In no uncertain terms, the move to Somerset changed Nick Compton’s life. In 2009, he was a county player with a famous surname, a handy top-order batsman who had found his level. By 2012, he was in the form of his life, almost breaking that mythical barrier of 1000 First Class runs by the end of May. Robbed by the English weather with May 31st washed out, he brought it up the following day.
So what sparked this turnaround? Was the move to Somerset the defining factor in his career, or did the move just coincide with Compton learning his game and understanding how he wanted to, and ought to, play the game? The man himself is unequivocal; the changes to his performance ran far deeper than a patch of good form:
“I needed to challenge myself and find out about myself in my own right, rather than having the Compton name at Lord’s and all the history at Middlesex. I wanted to give it a go and I wanted to play a better level of cricket, and that’s exactly what it was…the step up was incredible. The professionalism of Somerset was quite incredible. I realised pretty soon that I had to step up and get my game together.
“The move helped me massively. One, I think the role definition that Somerset gave me was very, very clear….Somerset is a quiet place, not a huge amount going on…the training was tougher, the players were tougher and the results and expectations were very high.
“I think for me, that whole mentality really helped me. Trescothick was an exceptional player at the time and we had a lot of stroke-players. I realised that I couldn’t really compete with that, and I felt a bit of initial pressure to try to show the team how good I was, and it was taking me away from what it is I do well…so I almost thought to myself ‘screw this, I’m going to get in this team, and I’m going to fight, and I’m going to bat all day.
“I kept that in mind, and over time the more consistency I got, and slowly I started to form my own identity, in terms of being the rock, being the support….I scored more and more runs by staying at the crease. I acknowledge it wasn’t so much about scoring runs, it was a case of ‘I want to be out here’, and if I’m at the crease then the team will succeed…and that’s effectively how I started to build up my own identity and my consistency, and my way of playing — the mentality and technique that goes with it. And that really was a massive help to me to stay in the team.
“I think also, being in Somerset without any family around, my focus was entirely on my cricket, I had to make it…that made me mentally tougher, it made me value every innings. It made me learn how to focus really hard, and also I wanted to go home knowing I had some runs because it was a pretty lonely place knowing I didn’t have any help.”
Compton had isolated himself from every possible distraction. The Compton name, the business of city life in London, the history of Lord’s. For many, this single-minded focus would be destructive, living and breathing cricket proving terminal to their careers. But not Nick Compton; he thrived on the pressure and was hungry for runs. He would let nothing stop him from achieving his goals. Somerset let him break away and forge his own path, an option never previously offered to him. Simultaneously, the expectations placed on him were clear — his job was to score industrial quantities of runs. And it paid dividends, as his hugely consistent runscoring forced him into England contention.
“[Playing for England] was everything I dreamed about. Scoring those runs, having the attention on you, it gave me a buzz and a reason to wake up in the morning. I mean, yeah, there was a bit more anxiety, but it was more an excitement anxiety, like there was a momentum with me as I went out to bat and I just kept scoring runs. I kept finding a way of scoring runs and it built up and built up. There was the 1000 runs before the end of [May] and I wanted that so badly. The more runs I got, the more hungry I got, the more determined I got, the more ambitious I got, and it kind of breeds itself. I put a lot of that success down to determination, fight, hunger and that willingness to succeed.
“The more runs I got, the more hype I got, and the more I wanted it.”
And soon enough, Nick Compton would get it.