ASKED about Gary Ballance’s chances of getting back into the England fold after his match-saving double hundred at Hampshire last week, Yorkshire first-team coach Andrew Gale confined himself to the following observation as he addressed the media at the Ageas Bowl.
“Let’s just say that there’s a certain individual in that dressing room who rates him,” said Gale, glancing in the direction of the Yorkshire changing room and implicitly referring to a certain Joe Root.
It was proof, were any required, that Ballance is highly regarded by the England Test captain.
Although it may not exactly have harmed his chances that Root has taken over from Alastair Cook, Ballance is presently championing himself.
He has scored 508 runs in three County Championship games this season at an average of 127, including three centuries and a fifty.
He is the country’s leading run-scorer – 150 ahead of the next-highest, Surrey’s Kumar Sangakkara – and seemingly playing as well as ever.
Ballance slipped down the England pecking order after losing his Test place last autumn, with Haseeb Hameed and Keaton Jennings coming to the fore.
But it would be a foolish person who writes him off and contends that his international days are over.
Asked himself about the prospect of getting back into the England side, Ballance replied along time-honoured lines.
“I’m honestly not thinking about that,” he said after the game at the Ageas Bowl, where he also scored 108 in the first innings.
Although it may not exactly have harmed his chances that Root has taken over from Alastair Cook, Ballance is presently championing himself.The YP’s Chris Waters
“That will take care of itself.
“I’m just focusing on trying to score as many runs as possible and to help Yorkshire win games.”
Ordinarily, such words might be taken with a pinch of salt.
After all, what sportsman in Ballance’s position would not be thinking about trying to regain his international place?
But although that ambition clearly burns bright, it is clearly not at the centre of his thoughts.
On the contrary, his primary focus is on his new position as Yorkshire captain, a responsibility that he is visibly relishing and which is also bringing out the best in his batting. In this latter respect we should not be surprised.
Ballance’s record as a captain is quite incredible.
His twin centuries at the Ageas Bowl took that record to 1,666 runs in 13 first-class games at an average of 87.68, with 10 hundreds and five fifties.
Prior to his appointment as Yorkshire captain, he had previously done the job as a stand-in for Gale as well as leading the Zimbabwe franchise MidWest Rhinos.
Whereas some batsmen find that the added responsibility of captaincy affects their game, the opposite seems to be true of Ballance, whose cricket is going from strength to strength.
He is leading from the front and setting an excellent example to the players.
In all probability, Ballance will need to score a lot of runs to win back his England place and build on his golden start to the season.
But he cannot be a million miles from the selectors’ thoughts. They will surely not be oblivious to the fact that he has scored 500 runs in the first three matches; indeed, some batsmen do not score as many runs in the course of a whole season.
And although his England situation will, as he puts it, take care of itself, it is simply refreshing to see him back scoring runs and playing the game with such obvious enjoyment.