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Interview with Sir Ian Botham

Aired April 9, 2010 - 16:49:00   ET



BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cricket is a sport in flux. Once the preserve of the English country gentleman, the five day test match has been turned on its head with a new version of shorter, punchier games that take place in just three hours. But no matter how the sport evolved, Ian Botham will always be one of its legends, known to most people simply as "beefy," Botham is one of cricket's greats and still holds the record for the highest number of wickets ever taken by an England bowler.

Since leaving cricket more than two decades ago, Botham has continued to stay in the public eye through his countless charity works. And this month, he heads out on a 10 day charity walk in support of leukemia research.

Sir Ian Botham is your Connector of the Day.


ANDERSON: Step by step, Sir Ian Botham is helping to fight the global battle against leukemia. He is about to set off on his 13th trek.

I spoke to the sporting legend just a short while ago and I began by asking him what's inspired him to take this path.


SIR IAN BOTHAM: Well, I think, basically, the success rate. I think in the mid-'80s, children with leukemia had a 20 percent chance of survival. And just a few moments ago, we were able to announce that they've gone now to 90 percent chance of survival. So that's probably all the incentive you ever need.

ANDERSON: Why did you choose leukemia as a cause?

BOTHAM: I just saw children dying. Very simple. I was totally ignorant of what leukemia was. In layman's terms, it was explained to me as being a form of cancer, cancer of the blood. And I'd never heard of it before in the late '70s.

So it's developed from there. And now very much -- I'm very active and will continue to -- to be for the fundraising.

ANDERSON: You're an amaz -- you're an amazing cricket legend. There are so many people around the world that want to ask you questions.

Let's start with Micool, who asks: "What's challenged you most in life?"

BOTHAM: Hopefully, I haven't reached that major challenge yet. But...


BOTHAM: No, I -- I think much of the challenge is really what you make of it. I -- I think the important thing is to enjoy it.

ANDERSON: Akinyemi Nifemi asks: "Why did you choose cricket over football?"

BOTHAM: Because I think it's safe to say I was probably a better cricket player than I was a football player.


BOTHAM: But I'm very flattered that you asked.

ANDERSON: Another e-mail from Saachin, who asks: "How would you rate the bowlers of today sort of versus back in the 1980s?"

BOTHAM: Oh, well, like every old politician, old -- old sportsman, it's never as good as it was in my day. No. I -- I think that the game has changed. I think that players' fitness levels improved. Stamina, maybe not, because they -- they control over -- control their lives so much toward fitness and gym work, which is something that I don't actually think necessarily runs hand in hand with cricket.

But in general, the bowlers of today that -- are they better than Dennis Lillee; Shane Warne, one of the greatest bowlers that ever lived, now retired; Glen McGraf (ph); Bob Willis. There's a lot of great cricketers that have been out there. Abdul Kadiya (ph), Pakistan (INAUDIBLE) was in that (INAUDIBLE) Waqar -- Waqar Yunis and the whole of the West Indians; Marshall Croft holding Ghana. No, I don't think they're any better today. I mean I think that it's very hard to judge cricketers of -- I don't know, two or three years ago, let alone 20 years ago.

ANDERSON: Sumant asks: "Should cricket be part of the Olympics?"

What do you think?


ANDERSON: Why not?

BOTHAM: I thought the Olympics was about amateur sports. I don't believe that golf or tennis should be involved in the Olympics. And the only reason they are involved in the Olympics is because the -- that's the only way they can sell it.

ANDERSON: Whitman Browne wants to know: "What do you see as the future of Twenty20 cricket?"

BOTHAM: I think Twenty20 cricket has a part to play. Personally, I wouldn't have it as an international sport apart from once every four years. And I would have franchises and very, very important that county or state levels, because I think it's a great way of introducing youngsters. But what people must remember, don't get carried away with Twenty20 Cricket without test cricket, there are no staffs to play in Twenty20 Cricket.

ANDERSON: How did you stay grounded when you were so big all those years ago?

BOTHAM: I think that's all about family. It's in family life and what you've got around you and who you've got around you. And I think that's very important.

ANDERSON: What did you learn the most out of your experience?

BOTHAM: Never read the press.


BOTHAM: Good or bad.

ANDERSON: And you never did that at all?

You didn't -- you didn't have any curiosity?

BOTHAM: Not if I (INAUDIBLE) use the papers, roll them up in spools and use them for barbecues. It worked very well.

ANDERSON: What would you say to young, aspiring cricketers listening to this?

BOTHAM: I think the most important thing is not just young, aspiring cricketers, but young aspiring sportsmen. And this is a question I get asked a lot. And I honestly believe that the most important thing is that you enjoy what you're doing. And if you go out and enjoy it, then hopefully the rest will take care of itself.


ANDERSON: From one legend to another, next week, our Connector of the Day is part of rock and roll folklore. Ringo Starr is on a show. We're going to be talking to him about his new album, "Why Not?" and what it was like working with Paul McCartney again.

This is your chance to connect with rock royalty. So, come on, weigh in. Go to and submit your questions. And then, make sure you join us on Monday to see if Ringo answers it.

That's on CONNECT THE WORLD Monday, 21:00 in London, right here on CNN.