ICC World Cup: England likely to lose Ballance in search of equilibrium
Misfiring batsman Gary Ballance is likely to be the sacrificial lamb when England`s harried selectors decide on the lineup for next week`s World Cup crunch match against Bangladesh.
Melbourne: Misfiring batsman Gary Ballance is likely to be the sacrificial lamb when England`s harried selectors decide on the lineup for next week`s World Cup crunch match against Bangladesh.
Disgruntled former players and raging media pundits are demanding changes to a team that has won only one game from their opening four and stand on the brink of an ignominious exit from the global showpiece.
Though England cannot boast a single consistent performer in the tournament, Ballance`s four consecutive failures at number three with the bat provide ample motive for selectors to swing the axe or demote the 25-year-old down to the middle order.
Thirty-six runs in four matches is an ugly statistic for any specialist batsman but damning for a player expected to anchor an innings.
More strident critics will continue to question why the Zimbabwe-born batsman was even picked in the first place.
"I am not sure Ballance is a one-day cricketer," former West Indies bowler and TV pundit Michael Holding told ESPNcricinfo.com last month.
Holding`s observation came after England had suffered a second consecutive World Cup humiliation with their defeat against New Zealand in Wellington.
Ballance had been caught for a leaden-footed 10 after changing his mind too late about playing at a short ball by seamer Trent Boult.
"I think he is a fantastic test batsman... I am not sure he has the right attitude for ODI cricket," Holding added.
Though England have struggled on the field, selectors have been criticised for doing too much at the wrong time and too little when times demand it.
For Ballance, the former complaint would seem valid.
The left-hander broke a finger on his right hand three weeks before the tournament, harming his preparation for the stiffest examination of his short one-day career.
But he was a surprise inclusion for England`s World Cup opener against Australia at the expense of Ravi Bopara.
Bopara had been struggling for form during the preceding one-day tournament against Australia and India but days before the World Cup opener, Peter Moores backed him and suggested that England`s lineup was settled and unlikely to change.
Ballance`s selection meant right-hander James Taylor was shunted down to sixth in the order and after being denied a century against Australia by an umpiring error, he has struggled there since.
If cast out, Ballance`s exile may only be temporary.
Bopara has long failed to cement his place, while highly-fancied reserve batsman Alex Hales has to convince he can convert his Twenty20 form into the 50-over game.
Ballance was in and out of the one-day team last year but described as a "world-class player in pretty much all forms of the game for the future" by selector James Whitaker on the release of the World Cup squad.
Raised on a tobacco plantation outside of Harare, Ballance impressed with county side Yorkshire before making a quiet test debut in the fifth match of England`s ill-fated Ashes whitewash by Australia in January last year.
He announced himself with a glorious 104 at Lord`s against Sri Lanka in his next test match, belting a six into the stands to bring up his maiden test century.
Another two tons would follow against India in the home series and he now has an average of more than 60 from his eight tests.
Ballance`s average from his 16 ODIs has slumped to 21.21 and his top score of 79 in Jan. 2014 against Australia seems a distant memory.
"In my eyes he`s been a bit unlucky," England captain Eoin Morgan said after his third failure of the World Cup against Scotland.
Transferring Ballance`s test form into one-day cricket may take a more honest appraisal and a more sophisticated plan than throwing him into the side on a wave of misguided optimism.