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18 September 2019

Listening to him on Test Match Special, you’d hardly know Geoffrey Boycott was mired in scandal

Far from discreetly sidelining Boycott while debate festered over his knighthood, on Test Match Special it was almost business as usual.

By Antonia Quirke

Far from discreetly sidelining Geoffrey Boycott while debate festered over his knighthood, on Test Match Special it was almost business as usual. Very possibly Boycott sounded more subdued. Had his peevish appearance on Today – in which he refused to countenance discussion of his (always denied) 1998 French conviction for assault of a former girlfriend – taken it out of him?

Then came a moment of familiar bullishness, just before tea on day three as Stokes and Denly were batting Australia out of the game. Inspired by the sight of some Oval stewards, Boycott suddenly launched into a whole riff on how the pitch at Headingley had once been dug up by vandals during a Test match in 1975 in protest against the conviction of George Davis for armed robbery. It was surely the segue of the year. “A guy who’s gone to jail and is falsely accused and all that… years later the conviction was overturned!”

Yes, it sounded awkward. But – what’s new? Boycott, the grit in the oyster of TMS. Queasy argumentativeness, paranoia, oversensitivity, refusal to be wrong: it was ever thus. But still, it can sometimes take your breath away. At Edgbaston back in August he ticked off Daniel Norcross for not wearing a shirt he’d given him. “I still haven’t seen you in the one I gave you,” he complained, out of nowhere. Norcross yelped, “I wear it! I wore it just the other day!” Boycott’s riposte was deeply suspicious: “Hmm, well I haven’t seen it…” Here was the lonely guy who’d never quite fitted in in the dressing room. Never quite a friend. In the real world, of course, all this gets him into trouble. (You do not call Martha Kearney “love”.)

But what might happen next? It seems a fitting end to the story of Theresa May that her final act could have been inadvertently to sink the radio career of Geoffrey Boycott. And isn’t there something a little Brexity about the government’s wishing to sow seeds of doubt about the French justice system? Convicted by a foreign court. Not over here! So – Boycott might commentate during this winter’s tour in South Africa. Or he really (surely?) might not. 

Test Match Special
BBC Radio 5 Live

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This article appears in the 06 Jan 2021 issue of the New Statesman, Out of control