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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Explained: Why commentator Isa Guha hit back at ‘Boycott’s replacement’ report

Geoffrey Boycott has claimed the BBC chose "equality over quality" by dropping him from its commentary panel. This has irked Isa Guha, who has hit back.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | October 23, 2020 11:35:22 am
Isa Guha, Geoffrey Boycott (Twitter/@isaguha; Reuters)

Cricket commentator and former England international Isa Guha has hit back after a thinly-veiled barb from Geoffrey Boycott who claimed that BBC chose “equality over quality” by dropping him from its commentary panel. Guha took umbrage at the reporting of the newspaper Daily Mail which wrote that former England opener Boycott was dropped for a “younger multi-racial line-up”.

Why did Boycott accuse BBC of ‘sacrificing quality for equality’?

Boycott, 80, criticised BBC after the network chose not to renew his contract earlier this year.

“They have sacrificed quality for equality. It is now all about political correctness, about gender and race. When you work for them you are wary and frightened of saying anything. It is a minefield out there and that is sad,” Boycott, who had worked as a commentator with BBC for 14 years, told the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday.

His comment was seen as a barb against Guha, who played 113 internationals for England across all three formats and has worked with the BBC for a decade. She is currently the lead presenter and ball-by-ball commentator for BBC’s Test Match Special (TMS) radio programme. She also works with Fox Sports in Australia.

In actuality, Boycott’s ‘expert comments’ role has been filled this summer by former England captain Alastair Cook and swing bowler James Anderson.

Was it Boycott’s comments that irked Guha?

It wasn’t only Boycott but the way his comment was portrayed by the Daily Mail, UK’s highest-circulated daily newspaper. In an online article that reported on Boycott’s comment and also in the corresponding tweet, Daily Mail said that Boycott was “dropped… for a younger multi-racial line-up”.

Guha took to social media on Wednesday. “Some thoughts on the Daily Mail article this morn”, Guha wrote in a note to Twitter. “I tend to ignore these articles and realise that, by reacting, it only fulfils the objectives of the headline; but having been subjected to this over the last few years I just wanted to say a few things”.

“I appreciate people have varying opinions on the job I do as a presenter/commentator. However, the idea that I have ‘replaced’ Geoffrey is a bit odd, having worked on international men’s cricket at the BBC for the best part of 10 years. Furthermore, my role is completely different to that of Geoffrey’s. To keep being dragged into this kind of conversation purely because of the colour of my skin and gender is quite frankly tiresome and only serves to create division. I only have sadness that this should be deemed newsworthy over something more positive and inspiring.” 📣 Follow Express Explained on Telegram

Has Boycott made such provocative statements in the past?

Yes. In June, he said that women commentators should not call men’s cricket.

“You have to know the pressure, emotions and technique required and I do not believe you can learn that from reading a book or because you played club cricket, second XI cricket or, with great respect, women’s cricket. As good as the women are at their game, it bears no resemblance to the power and pace of men’s cricket,” Boycott wrote in a column.

The column triggered criticism, led by Australia’s former player Lisa Sthalekar. “It’s time for him to leave the game and let’s remember him as a great cricketer of a certain generation,” she said then. “Talk about power – I didn’t see much power that he displayed. Let’s call up his strike rate and look at some of the numbers compared to female Test cricketers of even that generation. I think some of the female cricketers would have had a better strike rate than he did.

Has Isa found support from other players?

On Twitter, former Australian player and current commentator Mel Jones described Guha’s response as a “lesson in class and professionalism”, and called for an end to “lowbrow, misleading and downright repugnant reporting”.

Alison Mitchell, the first woman to commentate regularly on cricket at BBC, also tweeted out in support: “So maddened by the Mail piece & its framing. Inaccuracy is only the start. Just heard a radio presenter perpetuate the Mail’s myth saying “Boycott was replaced by Isa Guha”. Ish … is a highly accomplished broadcaster who shouldn’t have to put up with this … you inspire every day Ish”

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