British cricketing giant toppled; he was too slow and deliberate even for his fans

Cricket is not universally regarded as the most exciting of games, but it does produce giants, and one of the greatest has just been brought toppling from his pedestal.

The thud of Geoffrey Boycott's white-clad frame hitting the turf is reverberating throughout his native Yorkshire and beyond.

The circumstances of Boycott's sacking after 21 years with his county are front-page news in most English newspapers. Yorkshire takes its cricket seriously and is apt to play it with due (one might almost say undue) deliberation.

Boycott, a graceful batsman who has amassed tens of thousands of runs, is more deliberate than most, and that was part of his problem. Another difficulty was a temperament that angered fellow players, who came to regard him as arrogant, selfish, and egocentric.

The hunched figure of Boycott could sometimes be seen on the greensward over periods of several hours, piling up runs at the speed of a snail climbing up a vertical wall. His defense was so impregnable, his concentration so complete, that he gained a reputation as a cricketing machine.

When he had made yet another century (100 runs), he was inclined to return to the pavilion and sit silently in a corner, staring at the wall, or drive off into the countryside, leaving fellow players behind to witness the game.

For some years, Yorkshire, which takes its cricket seriously, was happy to wear Boycott like an ornament. His prodigious runmaking ability kept his team high on the competition tables.

But lately Yorkshire cricket has fallen on hard times. Last season the county finished at the bottom of the English cricket championship for the first time.

Boycott, with his run-grubbing style and imperious manner, became the focus of criticism.

The Yorkshire county cricket committee held long and acrimonious meetings. Officials spoke to Boycott, urging him to mend his ways.

Two years ago, the star of many tests (international matches) blotted his English copybook by flying to South Africa and playing for teams that flouted international cricketing laws. This made Boycott a tidy sum of money, but it also gained him fresh enemies back home in Yorkshire.

Now, after much argument and deep anguish, the custodians of Yorkshire cricket have come down hard on the hero.

The man who scored 44,000 runs, made 139 centuries, and played for England 108 times has been told his contract is not being renewed.

Boycott, relaxed as usual, received the news lying down on holiday in South Africa.

His fans are not so easy-going. They are organizing a ''bring back Boycott'' campaign.

Many warn that they will not support the club again until the famous cricketer is back in the center, scoring glorious runs (however slowly) for Yorkshire.

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