Gary Ballanceís career really kicked off around two years ago when he hit a sparkling century against Australia for the England Lions coming in at 5. At the end of the 2013/2014 ashes Ballance managed to break into the side and as he dominated Sri Lankaís and Indiaís attacks over the next summer it was felt Ballance would be a mainstay in Englandís side for many years to come. However problems started to arise at the world cup when he was promoted to no.3, which was a position he had never played before in, One day cricket, for County or internationally. He had a poor world cup and he lost a lot of confidence and although he had a very successful tour against West Indies becoming the third fastest English man to score 1000 test runs it was clear to see against New Zealand that problems were starting to arise. After two poor test matches against New Zealand where his technical issues were exposed it was feared he would not be able to rediscover his form over the past year against the Aussies. He put those fears aside for a small amount of time with a battling 61 where he and Joe Root got England out of trouble however after two failures in the second test and his technique being questioned again he was dropped.
For me although harsh it was the right decision to make under the circumstances. At the end of the day he only had been in bad form for four tests however he had lost all confidence in his abilities and his technique. During most other series he would have kept his place however there is nothing more important to England and Wales than the ashes and after suffering a 400 run defeat and the middle order looking fragile someone who was in form needed to come in and score runs and there was nothing to support the fact that Ballance could score those runs. Maybe in another series he would have kept his place and rediscovered his form but there was too much risk of losing a second ashes series in a row.
For me the question is will Ballance get back to his best. The aussieís and Kiwiís managed to find a technical glitch which they exploited to full effect. Thatís test cricket so many greats of the game have had technical problems and went through rough times. For me what makes a great player is one who can make changes to his game and become a better and stronger player. Do I believe he will overcome his backfoot problems? Yes because you donít go from being a world class player averaging over 50 to a nobody overnight. Joe Root went through a poor period in the 2013 and 2013/2014 Ashes and was even dropped at one point, look at him now. Ballance has the capabilities to have the same level of success all he needs to do is make small changes to his game to become a top player. If you look at Bairstow and Ballanceís careers there is no comparison. Ballance already has 4 test hundreds averaging 47 whilst bairstow has 0 averaging 28.
Another problem he faced was being put into a position which was not natural to him. Throughout his county career he has always played at five and for me especially in England you need a specialist to play number 3, someone who has experience of playing the new ball. I think with little experience of playing the new ball at County level, to play against two of the best pace attacks in the world was a real step up, one which he did not manage well. Against Australia two years ago he proved he could be the perfect number five for us.
For me I would like to see him go on tour with Lions this winter and be given the time to work on his technique and not face anything which could further derail his confidence. I would like to see him start the season in the county cricket. We start the summer with a 3 test match series against Sri Lanka and then a four match series against Pakistan. Should he perform well in County Cricket and should a place become available anytime during the Pakistan series I would like to see Ballance being given another chance.
So in your opinion does Ballance have what it takes to become a great player again?