MARTYN MOXON has backed under-pressure England batsman Gary Ballance to “keep fighting” after his fraught Test series in Bangladesh – and is urging him to follow his instincts in the forthcoming tour of India.
The Yorkshire top-order man is in the firing line after four single figure scores in four Test innings in the sub-continent, which saw him amass just 24 runs. His place is in serious doubt ahead of the first Test in Rajkot, which starts a week tomorrow.
Head coach Trevor Bayliss has admitted that there is “still a bit of a question mark” over a few places in the side including that of Ballance following England’s capitulation in the second Test in Dhaka on Sunday, which saw Bangladesh triumph by 108 runs to square the series 1-1 and claim a first Test win over the tourists.
It remains to be seen if Ballance holds onto his spot, with one school of thought suggesting that Jos Buttler might come into the side, with Ballance’s White Rose team-mate Jonny Bairstow then moving from No 7 to No 4 in the batting order.
Yorkshire director of cricket Moxon is the first to admit that Ballance, recalled to the England side ahead of last summer’s series with Pakistan, is under considerable pressure following his dearth of runs.
But, equally, he believes that Ballance possesses the mentality to cope with being under the microscope, having handled plenty in his Test career thus far – and feels he should stick to a simple game plan in his quest to get back on track.
Moxon told The Yorkshire Post: “Gary will be disappointed, but he is a strong character, to be honest.
“He will keep fighting and he has just got to go and decide how he wants to go and play and for me, it would be a case of, ‘sod it, go out and play a few shots’. Without being reckless, obviously.
“Gary is obviously struggling and under pressure now; that obviously goes without saying.
“He is trying hard, but sometimes the harder you try, the worse it gets and it will be interesting to see if they stick with him in the first Test in India. But he is clearly under pressure.
“It is a bit of a stick or twist for him, really. He obviously has got to score, but is also trying not to get out and maybe he is getting into that (situation) where it is six of one, half a dozen of the other.
“He does not know whether to be aggressive and get runs and if he gets out, he gets out. At the minute, it looks like he is trying to grind out a score and on the pitches that they have had, there is always a ball capable of getting you out on those turning pitches.
“Hopefully he can have the confidence to go out and play his shots and for me that is what he has to try and do going forward.
“It should almost be a case of, ‘to hell with it, I will go and play my shots and what will be, will be’.
The issue regarding Ballance’s place is likely to be at the top of the list of discussion items for Bayliss and and captain Alastair Cook over the coming days.
Ballance had been named in the 16-man squad for the tours of Bangladesh and India despite averaging under 30 in four Tests against Pakistan on his return to the side over the summer.
His subsequent failure to justify the faith shown in him by being undone by Bangladesh’s spinners has further weakened his position, although England are not exactly overly blessed with batting options to replace him.
On a tough run for Ballance, famously dropped by England during the Ashes summer of 2015, Bayliss added: “I am sure he is more disappointed than anyone else.
“He is a guy that practises very hard, is very intense and he wants to do well so badly. That will be a discussion point, I am sure.
“We have got two or three options in the batting, but also in the bowling as well, so there will have to be some soul-searching in the next few days.
“(Alastair) Cook and I will sit down in the next two, three or four days and discuss that.
“Some have cemented a spot and others there is still a bit of a question mark over.”
Despite the welter of criticism and talk of a new low in English cricket following the implosion in the second innings against Bangladesh – who had lost all nine previous Tests between the sides – Moxon believes some perspective needs to be afforded following the drawn series.
Spin-friendly conditions were exploited to the full by the hosts – especially by man of the series and new national hero Mehedi Hasan, who took 19 wickets in the series in an outstanding personal contribution – with Bangladesh never likely to be push-overs, especially against a much-changed England side.
He added: “On their own patch, they were always likely to be a tough proposition and their coaching staff got them into a very competitive unit. In those conditions in their own country, they are a competitive team and disappointing as it is for England, Bangladesh played well.”