Yorkshire captaincy gives Gary Ballance welcome new focus
The Yorkshire captain is the country’s standout batsman with 934 runs from 12 innings in all cricket, including four hundreds and four 50s.
It has been a brilliant response to being dropped by England following the Bangladesh Test series last winter, and it has immediately put Ballance’s name back on the international radar.
But in the wake of his latest tour de force, a one-day career-best 152 not out against Northants on Wednesday, the 27-year-old explained how his mind is firmly on Yorkshire matters.
“I’ve got this different focus now, being captain of Yorkshire,” said Ballance, who is in his first season at the Headingley helm.
“I don’t have to think about if I’m going to be in the Test team, or anything like that.
“I don’t have that worry or that anxiety of trying to make runs to do that.
“I’ve always said that I want to play at the highest level, but that’s not my focus at the moment.
“My focus is on the Yorkshire captaincy and trying to win games of cricket for Yorkshire, and I’ll happily do that for as long as I can.”
Ballance’s reaction to being dropped by England has been a breath of fresh air and an example to those in similar situations.
Andrew Gale, his Yorkshire coach, believes that he is “batting as well as I’ve ever seen him bat” and knocking again on England’s door.
“He’s in unbelievable form and I’m sure he’ll be in the (England) frame again,” said Gale.
“One of his team-mates at Yorkshire (Joe Root) is the Test captain, so he is seeing first-hand week-in, week-out how well he’s playing.
“There’s still a lot that can happen between now and the first Test (against South Africa in July), but if he keeps playing like this, I’m sure the selectors will be talking about him.
“But the Yorkshire captaincy has definitely given him a new focus and he’s leading from the front in brilliant fashion.”
When Ballance began to struggle at international level, following a splendid start to his England career, many observers questioned his technique.
But despite minor adjustments and tweaks here and there, he stubbornly stuck to his guns and has backed his natural game.
“Whenever I have tried to tinker with things and change things, it just hasn’t worked and I’ve ended up scoring even less runs,” he said.
“So I’ve just tried to play the way that I play, which worked for me for so long before and which, touch wood, is working for me at the moment.
“I’m playing exactly the way that I was playing two years ago.
“I’ve just got a bit of confidence and a bit of belief and, as every cricketer will tell you, that helps enormously.”
Ballance’s century at Northants – the seventh of his one-day career – inspired Yorkshire to their fifth win in six Royal London Cup games.
One more win from their final two group matches, away to Warwickshire on Sunday and at home to Leicestershire on Tuesday, will guarantee progress to the knockout stages for Yorkshire, who are effectively there already.
“We want to top the group and are playing some good cricket at the moment,” said Ballance, whose side lead the North Group.
“We just need to keep it going and try to keep up the level of consistency.”