Not boycotting Geoff!

In his selection of such odd characters as Geoff Boycott, Mark Butcher and Phil Tufnell among the eleven players that he would like to tour with, former England captain Michael Vaughan has shown that he is far from a rigid, conservative cricket character, writes Ted Corbett.

You might find it strange that when Michael Vaughan chose the eleven players he would love to go on tour with, he included Geoff Boycott. What! They may both be Yorkshire players but they are from vastly different generations, their attitudes are totally at variance and they probably went about their playing careers in a completely novel way. They were subject to different conditions, summed up by money. Boycott, as captain of Yorkshire, had to visit the bank every Thursday to collect the cash for players’ wages; Vaughan was one of the lucky ones whose Test money went straight into his bank as he played through the Ashes winning spell.

By 2005 he had enough pounds in his pocket to buy a holiday home in Barbados and a new English home.

Total cash out of the Vaughan family treasure chest was probably in excess of a million dollars; they are among the well off and his retirement spent in radio and TV studios will have added to his nest egg and good luck to him.

Of course, now that his family is settled down and he is also earning well, Boycott will hardly be short of a bob or two as they say in cash-conscious Yorkshire, but if you look further than his pockets you will find a man who is not afraid to spend a shilling and who does not have to be persuaded to loosen his purse strings.

He once found a few pounds for me when I ran out of work one summer and I know he pushed jobs in the direction of other people who were, shall we say, down on their luck.

That will appeal to Vaughan who showed — in his selection of such odd characters as Mark Butcher and Phil Tufnell — that he is far from a rigid, conservative cricket character.

I love all that stuff about picking a side of left-handed smokers to play for their eternal souls on the devil’s pitch in the after-life. So, for the first time since I began to write for Sportstar back in 1992 here is my team of happy tourists, perhaps to give Vaughan’s wanderers a game at the end of the trip.

First, naturally, Boycott to open the innings with Vaughan, who one day walked out leading England, wearing a maroon broad-brimmed hat and lifted his right index finger high above his head to say: “Keep your eyes on me lads and we will not go far wrong.”

From that moment we knew we had a captain, knew the ship was in safe hands and when he quit a triumphant epoch later many of us wept with him. A great captain, a nice entertaining man and a batsman without equal for a while.

You won’t know too much about Rob Bailey of Northants, my No. 3, but he is a pal, because his feet stayed firmly on the ground, because he also gave me a boost when I needed it most and because he is friendly and natural and straightforward even though he is now an international umpire with all the pressures that brings under the constant surveillance of a thousand cameras.

At four I want David Gower because I loved watching him bat and want to see just one more innings from the most graceful batsmen of them all. I have said in these columns before that he turns handing round cups of tea into an act of balletic grace and against the likes of Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding and Joel Garner he sometimes looked as if he might be the male lead in Swan Lake.

We need a toughie at No. 5, a man to hold on to his place whatever had happened before and for this I step outside the ranks of Test batsmen to choose my closest reporter pal Chris Lander. He died 14 years ago and I travelled half way across the country to his funeral and was late because I stopped to talk to David Shepherd, the umpire, and then had to travel all the way back to Lord’s for a Test.

Whether Chris could have stood Test pace in my mythical side is in doubt — although he took a magnificent catch to get Boycott annoyed in a Press match — but I still look round for him, a friend in need if ever there was one.

At six Ian Botham because there will always be a story wherever he puts down his suitcase followed by the late Graham Dilley, full of laconic stories.

That fine fielder Randall will be my 12th man, Jack Russell, artist, strange crab-like left-handed batsman and the best wicket-keeper I can imagine will be behind the stumps, barely moving to take the most difficult delivery. My old compatriot Fred Trueman will be one fast bowler and Dennis Lillee, still sending me Christmas cards after all these years, will be the other.

Richard Hadlee, who had a nose for a story even when he was no longer taking wickets, would be their back-up and Muttiah Muralitharan the spinner just to prove that I admired what he did even if the purist in me was unsure about his methods.

Twelve good men and true and I guess that I have left out many I should have included. Honest cricketers all and missed by me as I spend my winter in the East of England while they tour the world, making more friends and telling more tales.