Former England batsman Nick Compton expressed his regret at not being able to take his Test opportunities, and hopes fellow openers can learn from his mistakes.
In an open letter to the media on BBC Sport, Durban-born Compton, who played 16 Tests for England at an underwhelming average of 28.70, outlined the difficulties that comes with opening the batting for England.
Media pressure and selection ruthlessness were a couple of aspects Compton encouraged future players to ignore in order to excel at the highest order, as Mark Stoneman braces himself to become Alastair Cook’s 12th opening partner in Tests when England face West Indies in the first Test on Thursday.
The latest victim to get the chop was Keaton Jennings, whose high score of 48 from the four-match Test series against the Proteas was not enough to last another series.
‘He has not scored the runs, and his technical difficulties around fourth stump have not withstood the severe cross-examination of the high-profile media pundits who fuel the opinions of so many others in and around the sport,’ Compton said.
‘It’s a tough place to be – knowing you are good enough to excel but feeling so out of form, and feeling your chances of success are diminishing innings by innings, partly because of the unwelcome focus on you when the selectors’ guillotine is hovering over your head.
‘Maybe he would have come through the experience a better player? But playing with the axe hanging over you is not helpful to recovering your best form,’ Compton continued.
‘I felt in May of 2013 that if Alastair Cook and I had the opportunity to open together for the whole summer, we could have made a real go of the job.
‘The lack of backing I received was because of my poor performances against New Zealand, but I reckon if I could have been allowed to move through that challenging learning experience of my first real dip in form as an England player, I would have been better for it.’
After receiving the nod ahead of Joe Root against India in 2012, Compton went on to play nine Tests before being dropped in May 2013. He won his place back for the series in South Africa towards the end of 2015, but another dip in form saw him removed for good. He’s had to look on as Root became one of the best batsmen in the world, before being named captain.
‘I was given my debut ahead of Joe Root in India in 2012. But seeing him flourish as a world-class player who could become an all-time great, I am able to contrast our journeys and really appreciate his qualities, having lived through the challenge of trying to become a top-level batsman at the same time.
‘I wish their experience in the England team enables them to be more Joe Root than Nick Compton.’
Compton went on to outline six categories of advice for England openers moving into the side. Perhaps it’s something for the Proteas to keep an eye out for too, as they’ve had their own problems to deal with at the top of the order, as Dean Elgar has seen six different opening partners come and go.
1. Score big runs
2. Be self-reliant
3. Respect the excellence of the opposition bowler
4. Pay attention to analysis but don’t overdo it
5. Understand the media are just doing their job
6. Develop a broad perspective
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