YORKSHIRE chief Martyn Moxon believes that Gary Ballance is ready to return to Test cricket and insists that criticism of his technique by pundits and former players has been “unfair and disrespectful”.
Ballance has made a brilliant start to the season, scoring 451 runs in all cricket, including three hundreds in his last three innings.
If he continues in that sort of vein, the 29-year-old left-hander must come into contention for the one-off Test match against Ireland in July followed by the five-Test series against Australia.
However, his Test career is viewed as over by some observers, who have criticised him for batting deep in the crease and not transferring his weight enough into the ball.
Bob Willis, the former England captain, has denounced Ballance as someone who “bats with his shoelaces tied together”, while another former England captain, Nasser Hussain, has stated that the player’s refusal to change his technique means that although “he’ll go back to county cricket and score runs again”, that “doesn’t mean he’s an international cricketer”.
Ballance played the last of his 23 Tests in July 2017, having made an outstanding start to his England career with 1,019 runs in his first 10 Tests at an average of 67.93 by using exactly the same technique.
He told The Yorkshire Post last week that an England return is “not so much in the back of my mind as not even in my mind at all”, as he focuses on performing for a Yorkshire side who continue their Royal London Cup campaign at Warwickshire today, although he retains a strong desire to prove wrong those who say that he is vulnerable to top-class pace in particular.
Moxon, the Yorkshire director of cricket, feels that Ballance is transferring his weight into the ball much better now and that it would be premature to write off a player who does not turn 30 until November.
“It’s very premature of people to write him off at Test level,” he said.
“People have absolutely nailed Gary’s technique, but it’s no different to what it was when he was averaging over 50 at the start of his career.
“It’s just that, at times, his movements haven’t quite been right and he wasn’t getting into the ball as much as he’d like.
“That’s what he continues to work on really hard in practice, and for him to be nailed as aggressively as he was, I think that was unfair and disrespectful to be honest.
“If you ask me whether I think Gary is good enough to play Test cricket again, then I would say categorically that he is.
“He’s staking a great claim at the moment with volume of runs and playing as well as he’s ever done.
“He’s been playing against some quality attacks in county cricket too – you’re not talking Tom Noddy attacks – and is certainly back to his best.
“One of the first shots he played when he scored his latest century against Leicestershire was an on-drive for four, and when batsmen play that kind of shot, you know they’re in a very good place.”
As a former Test batsman himself, Moxon believes it is all-too easy to pick holes in technique from beyond the boundary.
He points to two of England’s finest players, Sir Alastair Cook and Alec Stewart, as examples of batsmen who have also struggled when their movements have been slightly out of kilter.
“As with any batter, the timing of movements are crucial,” added Moxon.
“When Alastair Cook’s timing of movements were slightly out of synch, he struggled, as did Alec Stewart, who had quite a big pre-delivery movement, but when it all clicks…
“With Gary, it’s always been about getting his weight into the ball.
“Clearly, at Test level at times, he’s struggled to do that, but we know that his technique, when it’s working at its best, is still effective at the highest level.
“When everything is in synch, it works for Gary, and that’s all that he’s got to focus on.
“He knows that he’s good enough playing his way, and, if he gets another chance with England, he’s got to erase all the negativity that comes from other people out of his head.
“Whether he could do that is another matter; only he knows whether he can.
“It’s easier said than done to deal with that sort of scrutiny, but he’s got to take no notice of what people outside the set-up say and trust his technique, and it’s up to England whether or not they give him another opportunity.”
Ballance will hope to continue his great form at Edgbaston as Yorkshire strive to make it two wins out of two in the Royal London Cup.
Yorkshire hammered Leicestershire by 213 runs on Wednesday, Ballance top-scoring with 156, but this will be Warwickshire’s first fixture in this year’s competition.
Yorkshire (from): Ballance, Bresnan, Brook, Kohler-Cadmore, Lyth, Olivier, Patterson (captain), Pillans, Poysden, Rashid, Tattersall, Waite, Willey.