Danny Hall: Yorkshire risk internal turmoil as war with Boycott rages, 30 years on
Almost 30 years have passed since Geoffrey Boycott's final innings for Yorkshire.
On a sunny Scarboorough day, the great man was put down in the slips early on but couldn’t take advantage and bow out on a high. He was run out, after a mix-up with Jim Love, for 61.
Legend has it that Boycott, never one to struggle with his own sense of self-worth, said to his partner: “Oh, Jim. What have you done?”
Talented and outspoken in almost equal measure, Boycott’s career has been nothing if not colourful. He scored almost 50,000 first-class runs and hit 151 centuries, beat his battle with cancer with the help of Feng Shui and was once dropped by England for ‘slow scoring’, after hitting 246 in a six-wicket victory over India.
Boycott has remained a staunch Yorkshireman throughout but three decades after hanging up his bat, he and the club still divide opinion.
A love-hate relationship with the Yorkshire committee has developed over the years. First, in 1978, he was stripped of the captaincy and thought long and hard about leaving. He stayed and five years later, after a four-and-a-half hour committee meeting, his playing contract at Yorkshire wasn’t renewed.
The news featured in the Glasgow Herald, along with news that Ray Illingworth was to relinquish the Yorkshire captaincy.
He was 53 and, according to The Herald, Yorkshire handed the “job of building for the future” to new skipper David Bairstow, who was a relative youngster at 32. Whoever said Yorkshire were stuck in their ways?
Thankfully, Yorkshire of 2016 is a different club. Vibrant and forward-thinking off the field, they’ve been doing reasonably well on it, too, with successive County Championship wins.
Which is, chairman Steve Denison, why the club are against Boycott returning to join the Headingley board. The 75-year-old has the backing of 30 members - which he needs to stand for election - but Denison thinks he’ll be a “destabilising” influence, who could “disrupt” a healthy and successful Yorkshire side.
Boycott, in response, claims he’s more concerned that Yorkshire are heavily in debt - to the tune of around £24million - and wants to stand up for the members, rather than interfere with on-field matters.
Former Yorkshire great Michael Vaughan, from Sheffield and a commentary colleague of Boycott, urged him to back down as the saga is “doing nothing for this great club” and it’s hard not to agree.
On the pitch, Martyn Moxon and Jason Gillespie have shaped one of the most exiting and talented Yorkshire sides in recent memory. They start the season as strong favourites to seal a hat-trick of County Championship crowns and with a renewed determination to improve recent showings in the one-day arena.
Off the field, a new stand at Headingley is almost as exciting but the level of debt is a concern, which is why Denison wants to appoint finance experts, rather than cricket ones, to the board. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it; if it is broke, get someone in who can actually do something about it.
The Yorkshire committee fear that Boycott standing for election is about one man, rather than one club, and believe their former captain is out of touch with the wishes of the membership.
And just weeks before the start of the season, it casts an unsightly shadow over a Headingley stadium which should be basking in the warm glow of success.
How will it affect the players on the field? Only time will tell. The club’s AGM is later this month, on March 26, and could be one of the fiercest yet.
Oh, Geoffrey. What have you done?