Gareth Batty thought his international career was finished but he hopes he can grab his opportunity with both hands following a surprise England call-up for the Test tour of Bangladesh.
When Batty played his last Test, coincidentally also against Bangladesh in June, 2005, the likes of Kevin Pietersen and current England captain Alastair Cook had yet to play their first.
The Bingley-born Surrey captain, who celebrated his 39th birthday on Thursday, is the oldest player in the squad to play two Tests against the Tigers by seven years and he is more than double the age of Lancashire teenager Haseeb Hameed.
Yorkshire-raised Batty’s age has proved no barrier, though, after a fine season during which he took 41 wickets in County Championship matches, while he also led his county to the final of the Royal London One-Day Cup.
Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid seem to be ahead of him in the pecking order but there is a suggestion England may choose three spinners for the first Test in Chittagong, starting on Thursday, which would pit Batty against Surrey team-mate Zafar Ansari.
Batty has not come to make up the numbers, but when asked whether he thought his chance to play for England would come again, he replied: “No.
“I’ll just do whatever I possibly can for the group and we’ll see where we get.
“There are some fantastic players out here. I’m no different to anyone else, I have some hard work to do to push my cause, and what will be will be. It’s great to have the opportunity – it’s up to me to try to grab it.”
Batty, who played seven Tests between October, 2003 and June, 2005, three of which were against Bangladesh, is relishing being a part of a new group.
He said: “There’s a wonderful vibe about the place, I noticed that from stepping on the plane with a few of the Test boys; there’s a great camaraderie around the group.
“It’s a great privilege to be involved with and, hopefully, I can add to that and do my bit.”
Batty has a distinct advantage over some of his team-mates, having made his Test debut in Dhaka, which is where the second Test will be held.
He said: “I don’t know if it’s an advantage, but certainly it’s about how you use knowledge. Use it correctly, it’s an advantage, use it badly, it’s not.
“I have a rough idea how I want to go about my business and it’s up to me to get it right.”
Batty began his county career with Yorkshire, after playing for England Under-19s, making his County Championship debut in 1997.
Due to lack of opportunities he transferred to Surrey in 1998 where he played mainly one-day games. He joined Worcestershire in 2002 where he became the main spinner and came to prominence with the national team.
He rejoined Surrey in 2010 and became their permanent captain last year. Asked whether he thinks he is now a better bowler, he added: “The proof will be in the pudding, if I’m fortunate enough to get a go. But, on a daily basis for the last few years, I have known what I have to do and gone about my business as I would require – I feel a better bowler, yeah.”
England’s hopes of acclimatising to the red ball were hampered when the opening day of their warm-up fixture against a Bangladesh Cricket Board XI was postponed due to a wet outfield and square at the MA Aziz Stadium.
If the pitch is fit for purpose today then each team will bat for 45 overs, with England looking to use the match, and the one that follows tomorrow and Monday, to decide on Cook’s latest opening partner.
Haseeb and Ben Duckett seem to be in a shootout for the role although assistant coach Paul Farbrace hinted that Duckett could come into the middle order, with spots at four and five far from decided.
Following the cancellation, England travelled to the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium, the venue for the opening Test, for a net session. Batty said: “It’s just a different way of preparing for the Test match. In England we would probably be preparing in the nets, so I don’t think it makes too much difference.
“You make best of the situation. Certainly the practice facilities are very good, different conditions are good to experience, and we will take what we can out of it.”
Kent are seeking arbitration with the England and Wales Cricket Board over the decision to keep them in Division Two of the County Championship.
The ECB ruled that Hampshire should retain their top-flight status next year rather than promote Division Two runners-up Kent after financially-stricken Durham were relegated as a condition applied in their £3.8m bail-out.