YORKSHIRE first-team coach Andrew Gale believes that Gary Ballance will be “a dangerous animal” after being made a scapegoat for England’s Ashes defeat.
Gale said that the Yorkshire captain will be chomping at the bit to prove people wrong after being left out of the forthcoming Test series in New Zealand.
Ballance was axed despite not playing in the Ashes, his tour restricted to just three innings in the practice games, which brought him 97 runs at an average of 48.5.
Lancashire batsman Liam Livingstone – uncapped at Test level – was called up instead, with the selectors giving further chances to James Vince (who averaged 26 in the Ashes) and Mark Stoneman (who averaged 25).
“Gary Ballance with the bit between his teeth is a dangerous animal,” said Gale. “Knowing him as I do, he’ll get his head down and work even harder because he likes to prove people wrong.
“We thought we’d know at the end of this winter which way Gary’s career is going at the minute, whether he’s likely to be with England or not next summer.
“The door’s not totally closed to him, but it looks like he’s down the pecking order at the moment and he’s going to have to score a shed load of runs in county cricket to work his way back into the England team, which can only be a good thing for Yorkshire.”
Gale is confident that Ballance can come again as an international cricketer, with the left-hander having resurrected his England career in not dissimilar fashion last summer.
Having lost his place the previous winter, Ballance was recalled for the home Test series with South Africa before injury interrupted his progress.
“Gary got back into the England side last summer on the back of scoring big runs for us, and there’s no reason why he can’t do that again,” said Gale.
I know how desperately he wants to be successful for Yorkshire and he’ll put the England disappointment to the back of his mind.Yorkshire first-team coach Andrew Gale.
“He’d been left out the winter before that and people thought that was the end of Gary Ballance, but it wasn’t.
“He works ridiculously hard on his game and he’ll get his runs next season, I’ve no doubt about that.
“I also know how desperately he wants to be successful for Yorkshire and he’ll put the England disappointment to the back of his mind.”
Ballance, who has been awarded a break before stepping up pre-season training at Headingley, averages 37 from 23 Test appearances.
The 28-year-old has often been batted out of position at international level, with the experiment of moving him up to No 3 from his more favoured No 5 slot putting him under unfair pressure in the eyes of many.
Ballance’s technique has also been criticised, particularly his habit of staying deep in the crease.
But there are those who feel that he has been harshly treated since making his Test debut in 2014, after which he initially enjoyed great success by becoming the third-fastest England batsman to 1,000 Test runs only for that early momentum to tail off.
“I’ve felt sorry for Gaz from the word go with his international career,” added Gale, “because he’s been batted out of position.
“He did well in his early days and was left out, and he’s been the one that’s shouldered a little bit of blame for the disappointments of the team at times.
“He’s been a little bit unlucky as well; last summer, when he played against South Africa, he did okay and then he broke his thumb and missed out on the West Indies series.
“No disrespect to the West Indies, but it’s not the same as facing Morkel, Rabada and those lads, and I’m pretty sure that Gaz would have made a couple of big scores against the West Indies.”
Commenting on Ballance’s omission for the New Zealand trip, which includes Tests in Auckland (March 22-26) and Christchurch (March 29-April 2), Gale said: “Usually, when you’re left out of the team you become a better player, and people want you in.
“But it’s quite ironic that a player who hasn’t been involved in the games in Australia has now been given the bullet.
“I feel sorry for Gaz. But, at the end of the day, he’s not the sort of guy to dwell on his disappointment.”
Ballance’s return to Yorkshire is not only a boost in terms of the runs he can make but also in terms of his leadership skill.
“The continuity of the captaincy is vital for us,” added Gale. “Gaz is the club captain and a big figure in our dressing room, and to have the same captain throughout is a massive positive.
“Gaz is a massive player for us. Last year, you only had to look when he left for England how our form dipped, and that was because we missed his runs and we missed his leadership, so we’ll welcome him back with open arms.”