Gary Ballance climbs wearily onto the treadmill

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Photo by Sarah Ansell
Photo by Sarah Ansell

When a player is dropped during a home series, there’s only one way back into the side. They perform well in first-class cricket, they tell themselves they’ve proved the doubters wrong and they return mentally buoyed.

When you’re dropped on tour, things can pan out differently. Gary Ballance has just been dropped at the very start of a five-Test tour of India. Forget being a professional and selection and non-selection being part and parcel of a career, the man himself will feel that he has been evaluated and found wanting. It is a straightforward rejection of him as an individual.

And this guy is now the reserve batsman; a guy who may have to come back into the team should someone else fall ill, sustain an injury or fail.

The treadmill

People talk about international cricket being a treadmill, but let’s appropriate that metaphor and use it differently.

When you’re playing cricket, you’re not on a treadmill – you’re moving. Hopefully, you’re scoring runs and moving forwards, but you could also be having a hard time and edging towards the trapdoor. Either way, things are changing.

Out of the team, you can still make progress one way or another by playing domestic cricket, but on tour, nothing happens – nothing meaningful anyway. You bat in the nets and it can feel like things are changing, but without testing yourself out in the real world, you’re basically putting in a load of effort and going nowhere. You’re on a treadmill.

Captains and coaches seem increasingly happy look at performances in the nets when picking a side, but we’re not convinced that the players themselves feel the same way. They still talk about everything being different ‘in the middle’.

Net worth

Gary Ballance is looking at a lot of net practice over the next few months and should he return to the side, nothing will have changed in terms of his results in competitive cricket matches.

He has been dropped because England think there’s a whole bunch of batsmen who are better than him. If one of those suffers a similar fate later in the series, Ballance probably won’t feel like he’s earned back his Test place. He will feel like he’s been returned to the side thanks to proximity, because another player has been even worse than he was when he was last rejected. It’s hard to imagine a player in that frame of mind really sticking it to the world.

We’re delighted that Haseeb Hameed is playing a Test match. At the same time we can’t help but feel that there may be further changes to come. The decision to send Gary Ballance on tour and then instantly drop him from the team means this England squad is already looking rather thin.


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  1. Having had one season and never played one-day cricket for his county Hameed feels like someone who hasn’t had to fight their way into the team, as someone like say James Taylor ended up doing. More worryingly he doesn’t appear to have spent any time in the freezer.

    1. Perhaps Hameed is an avocado though. There’s a very narrow window between being unripe and just being mush. Plus they don’t really freeze. So we either eat him now or let him go mushy.

    1. You can see it as laziness if you want. We think of it more as only having access to a limited number of images that we can legally publish.

  2. Hameed to make a lovely double century, and all this election nonsense will be bumped right off the front pages, presumably.

    1. Hopefully someone can find a way of spaking that will cut through populism, which is proving a frighteningly effective political approach these days.

      Accidental mystery spin joke redacted.

  3. Those 5-0 to India predictions are already looking a bit stupid just 2 sessions in. Obviously, this prediction about those predictions being stupid may also turn out to be equally stupid. Going by the events across the world, the safer prediction would have been 5-0 to England?

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