Middlesex batsman tells Ross McLean how hopes of Test return burn brightly
THE embryonic stages of the cricket season may well have been dominated by Kevin Pietersen’s bid to revive his England career, but the maverick performer is not the sole South Africa-born batsman striving to end an international exile and earn a Test recall.
Quietly plotting his own form of redemption is Middlesex’s former England opener Nick Compton, who was last capped two years ago before being unceremoniously dropped ahead of the 2013 Ashes following a barren home series against New Zealand.
Could history repeat itself only for Compton to this time be the beneficiary? A century for opener Adam Lyth against the Black Caps in the second Investec Test at Headingley looks to have secured his Ashes spot at the top of the order alongside skipper Alastair Cook.
The spotlight has, however, homed in on misfiring duo Gary Ballance and Ian Bell, although conventional wisdom suggests Yorkshire’s Jonny Bairstow or James Taylor of Nottinghamshire may be next in line should England take the revolutionary, and perhaps unlikely, step of a major change pre-Australia.
While it remains to be seen whether Compton can force his way onto the radar of English selectors and new-look management structure, now or in the future, the 31-year-old refuses to accept that his international hiatus is permanent.
“I have a dream and an ambition to be a top international cricketer and I am not going to let that go until I believe I cannot fulfil those ambitions,” Compton, who scored 479 runs in nine Test matches at an average of 31.93, told City A.M.
“That passion has not stopped since I was left out the week before the Ashes in 2013. I have been fighting ever since to prove that I am the right man, the right character, to play at the top of the innings for England.
“Fundamentally, I believe sport should be a meritocracy. The top performing players should get picked and we crack on from there. I just hope they look at it from a fresh perspective and see that I have a lot to offer, both as a cricketer and in terms of personality.
“I would definitely love to be back in that environment. It’s hard not to keep an eye on one or two of the guys who are occupying a place that you would like but, in saying that, you do have to focus on your own game.
“The major thing for me, the major point, is that I still want to be in England conversations and I want to make sure that if there is an injury or one or two of the guys lose form then hopefully I am the next cab off the rank. That can only be done by scoring runs.”
Compton returned to Middlesex this season having spent the last four with Somerset and has one century and four fifties to his name so far batting at No3, top scoring with 70 on day one of their county championship clash with Yorkshire at Headingley on Sunday.
A modest return of 54 runs from his last six Test innings masked back-to-back hundreds in Dunedin and Wellington during the tour of New Zealand in March 2013, as England sought to solve their toporder conundrum following the retirement of former captain Andrew Strauss.
The nature of his jettisoning rankled the right-handed batsman, who has passed 1,000 first-class runs in each of the last four campaigns, although he ultimately accepts the onus to prove his worth rests firmly on his shoulders.
“I think some players are afforded more opportunities and greater backing. The energy of the establishment may be behind certain individuals a bit more but that is the way it is,” added Compton.
“It would be nice to know that the hard work you’re putting in and the hours you’re putting in and some of the scores you are putting together are still reflected in their thoughts or still seen.
“At times you do get a little bit despondent and think no matter what I do they have moved on and they’re not interested, but there are other times where you think, I’m 31, I’m in the prime of my career.
“[Former Middlesex captain] Adam Voges has just been picked for Australia [against the West Indies] at the age of 35 so there is no reason why I can’t get back there.”