The concept of defining a batsman in cricket varies from critic to critic. I am not really a critic, but one of my most preferred ways of judging a batsman is- looking at his performances in tough playing conditions.
Talking about ‘tough playing conditions,’ I just love those batsmen who score runs in county cricket. It’s because I believe, County cricket, is the perfect preparation for international cricket, specially if you are a batsman. As an Indian, who has always seen slow-pitches and batting paradise, I have always admired batsmen who are good against swing bowling. I might sound a bit biased here, but, without taking anything away from those who play spin well, I believe swing bowling is the real Test of a batsman.
Now, I will straight away jump to the keyword of this piece- Gary Ballance.
Calm, composed and very relaxed in the middle; the 24-year-old Ballance has announced himself at the big area, in a massive way.
I first saw Ballance in Australia, and he looked good. After Jonathan Trott’s dramatic exit from the Ashes series, there was a big hole in England’s batting-order that has now been filled by Gary Ballance. Initially, Ian Bell and Joe Root, were looking like the likely candidates for filling the hole at number 3. But, the responsibility was given to Gary Ballance. And, this has turned out be a great move for England.
Although, there have been questions regarding his ‘back foot dominated’ game, but Ballance looks like someone knows his game really well and this is why irrespective of a 1-dimensional game, he has scored 5886 first-class runs at a healthy average of 55.52. And, at the Test match level, Ballance 628 runs in 6 matches at an average of 62.80, with 3 hundreds.
And, the most noticeable in his short Test career so far is – all his hundreds have come during crunch situations. Ballance’s first hundred came in the second innings of the first Test of the two-match series against Sri Lanka, where he anchored the England innings and batted throughout the innings scoring 104*.
Ballance’s second hundred was a very gritty one, on a tough Lord’s wicket that had a lot of grass on it. In an innings where all other English batsmen struggled, Ballance batted 297 balls for his 110 runs.
Ballance’s third ton laid the foundation for England’s middle order to dominate India’s bowling, on a pitch that most suitable for the batsmen. He batted for 384 balls and scored 156 runs. It was his partnership with Alastair Cook that allowed England to have a strong hold on the Test match, right from the day 1. Ballance showed great maturity batting with Cook, who was struggling in the middle and going through a horrible patch.
Ballance appears to have all the qualities of becoming one of the mainstays of England’s middle order, in Test cricket. He looks like someone who is really hungry for runs, and for a career that is only Tests old, appearing twice on the Honours Board at the Mecca of Cricket, is a big achievement.
by Sidharth Gulati