One of the weirdest send-offs of all time was when Steve Kirby, then playing for Yorkshire, sent Mike Atherton on his way with the immortal line: “I’ve seen better batters in my fridge.” This article is nothing to do with that, even though it is about keeping batsmen in the fridge.
Since the India tour, there has been something of a Joe Root love-in in sections of the British press and Nick Compton has been the unfortunate victim of this. Some have perceived Compton as a functional 29-year-old batsman who should make way at the top of the order for the flavour of the month. We were not of this opinion.
The Root cause
It’s not that we don’t think Joe Root is an excellent player. It’s more that we suspect him of being not quite so excellent as he is currently being portrayed. Column inches can be disproportionate to ability, particularly when you’re 22. Besides, it’s always good to have something in reserve.
Think of the relationship between fridges and freezers. Your fridge food needs using, but your freezer food can wait. Sometimes there’s nothing in the fridge, but you still need to eat. At this point, you head for the freezer.
There should always be something in the freezer.
England currently have Nick Compton and Joe Root in the fridge and Jonny Bairstow in the freezer. This is fine by us. Bairstow is nowhere near his expiration date. He’ll keep.
On the other hand, what would you do with Compton were you to move Bairstow to the fridge? He can’t go back in the freezer – he’s already been frozen once. You would have to put him in the bin.
Promising freezer meals
A lot of freezer meals aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, particularly when you’ve put them in plastic takeaway boxes without labelling them. You think it’s lamb nihari, but once it’s defrosted, it turns out it’s just sweet potato mash.
Nick Compton might not be Michelin-starred, but he’s better than sweet potato mash.
Could you make this point a bit more clearly?
Basically, we’d say a young player unable to break into the side is liable to improve more than an older player who’s been discarded. Despite what some writers might think, England don’t have such an embarrassment of riches that they can completely discard promising Test batsmen – which is basically what would happen to Compton if he were dropped.
This is the nub of it: Nick Compton is a promising Test batsman. He scored an extraordinary volume of runs in county cricket at a time when no-one else in the entire country could lay bat on ball. You have to pay attention to exceptional feats like that and he’s done more since, even if it hasn’t been headline-grabbing.
In India, he didn’t score heavily, but batted a hell of a long time, which was valuable considering England have a recent history where far more experienced batsmen have frequently been contributing to batting collapses on foreign tours.
And now he’s hit his first Test hundred. Compton has batted on more difficult pitches than the one at Dunedin and faced more challenging attacks than New Zealand’s, but his first Test hundred was scored in the face of a less than optimal match situation and a fair degree of personal pressure resulting from what has been described above.
His mind appears strong. Nick Compton warrants his place in the fridge.