thursday, April 13, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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London:Lamenting injury, illness and paternity leave have never allowed England to field their best side in the past couple of years, former captain Geoffrey Boycott said Andrew Flintoff's side playing in India was a poor ODI combination.

''We keep losing players to injury, illness or paternity leave.

You don't know from one game to the next who is going to take the field,'' Boycott wrote in his column for the Daily Telegraph.

''The One-day series in India has been a waste of time as a method of assessing England's World Cup prospects. Duncan Fletcher reckons he already knows 10 of his likely World Cup side; the problem is that half of them are not in India at the moment,'' he added.

Boycott said English players were playing very little cricket together, which has prevented them from settling down as a good team.

''It's very difficult to know whether England are a good One-day side or not because their best players don't play together often enough. To have any chance of doing well in the World Cup we have got to have a settled team and we need to get our best players fit,'' Boycott said.

The former captain was particularly unhappy with the English young brigade and said they were simply not good enough to be in the side.

''I'm sorry, but Kabir Ali, Liam Plunkett, Owais Shah and Ian Bell aren't going to win the World Cup for England.'' Baffled with the team's decision to send Flintoff at number five, Boycott said the plan has not worked as newcomers have been exposed early on leading to batting collapses.

''I can't understand why they keep sticking Andrew Flintoff, our best batsman, down at number five. Can you imagine the West Indies allowing Viv Richards, when he was in his pomp, to sit in the pavilion while four lesser batsmen went in ahead of him?'' ''Well, that's what England are doing at the moment. We are letting batsmen who are not as good as Flintoff go in ahead of him.

When they make a cock-up he has to come in and try to get them out of trouble. It's just stupid,'' he pointed out.

Boycott said England should utillise the allrounder in a better way.

''People are wary of Flintoff's talent and his power, and rightly so. He's a huge figure who can dominate in any form of cricket. Just because he bowls and captains the side doesn't mean that you should stick him down at number five or six,'' Boycott said.

He called for the immediate return of Darren Gough in to the ODI squad, saying that the seamer was match winner and someone who could lift the spirits in the dressing room.

''I'd also like to see England recall Darren Gough. He's a winner, whether it's Strictly Come Dancing or international cricket.'' ''Goughie has the character and personality to lift the dressing room. But England also need his skill and experience of bowling with the new ball and at the death in One-day cricket,'' Boycott said making a case for Gough's return.

''Goughie is still the best around. It's all right blooding the likes of Plunkett and Kabir but I'm afraid they aren't in the same class,'' he added.

Boycott advised England to look beyond retaining the Ashes and start focussing their attention on next year's World Cup.

''England need to start thinking about the World Cup now, not once the Ashes series is over. We can't hope that everything will turn out all right on the day in the West Indies,'' he said adding, ''If England don't start getting their act together, getting people fit and picking a settled team, then there are going to be thousands of disappointed England supporters in the Caribbean next winter.''

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