It's a mismatch, admits Law ahead of Headingley Test

THE QUESTION was met with the straightest of bats.

England nets session at Headingley, Leeds.
England nets session at Headingley, Leeds.

“I’m not talking about Geoffrey Boycott,” said West Indies coach Stuart Law. “I’m not talking about Boycott, no comment.”

Law had been asked whether Boycott’s description of his side as “the worst Test match team I have seen in more than 50 years of watching, playing and commentating on cricket” would be used as motivation as West Indies seek to level the three-match series in the second Test at Headingley that starts tomorrow.

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Another journalist enquired whether there had been any reaction in the West Indies camp to Boycott’s remarks during the tourists’ innings defeat in the opening Test at Edgbaston about having to “black me face” to get a knighthood, which are handed out like “confetti” to West Indies greats, remarks for which Boycott has since apologised.

“No comment,” reiterated Law, whose expression made it crystal clear that, as far as he was concerned, there was a boycott on anything to do with Boycott.

Although Boycott’s words have dominated the build-up to the Headingley Test, where the BBC have confirmed that he will continue in his role as a summariser on Test Match Special, the former Yorkshire and England opening batsman has not been alone in voicing cricketing criticisms of the West Indies team.

Many former players, be they English or West Indian, have lambasted the tourists’ supine showing in Birmingham – not least former West Indies fast bowler/bowling coach Curtly Ambrose, who branded it “pathetic” and “embarrassing” in a newspaper article.

Law had no such blanket ban when it came to discussing Ambrose’s criticisms, and he took a thinly-veiled swipe at the fact that they were delivered through the media as opposed to face-to-face.

“That is disappointing,” said Law of Ambrose’s words.

“Curtly not long ago was the coach of this team, so it is disappointing that that criticism comes.

“We have to understand why it is there, and we are not performing as well as we want, but it would have been nice if he had come into the dressing room to talk to the guys and express his displeasure to us.

“That would have been awesome, but that didn’t happen, and we have to get our noses down, our backsides up and play better.”

Revealing that there would be no changes to West Indies’ starting XI (“the guys need the chance to prove they are good enough”), Law conceded that the series is indeed “a mismatch in talent and a mismatch in experience”.

His young side, shorn of such big names as Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Darren Sammy, following a dispute with the West Indies cricket board, were blown away in the opening Test, where England triumphed inside three days.

Law said that he had not given his players the hairdryer treatment, insisting that they get enough of that from the outside and that “we’d be mad if we did it as well”.

However, the former Lancashire and Australia batsman maintained that West Indies are “fair dinkum about turning this around”, and he said that his side have come to Headingley “full of expectations”.

“There’s been no negative talk in our dressing room,” asserted Law.

“We are trying to highlight what we have done well since we’ve arrived and what we need to do better.

“The boys know it’s an attitude change (that’s needed). They need to want to stand up and fight and they’ve all spoken about that.”

Law went on: “These are young men, they haven’t played cricket in this part of the world, and I know when you come to this part of the world, your first couple of months, you are finding your feet.

“It’s very difficult to play cricket (in England), particularly as a batsman, so let’s be honest and open about it.

“It’s a difficult game when you are playing against two guys (James Anderson and Stuart Broad) who’ve got nearly 1,000 wickets in Test cricket, and we’ve got guys playing their first games here.

“It is a mismatch in talent and a mismatch in experience but, having said that, we are going to make sure we understand we need to fight hard.”

Yorkshire and England star Jonny Bairstow is certainly expecting the tourists to come out fighting.

“We’re expecting a response, definitely,” he said.

“It’s going to be a fascinating challenge.

“We know that if we play a few false shots, if we don’t put the ball in the right areas, that they’ve got enough destructive players, like we saw with Blackwood at Edgbaston.

“That was also very much an experimental game, with the pink ball under lights, so it has to be taken in that context too.”

Bairstow said that England’s number one goal is to “back-up” Edgbaston.

“Over the last few series we’ve started well and then not kicked on, so it’s important for us now to go back-to-back (with wins), like we did in the last two Tests against South Africa,” he said.

“Yes, we’ve started this series well, but we know it’s really important to put in a really good performance here and then obviously again next time (in the final Test at Lord’s).

“For us, it’s all about backing-up that first game.”