‘Unknown’ Ballance aims to make his mark
LONDON: Gary Ballance has scored two Test hundreds at Lord’s, but that still did not stop him being prevented from entering the Pavilion last year.
Now, as the England batsman prepares to return to Test duty at the ‘home of cricket’ in this week’s series opener against Pakistan, he hopes his credentials won’t be called into question again.
Ballance, after a run of 15 Tests in which he scored nearly 1200 runs at a very respectable average of just under 48, including four hundreds, was dropped by England last year after losing form midway through the Ashes.
But the 26-year-old Zimbabwe-born Yorkshire left-hander is now back in the team following Nick Compton’s decision to take time out of cricket.
Ballance’s previous Test at Lord’s was not a happy occasion, with scores of one and nought — part of a sequence of just one fifty in his last 10 Test innings — against New Zealand last year.
As if that wasn’t enough, he was then refused entry when he returned to the Pavilion after close of play.
“I’m not very recognisable, am I?” said a smiling Ballance at an event staged by series sponsors Investec at Lord’s on Tuesday.
“I had to get a few of the England security down to let me in.
“I was coming back in to get a bag…wearing full England (training) kit.
“But the lady at the desk was like ‘not today, you’re not coming in without a tie.'”
He added: “It didn’t bother me one bit…it happens at Headingley all the time!”
Ballance comes into the match following a hundred for county champions Yorkshire against Middlesex.
Shortly before he was dropped, numerous pundits expressed concerns regarding Ballance’s back-foot, deep in the crease technique.
But while taking some of those points on board, Ballance has resisted making wholesale alterations.
“If you’re not scoring runs you’re going to get criticised,” he said.
“I’m big enough to accept criticism, work on stuff and hope to get better from it.
“I know it’s not perfect, and I need to adjust and work on a few things, but you have to do what you think is best for yourself — and if not’s good enough, so be it.”
Nevertheless the pain of being dropped hit Ballance hard..
“I was absolutely gutted, of course…at times last year I was so uptight and found it a massive pressure. You question your ability for a while.”
That made it all the sweeter when national selector James Whitaker called Ballance to tell him he was back in the England squad.
“The phone call was a great feeling,” Ballance said.
“I’ve been on the end of a few saying ‘you’re not involved this time around’ — so to get the good news was great.”
Meanwhile Ballance hopes the tension he feels when he walks out to the middle will spur him on to fresh success.
“I’m nervous every time I bat,” he said.
“Whether it’s a club game or a Yorkshire game, I’m nervous every time.
“I’ll be nervous — but it’ll be a good nervous.”