JASON GILLESPIE has given struggling England batsman Gary Ballance this advice as he strives to find form ahead of the Ashes – “Just go out there and whack it”.
The Yorkshire first-team coach is renowned for his uncomplicated approach and he believes that Ballance just needs to adopt a policy of “see ball, hit ball” to break free from his mini-slump.
Since scoring a century and two fifties against the West Indies in April, Ballance has managed 138 runs in nine innings in all cricket, with a highest of 31 against Lancashire in the NatWest T20 Blast at Headingley.
The left-hander’s technique has been picked apart by ex-players and pundits, who say that his problems stem from having his weight too far back in the crease, but Ballance is still averaging over 50 at Test level and Gillespie insists there is nothing much wrong.
“I don’t necessarily think Gaz is out of nick, I just think he’s out of runs really,” said Gillespie, who played 71 Tests for Australia.
“He just needs to spend some time in the middle, and then he’s away.
“He’s had a couple of Tests now where he hasn’t scored too many runs, but that does happen in cricket.
“You can’t go and score a fifty or a hundred every time you go out to bat, just like you don’t get a five-for every time you go out and bowl.
“Gaz has had a wonderful start to his Test career, and he’s just going through a little patch where he’s not scoring the runs that he’d like to be scoring.
“On top of that, the media and the pundits on Sky have started to pick apart things with technique and stuff.
“But the message that I’ve given him back here at Yorkshire is to just go out there and whack it.
“Basically, don’t be afraid to hit the ball and the runs will come again.”
After being left out of England’s ODI squad for the series with New Zealand, Ballance did not make a sizeable innings on his first County Championship appearance of the season last week.
The 25-year-old was dismissed for one and 29 in the match against Middlesex at Headingley, although he did feature in an important stand of 71 for the second wicket with England team-mate Adam Lyth that helped Yorkshire chase 213 to win by four wickets.
Ballance played some good shots along the way and he also fielded impressively, taking three catches in the game.
And Gillespie is confident that the player will work out any issues he has for himself, while also benefiting from being back in the bosom of his Yorkshire team-mates.
“Gaz is an experienced campaigner,” said Gillespie. “He finds his method and he knows his own game.
“He’s back with his Yorkshire mates now, and we’ve just told him to go out and enjoy himself and have some fun with it. He’s been great in the dressing room and great around the lads.
“I thought he played quite well in the second innings against Middlesex.
“He only got 29. I acknowledge that.
“However, in the context of the game, it was a contribution to us winning the game. In that respect, it was very pleasing,” he added.
Ballance received staunch support from England captain Alastair Cook in the wake of England’s last Test outing, against New Zealand at Headingley, and he has the best part of a month to find runs and confidence ahead of the Ashes, which starts on July 8.
Cook has also backed Ian Bell, who has managed only 55 runs in his last eight Test innings to raise further question marks against the top order.
On the flip side, Cook has returned to form with a bang with two hundreds and four fifties in his last four Tests, emphatically ending a sequence of almost two years without a Test century.
Lyth, his opening partner, has made a fine start to his Test career, scoring his maiden hundred against New Zealand at Leeds and following it with the top score of 67 as Yorkshire chased their target against Middlesex.
“Lythy is in very good form, but there’s no secret to that and it’s not surprising because I’ve seen how hard he’s worked,” said Gillespie.
“I’ve seen how much time and effort he’s put into his game and the way he’s gone about things, and now he’s getting the rewards.
“I thought his innings against Middlesex was excellent, and it was another mature knock from a very good player.
“That’s why he’s playing Test cricket now; the pitch was a bit up and down and played a few tricks, but he performed really well.”