You are selected to tour with England. You get injured so miss the tour. The following year you are again selected to tour with England. You perform well in a tour match but in the Tests things don’t really go your way. You’re dropped and many perceive your international career to have been and gone but hopefully you’ll be better for the experience, will perform solidly on the county circuit and knock the door down for a recall. Your county however spend big bucks on some new players and come the first match of the county season you’ve lost your place to another spin bowling top order batsman. Step forward messrs Zafar Ansari and Scott Borthwick.
Of course Borthwick himself is one of many that has made his way through England’s selectorial revolving door and who ultimately has reinvented himself and re-locationed himself in order to knock the international door down again.
That’s cricket’s wheel of fortune ladies and gentlemen. Another example and another Surrey / Durham one at that: Opening batsman Rory Burns gets injured. Opening batsman Arun Harinath comes in and hits some hundreds but a year or so later Durham opening batsman Mark Stoneman heads south and Harinath joins Ansari in the Second XI.
Will the omitted players respond by making and taking runs and wickets galore in the second XI or will they go all Fabian Cowdrey on us and we’ll next see Zafar Ansari playing piano on The Voice? (Not as ridiculous as it sounds, honest!)
Could Ansari pop up at Sussex next year or Harinath at Leicestershire?
Of course I myself have suggested that Mark Footitt should make England’s XI (Before his 6-14 against Warwickshire I might add) but he left both Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire in order to keep another ex-England man Stuart Meaker out of the Surrey team. Michael Carberry is another example of a player who moved counties and who without doing so might not have donned the Three Lions jersey.
Anyway back to the point. In the space of less than a year Zafar Ansari has gone from being bridled with joy at being selected for England to presumably being a bit peeved at losing his place in the Surrey team. The problem for Ansari is a lack of cricketing identity. He’s tended to bat between numbers one and four but only has three First Class centuries. Those are great achievements, that’s three more than a lot of people but not good enough for a top order batsman with 115 innings under his belt. His bowling average of 35.18 is respectable enough but comes at an average of less than two wickets a match. This actually suggests a lack of responsibility rather than ability. Question marks linger over Ansari’s desire but when any professional sports player suggests that their game isn’t the be all and end all it can sound worse than it should. Some players immerse themselves in their profession to such an extent that it limits them but for others, getting away from the game can help them to relax and prepare for competition so long as they haven’t completely abandoned practice.
It will be interesting to see where in a decades time Zafar Ansari sits in the history of English cricket. Maybe he’ll be the next Gareth Batty!