It’s hard not to like Sir Geoffrey Boycott, innit? That quaint Yorkshire accent, that intolerance to “roobbish”, that unapologetic straight-speak, that allergy to political correctness. But guess what’s immensely harder? To gracefully depart, to know your time is up, to make way for the new — especially if you are white, male and 80. That explains why, four months after he retired from the BBC’s Test Match Special (TMS) radio commentary team, Boycott’s being a bit of an old uncle.
In an interview to the Daily Telegraph, he has blamed his departure not on being vulnerable to COVID-19 but a new BBC fad of choosing “equality over quality”. A few months ago, he had darkly prophesied that no woman cricketer could replace him at TMS because she didn’t have the experience of the “power and pace” of the real thing — men’s cricket, stupid! A bit rich considering we are talking cricket, and TMS — a British institution where listeners power their beloved (mostly white) commentators with generous gifts of cakes and scones.
The astonishing thing about Sir Geoffrey’s sulk is that it’s not a woman who has replaced him, but two white men, Alistair Cook and James Anderson. His jibe appears to be aimed at Isa Guha, an Indian-origin woman cricketer who has worked with the BBC for a decade. In the past, when reminded of his conviction for domestic violence in France, Boycott has famously said, “I don’t give a toss”. He does give a toss, however, for the old order in which white knights never had to reckon with change. That time’s up, and so he hits out at the one thing that doesn’t belong to his Neanderthal era: Women of colour in a BBC box. Let’s just say: This is not quite cricket.
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