The England Test Opener From A Different Era – An Interview With Nick Compton – Part Two

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In Part One, which can be found here if you somehow might have missed it, I discussed with Nick the key challenges that our batsmen of this generation and the next are facing when it comes to playing for England at Test level. We also discussed how the level of coaching has somewhat diminished across the board as well as the need for younger players to broaden their horizons.

In this Second part, I wanted to dive a little deeper into Nick’s own career as an England Test batsman, the challenges that came on and off the pitch as well as some reflections on his own career.


 

Sean: You had a pretty classical technique, did the guys at Loughborough try and tweak it? God only knows what they would have done to Steve Smith if they’d seen his technique as a kid?

Nick: “Not hugely. I mean they try to question you in terms of whether you get a bit better here or there, but they didn’t do too much with me. I think when I came in, I had come up the hard way through county cricket; I had scored loads of runs at county level and was an older and more established player. I had played on the England A tour and for the Under 19s too during my career, so no one really tweaked my technique too much.”

Sean: I have been a big critic of the pitches at county level, which encourages teams to play slow wicket to wicket bowlers, what are your thoughts having had a long career?

Nick: “Absolutely, I think the pitches are by and large substandard these days, with even Lord’s being one of them because it’s so dry and slow. When I was a kid you arrived at a game at Lord’s licking your lips – not just because it’s at Lord’s but also because you’re playing on prime surface – almost a work of art really. At times there are club wickets I’d genuinely rather go and bat on these days. It can appear patchy and it’s dry underneath, and all because they’ve got these underwater drainage systems beneath that suck the life out of a pitch, meaning they have to patch it up with extra grass to try and make it Test Match worthy. It’s not an excuse, but I really struggled with motivation the last two or three years I played there. I’d be fielding at backward point and the first ball of the game would drop in front of the wicketkeeper and I can remember thinking that this is going to be a very long four days.   The ball didn’t come on to the bat, and it doesn’t make for exciting cricket. My game was all about timing the ball, so I always wanted some pace in the pitch so it came on to the bat.  Slow pitches like that make it tedious and dull.

“Obviously that doesn’t affect some other players – a Ben Stokes can just hit the ball out of the ground, but it wasn’t my game and it didn’t suit me. It also leads back to the point I was making about the lack of fast bowling in our game – why bother when pitches are like that?  Now we are facing the Australians who have some real pace and our top order is struggling because they don’t face it in county cricket much. The reality is that these pitches encourage medium pacers and it doesn’t help anyone prepare to face bowling of the level and speed of Pat Cummins or Mitchell Starc. It really isn’t complicated – in county cricket you just don’t see those types of bowlers because you’re facing a trundler who bowls 73 miles an hour on a wet green dog of a pitch. In the end it affected my enthusiasm, especially in the early part of the season, because it was just so boring – medium pacer after medium pacer. I did a job as a professional and I had the extra motivation that I wanted to play for England, so I worked it out, but it’s always leave, block, leave, block when trying to get in on those pitches. Even then, no matter how hard you focus, you’ve got someone like Darren Stevens, all due respect to him, ambling in and bowling wicket to wicket.  In those conditions he can make you look silly, and that’s county cricket.  But then players go to Australia or South Africa where the ball is whistling past their ears and it’s no wonder our players struggle.  I was lucky, that’s what I grew up with.”

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Sean: If you don’t mind me asking, I was pretty shocked when you were dropped from the England set up in 2013. Do you think that’s because you weren’t an attacking opener?

Nick: “Yes, I’ll admit it’s a real sore point for me because I don’t think I should ever have been dropped. Was it my approach to batting? Perhaps, however I felt that I had forged a good partnership with Cook both statistically and in person and there really wasn’t a need to change things; however it shows how fickle and tough sport can be at the highest level.  In my final game at Headingley [against New Zealand 2013] I hurt my rib and couldn’t field on the last day which was originally diagnosed as a hairline fracture but eventually diagnosed as heavy bruising, but still meant I was unable to take the field. There was some scepticism from England’s management team at the time about the injury as they were under a lot of pressure and I knew I was under pressure from certain quarters. It was pretty tough to take as I was an opening batsman who had forged his identity through facing some of the fastest bowlers in the world and seemed to excel in some of the toughest conditions. Naturally, I wanted to contribute in the field so that we won the game and it was incredibly frustrating not to be able to do so. I know Andy wasn’t in a great space at the time and I gave the management an opportunity to look elsewhere by not playing my best at the time. Whether that contributed to being dropped from the Ashes series, I simply don’t know. I do know that I wasn’t given a chance to play again for England under him as head coach.

“Things like that are hard sure, but I have to hold my hands up, had I played really well then I wouldn’t be saying this. I also really don’t think it was the pace that I batted though, more to do with the fact that the England management team felt Cook, Trott and myself were a bit samey. But I’ll say it again, that in my experience that you need three opening batsmen with proper techniques to be successful in England at Test level. I’m of the strong opinion that in this Test series, if England had three top players who could get through the new ball, that middle order would be scoring a hell of a lot more runs than they have been recently, irrespective of what happened on Sunday. The top order need to survive the new ball, if they can last for an hour and a half then they’ve gone a long way to doing their job – and they can go on to a decent score and the middle order have half a chance of succeeding. But it’s not fashionable to approach it that way, and as a result they can’t do it, they don’t want to do it and their techniques aren’t potentially up to it.  Full stop.”

Sean: That must have a terrible blow, was that your biggest regret in the international arena?

Nick: “Yes, I would swap everything to have been able to play in the Ashes against the 2015 Australians because if there was ever a time that I could have excelled, that was it.  It wasn’t against Sri Lanka and similar teams like that, it was against the fastest bowlers. I truly think that’s where I could have offered a point of difference. I wasn’t the kind of player who would have stood out from the crowd against medium pacers but against for example, Mitchell Johnson, I believe my technique and experience against facing the quickest bowlers in the world in similar conditions would have meant that I had a better chance of succeeding than most; however I never got the chance to prove it and that’s a big regret as I do feel I was a better player than my Test average reflects.”

Sean: I remember Ricky Ponting at the time being shocked that you had been left out of the Ashes team after your performance at Worcester against the touring side.

Nick: “Yes, I played well in that game and they were all running in at 90 miles an hour too.  I couldn’t have felt more at ease with my batting than I was against them, it’s when I felt at my most confident and I just wanted that chance at the top level as I’m a different player against the fastest and best. I came alive against Dale Steyn in the game at Durban and felt completely comfortable because that’s what I grew up with and that was my main talent. But the problem was that I felt my card had been marked the first time around as someone who was too intense and didn’t bat with enough aggression. I remember a game at Uxbridge in 2014 for Somerset against Middlesex and I got 98 and 88 not out and played out of my skin saving a game against a strong Middlesex team featuring Steven Finn and Toby Roland-Jones who were all bowling really well. And I remember John Inverarity, who was the chairman of Australian selectors at the time and a fabulous cricketing individual telling my mentor that although I’d played very well, I still wouldn’t be selected, because the England selectors just didn’t want players who played like me.”

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Nick Compton looks at a picture of his Grandfather in the Long Room at Lords. Photo by Phil Brown

Sean: Did you feel that you were treated somewhat unfairly by the media?

Nick: “Yes at times I did. I felt I had to fight harder and harder as my career went on, because I didn’t feel there was a wave of backing for the way I played and the qualities I had – it wasn’t sexy enough for them. Of course there were some good players coming through as well, one by the name of Joe Root, who didn’t turn out all that bad! Given what was written in the press, I felt I had to bang my own drum to get any recognition at all but it also gave me a greater source of hunger for much of my career to prove them wrong.  At the time I started to wonder if I was losing it, but looking back now, and given what’s going on with the England batting currently, I realise I wasn’t losing it at all, it’s just my style of batting supposedly didn’t fit with what England wanted retrospectively.  I am still deeply disappointed how the likes of Michael Vaughan and those others in the media who would pontificate about how Compton was batting too slowly, portrayed me back then. Joe Root scored 12 off 80 balls the other day but nothing negative was said about him – just the opposite.  Now they bemoan the inability of the top order to occupy the crease, but it’s not what they were saying at the time when they were more interested in who could clear the boundary rope.  So why was that? They are supposed to know the game after all; Yes, it would have been easier for me if my batting average had been higher so I could have put those murmurings to bed, but I still felt that I was being singled out a bit at times when as a player all you want to be left to do what you’ve done before and will do again. The difference of course is that in international cricket it’s about time and there isn’t a lot of it due to the unique pressures you face in the international arena.  I’ve read that it was maybe how I came across in interviews, but personally I don’t think that was the case, I just felt I was focused and professional and that I gave it my all every time I went to the crease.  Perhaps it was the Compton name that made me a target, but whatever it was, I could just never understand why I was always in the firing line.”

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Nick Compton who is never far from his beloved camera. Jonny Bairstow in the background with a fantastic handle-bar moustache

Sean: Perhaps people saw you as a bit of an easy target? There was the whole Nick Compton doesn’t fit in, which baffled me.

Nick: “I know, and that hurt me because I’m pretty sure I’m a decent bloke and got on well with the players in the dressing room. Sure I was a defensive batsman but then so was Jonathan Trott and so was Alastair Cook. I felt it was unfair and to be honest I didn’t really understand where it came from. I know that they didn’t like the fact that Kevin Pietersen was a big mate of mine, but I also made sure that I didn’t take sides in the fall out [Pietersen being dropped from the England side] and that was entirely deliberate.  I think all of the boys saw I gave 100% percent whether out on the field or in the nets, during the game or in practice. If I had to answer back to the media, it was perhaps that I’m my own person, an individual, and maybe a little more outward looking than some of the rest of the guys in the team. I have a huge passion for photography, I absolutely loved exploring new places when we were on tour and I’d go and do things that perhaps the other members of the team weren’t as interested in, visiting art galleries in New Zealand for example. Most of the guys preferred to stay in the hotel and play on the PlayStation, which is fine, but that wasn’t me – I didn’t want to stay in the hotel playing on a games console when there are other things to do and new experiences to have.  Does that mean I didn’t fit in? No, It was a ridiculous agenda, with no foundation to it. It’s not like they mentioned that I was really good mates with Alastair Cook, that was ignored. So, yes, it really upset me because it was my one shot and my career they were playing with.”

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Sean: Did you get any support from any of the former pros in the commentary box?

Nick: “Absolutely not. Never. Michael Vaughan has never met me in my life, Nasser Hussain has never met me in my life and I still find it strange that they made no effort to do so.  If I had their history as captain or top order player for England I’d be keen to talk to a new player and suggest a coffee and a chat about what’s involved – pass on my experiences or be there for advice if it was wanted. That would have made a huge difference to me, and I’m certain it would make a huge difference to those in that position now. These are former players we grew up watching. If having done so and then afterwards they then wrote a less than favourable article about me, then that’s fine, it’s their job, but the point is they never bothered to meet me or find out about me. They then still wrote certain things about me that were blatantly untrue. I knew the emergence of Joe Root and the calls to get him in the England side meant that I was a bit of a target, and obviously Michael Vaughan’s affiliation with Root added to that, so it felt like I was always in the firing line.”

“I’m very passionate about the way people are treated, and of course I was hurt by all the criticism I received; but I want to stand up for myself and talk about it because I believe in what I say and don’t see that as a negative thing at all. I want to help not hinder young players, especially those coming through into the England set up, so perhaps they might be able to learn from what I went through.”

The last question I was going to ask, was whether you’d take up a role on the selection panel if offered as I believe you’re uniquely qualified?

“I am actually on the selection panel. I’m only a scout at the moment and I have been tasked with scouting some young players and reporting back. Unfortunately, I don’t get any say on who is picked and who isn’t picked, that’s purely down to Ed Smith and his senior team. Perhaps one day.”

Sean: Once again, thank you for your time and your thoughts Nick; it’s been a real pleasure to have the opportunity to speak to you about your thoughts on cricket in such depth.

Nick is an ex professional cricketer who played for England, Middlesex and Somerset during his career. Nick can be followed on Twitter via his account @thecompdog. Nick is also a passionate photographer and his collections can be found here: https://nickcomptonphotography.com.

As always, it would be great to hear your comments on the above article below.

The England Test Opener From A Different Era – An Interview With Nick Compton – Part One

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So there I was, watching the highlights of the Test with a glass of wine in hand and seeing the English batting unit collapse in a heap once again. Many of our parish know that this isn’t exactly a rare occurrence, in fact it is more surprising these days when the English top order actually make some runs. I have my own theories around this as do the rest of the editors on the site, but I wanted to get an understanding from someone who has been there, someone who has not just played at the highest level but also who was renowned for his batting technique throughout his time in the English game. Even more though, I wanted to hear from someone who is still passionate about the game and has some strong views about what is currently going wrong.

So I got in touch with an player who I had seen come through the Middlesex ranks as a youngster and one who I had a number of fond memories of watching when I was still a member of the county and who I felt was cast aside from the England setup far too soon, especially when he was still in his prime: England’s former top order Test batsman, Nick Compton.

I was delighted when Nick agreed to speak even though he was due in hospital on the same day, even if it was for 5 or 10 minutes. I’m lucky that there is a passion that still burns with him and 5 minutes turned into 15 and 15 into nearly half hour. It was great to pick the mind of someone who has seen it all in both the Test and county arenas and I cannot thank Nick enough for sparing the time to speak to me.

The one thing I would ask is for all to read the interview with an open mind, whether you think Nick was discarded too soon or not. He has some great opinions, some strong views and a fantastic cricket mind. With that said, let the interview begin.


 

Sean: As a former Test opener, what are the main flaws that you can see in the English top order?

Nick: “Essentially, I think there’s a lack of the application and wider batting aptitude that is vital to be a successful test cricketer. Really, it begins with patience, technique and above all, an understanding of your game.  That’s how you learn to play the angles and have the ability to survive long enough so that you can contribute with big runs later on in the game.  It’s become fashionable to focus only on scoring shots and taking it to the other team rather than playing the moment and building an innings. It works well enough when the wickets are flat but when the ball is moving around, then it’s absolutely the wrong approach.

“Test cricket has been around for 150 years and hasn’t changed that much in its fundamentals – especially when it comes to batting at the top of the order against a high quality pace attack. Ben Stokes was magnificent of course, but it doesn’t mean the wider problems aren’t there.  Overall in this series the techniques of many of the batsmen on both sides aren’t that special. Of course, it’s easy to carp on from the sidelines and highlight the flaws of others, but I’m talking about a wider issue that affects our game, not pointing fingers at individuals.  There’s a shortage of high-quality fast bowling in our domestic game, meaning those who come through it haven’t had enough exposure to the kind of level they’ll face in Test cricket. So many of the dismissals this series have been poor, both technically and in terms of application. The batsmen aren’t fighting to keep their wicket intact – Test batting in other words – they’re going after the bowling and paying the price.  The standard of Test batting has to be a concern – there are a few really high quality players around, Smith, Pujara and Kohli for example, but the drop off below that group is a bit alarming.  Joe Root is clearly a fantastic player, but I think the whole move up the order to number three has affected his game more than people are prepared to admit. The “second opener” nature of number three isn’t his natural position, he’s better when he can attack, and that’s because he’s a middle order player.

“David Warner got a few in this last Test, but he’s struggling over here because the ball is doing something both in the air and off the pitch, and he’s just not used to facing it because he’s never really had to, especially in white ball cricket. He’s just an example, but countering the moving ball requires a technique that batsmen these days don’t have and can’t instantly apply.  Everyone is trying to score quickly and hit through the line on the up, but they can’t stay in long enough against the best fast bowlers because they take too many risks in attack, their defence isn’t good enough and they struggle to judge what to play, and more importantly what not to play.

“The point is that I’ve played with and against these guys for years in county cricket, and when the ball does something, they’re as normal as the rest of us. On flat tracks like Perth or at the Adelaide Oval, they’re going to out-bat me because that’s what their technique is geared towards, but I can tell you most of the time I’ll survive longer than they will when facing the moving ball. It’s not me boasting, it’s because I spent a lifetime building the qualities needed for that into my game, but the way cricket has gone that kind of approach has become deeply unfashionable.  It’s not they can’t, it’s that they don’t.”

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Sean: Did you see it creep into the international game when you were playing?

Nick: “Yes I think so.  I was a bit startled to see players who have had long international careers suddenly looking out of place. Even Alastair Cook in the last couple of years seemed to have moved away from the highly successful Test approach he’d had all his career, and it wasn’t just a matter of form.  So you pause and wonder how it can be that the most successful opener we’ve had in decades is struggling in the Test arena and playing shots that he’d never have considered in previous years. It’s because the mindsets of the batsmen have changed so much, and I felt that Cook was far looser with his technique towards the end of his career.  His defence was nothing like as tight as it had been, he was far less patient, especially early on and nothing like as watchful during an innings.  I don’t know if he felt some sort of pressure to become a “modern player” and tried to transform his game into this attacking breed of cricket that we’re all supposed to be playing, but I really hope not. In my case, I found as soon as I tried it, I lost the very qualities that made me the player that I was and gained me the success I achieved.”

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The opening partnership that should have been given the time to thrive?

Sean: England’s focus at county level has shifted from red ball cricket to white ball cricket, are we now seeing the results of this?

Nick: “Fundamentally, the powers that be believe that an “aggressive brand of cricket” equals entertainment, and that’s what they want to see. If I was starting out in county cricket now, why would I want to work my backside off to survive a couple of hours for 20 runs when there’s more concern about the strike rate than anything else? As far as developing players for Test cricket is concerned, these are the innings that are the most educational and useful and imbue batsmen with the kinds of qualities best suited for the top level. However players these days just don’t do that, and don’t place as high a value on their wicket anymore, they prefer to try and score quickly when it’s difficult because they don’t feel they’ll last too long anyway.  Patience as part of the art of batting – for the later rewards – is something that’s rather been forgotten these days, as is building an innings.  Instead there’s this desire to dominate, so after an over or two of struggle, you get this big booming drive and a wicket.”

Sean: Do you think you’re a dying breed of batsmen? I look at Trott in his prime and Pujara now for example and see very few else out there whose technique is based around defence.

Nick: “Yes but that’s the point isn’t it?  Given the direction modern cricket is going, why would you want to go to all the effort and work involved to become that kind of player?  T20 has meant that if you can hit the ball a long way and score rapidly, you can make a lot of money from all the T20 competitions around the world. To add to that direction of travel, now we’ve got the Hundred: the players are professionals and need to earn a living and win contracts so how can anyone blame them for developing their game in the way that benefits that? I certainly wouldn’t, I just went left-field a bit and it was a deliberate choice.

“I came to a crossroads in my career when I was 25 or 26, and I remember sitting down with my mentor for a talk about where I was going.  T20 had been going for several years, and a lot of the younger players coming through and some older professionals had either decided that Test cricket wasn’t really their passion anymore or had been found out by the longer form of the game. They saw the money that was on offer in the short form of the game and their heads were turned, so they decided to place all their focus on the T20 competitions. Me though, I did it the other way, I looked at my career and felt that there was a dearth of individuals who could bat for a day around the county game, and even fewer who could potentially bat all day for England. Trott and Cook were the main guys and I decided that I wanted to be the third one, renowned for being able to bat and bat and bat.

“At that time in my career Cook and Trott looked impregnable, and England were making huge totals on the back of them laying the groundwork. I felt I could be a part of that and spent months working on building a world class defence. People say I was slow, but I wasn’t that slow a batsman at all, I just weighed up the situation and played normal cricket. I had all the shots, but a lot of the time what was required for me in all the teams I played in was to take the shine off the new ball and let others bat around me. When I was at Somerset I can clearly remember my coach Brian Rose saying to me “Nick, I’ve got you down here for one reason and that’s to bat; bat all day and every time you think about doing something else, think again and just bat”. He wanted me to do that in all forms of the game and every morning the look in his eye would remind me what my role was. His attitude was that he had Trescothick, Hildreth and Kieswetter to play all the shots, he needed someone who could hold the batting line up order together. That was so helpful to me, if that’s how he wanted me to bat, then that was what I going to do. That kind of backing makes all the difference – I knew what my role in the side was and I was determined to go out and do just that.  And because I had some talent, I would be supremely confident knowing I had that support for the way I was playing. I’d be on automatic pilot much of the time, which is a great position to be in when batting; if there was a short ball, I’d just either duck or put it away, I’d been doing it for 20 years by then anyway.  I didn’t need to practice hitting a ball off my legs or pushing a half volley through the covers because they were my go-to shots anyway and my key strengths, so I wouldn’t have to think about playing them and didn’t need to practice those in the nets – it had just become second nature and low risk. In one day cricket, you’re going after the 50/50 balls because you have to be scoring all the time, and as the format gets shorter, it moves to 40/60 balls or 30/70 balls. This is absolutely fine in those formats of the game, but in the longer one you should be looking to leave those alone or defend them, and they don’t.”

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England’s Nick Compton bats during a practice session at the Basin Reserve, Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Devlin/PA Images via Getty Images)

Sean: I remember being coached particularly poorly at club level; do you feel that players are no longer receiving the right sort of coaching to play at Test level?

Nick: “Unfortunately, the standard of coaching is fairly poor across the board at the moment.  A lot of people are spending time throwing balls down at batsmen, so it looks like they’re putting in the hours, but that’s not coaching. You could pay a 16 year old lad on his summer holidays to come and do that, but that wouldn’t be coaching either, it would be practice.  Coaching should be about improving players and helping them get the most out of themselves.  At the end of the season young players need to know where they are and have a full review of their game and what to work on; Instead they’re either told well done or told nothing depending on how the season went. That means they disappear for the winter to do what they want until the start of pre-season when they turn up and do some running around and receive throw downs. How is anything going to have changed in that time?  The off season is such a good opportunity to go away and work on specific things, but there’s no structure around the period when more than at any other time they can make material changes.  What has he worked on? Who has he done that work with? This is the kind of specialist intervention that sets a good coach apart from the rest, but it doesn’t happen anything like as much as it should.  There absolutely are some coaches who do it, but nothing like enough and that’s extremely damaging.

“All players need help and support throughout their careers – even the very best in the world can get into bad habits, but when they do, they go back to their trusted coaches to work out the kinks in their game, and unfortunately much of the time that doesn’t happen for everyone else, even though it should.”

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Nick Compton during day four of the First Test match between New Zealand and England at University Oval on March 9, 2013 in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Sean: Why do you think this is? We’ve supposedly got all the brains in world cricket at Loughborough, why isn’t this cascading down to the county level?

Nick: “It’s a question of accountability and job security. It’s much easier to simply follow the instructions of the county and tick the required boxes so they stay in post rather than take on the responsibility of trying to make a major difference to a particular player. Numbers are also important here, because they’ve got large squads to handle, little time and the kind of one on one coaching of a young player that’s needed requires a huge amount of work and a lot of investment both in time and money. I also believe that there is a fear that if they do coach properly on an individual basis, they’ll get the blame if a young player keeps getting out and decides to blame them for it.  Coaches too want to have a job next year.

“Instead the approach is to deflect it back on to the player; instead of working with them they ask them questions – “how do you think you should be playing, what do you think you’d do in this situation?”. It’s a way of avoiding responsibility – a player who has a concern about their game doesn’t seek out a coach to be asked questions, they go to learn where they’re going wrong and how they can improve their play.  A player is often the least able to understand the mistakes they’re making, and that’s why a coach is so valuable.

“If I listen to what the coach is saying, understand and implement it and still don’t score a run, that’s my fault, not his. It could be that he’s not a great coach, but I still chose to listen, or it could be that I didn’t implement what I was told properly. Either way, that’s still ultimately my responsibility – I choose who to listen to and what to do, but I’d still prefer a coach who gave me bad advice but put his heart and soul into me to make me better than a coach who just stands there and asks questions. If nothing else, my mental state is going to be far better from one who has worked with me in detail and bought into me and what I want to achieve.  If it ends up not working, never mind, we both tried extremely hard and put in huge amounts of work in good faith to make me a better player. It just didn’t work out.

“That’s also where the player responsibility comes in, and partly why coaches are the way they are as it’s definitely also down to the player to play a role and work to make themselves better.   I look around the counties and I see guys who think that they are so much better than they really are. They don’t put the work in, they don’t look outside of county cricket, they do their training session and go home and play on the Xbox thinking that they’re doing their job to the best of their ability. But you aren’t going to become a better player just by playing for your county, any more than a club player will get better just by playing for their club. You’ve got to go and travel, mentally and physically – you’ve got to go to other countries and work on things. You’ve got to get other advice because no coach is perfect, and ultimately it’s about finding what works for you.”


In Part Two, I will be speaking to Nick about his own experience as an England Test Opener and the rigours and challenges that come with it both on and off the pitch.

Nick is an ex professional cricketer who played for England, Middlesex and Somerset during his career. Nick can be followed on Twitter via his account @thecompdog. Nick is also a passionate photographer and his collections can be found here: https://nickcomptonphotography.com.

As always, please feel free to leave your comments below.

27th December Cricket – Comments Thread

Australia – 345/3 (Khawaja 144, Burns 128) v West Indies

England – 179/4 (Taylor 70, Compton 63*) v South Africa

The two tests could hardly be a greater contrast. In Melbourne Australia are participating in what looks like another total mismatch, as Burns and Khawaja picked up centuries, and there’s probably at least another one in them hills for either Smith or Voges given their propensity these days in cashing in. The West Indies seem further and further away from competitiveness. I must confess that I was watching the Cavaliers v Warriors NBA game rather than this lack of a contest, but what I did notice was David Warner setting off like a train and getting out quite quickly. I saw one of my Aussie-based Twitter followers had something to say about that.

England find themselves in a much better position than 49 for 3 suggested, especially as the “two rocks” had both been dismissed. Nick Compton looked very solid, not offering much in the way of chances, and ground out 63 from 179 balls. It’s 300 ball hundred pace, which while is important in situations like this, it’s not match-winning stuff. That sounds harsh, I know, and he’s played the situation magnificently. But that question will remain until we see something slightly more multi-faceted.At this stage England need to take solidity and composure any which way they can. We’ve been spoiled on Tres, Vaughan and even Strauss who could keep the scoreboard ticking over. My fear is Compton is going to be too one paced. Today, that’s not a problem.

But look, this has been a top innings today and probably one in the eye for a few people (including me, who has never been convinced he’s the answer). I’m a bit different on Taylor who looks like the least worst option in that position, and again played well in a tight situation. He has that attitude of persistent motion, an energizer bunny, reining himself in before he fires off at all different angles. This is his second 70-ish score and yes, they’ve been accumulated in the right way and tight situations.  A shame he got out just before the close, but he has been a bright spark today.

It’s too soon to make a comment on Hales – of course it is. That’s a lot different to people “thinking” he’s not up to it as a test opener, because I know, like others, those that think that way want to be proved wrong. If you want to know the ultimate example, you should have seen the text messages between me and a Millwall mate after HIM was dismissed in the first innings at The Oval. I’d love Hales to do well, I really would, but already you can hear the jungle drums. “Compton open, Compton open, Compton open”.

A couple of other observations. I see it’s a mixed South African / English team under the SuperSport banner. I thought, for the larger series, and I thought this was one, that we had the full Sky treatment. What with the car park settings for the BBL, are there serious cost-cutting measures on board at the home of England Cricket?

Also, the game will be poorer when Dale Steyn isn’t playing it. What a champion. Also self-deprecating in his interview afterwards, saying he’s not as skilled as Jimmy Anderson. Hogwash. They are different types of bowlers, and Steyn has skill in abundance. A top player. It’s a disgrace he’s not been seen playing against England in his home country since 2010, and in this country since 2012.

Happy to have all your comments on the games today and those for the play tomorrow. The beloved is dragging me down to the Garden Centre in the morning – I’d rather have an hour of James Brayshaw if truth be told – so I won’t be around for all of it.

Comments below……