Compton hopeful of England tour spot
Somerset batsman Nick Compton hopes he has done enough to earn an England call-up for the tour of India despite an untimely back injury that has kept him sidelined just as the debate about top-order places has been sparked by the retirement of Andrew Strauss.
Compton has the chance to give the selectors a final push when he returns for the last game of the season against Worcestershire this week and is currently among a group of top three batsmen vying for a tour spot alongside Michael Carberry, Joe Root and Varun Chopra, although it is still not confirmed when the squad will be named.
Despite not playing since the England Lions game against Australia A at Old Trafford in early August, Compton remains the leading scorer in the country this season with 1339 first-class runs at 89.26 (almost 150 clear of second-placed James Hildreth). During a prolific start to the season, he came within touching distance to making 1000 runs before the end of May only to be thwarted by rain.
While Carberry, Root and Chopra have continued to catch the eye with Championship and one-day runs, Compton has been forced to bide his time after suffering a bulging disc that flared up during the Australia A.
"You get down, of course, you want to keep pushing, have a very strong finish to the season and make it impossible for them not to pick me," he told ESPNcricinfo. "I still hope my averages and the scores I've had over the last two seasons will go in my favour and they'll see me as a strong contender. But, as they say, timing is everything and the timing of the injury wasn't ideal. It's never a good time, but coinciding with Strauss retiring means I was even more eager to get back to full fitness."
"I've never had a back injury before and it's not serious, just combination of stiffness and tightness then you get a bit of nerve pain," he added. "With all the cricket we play, plus all the driving around in coaches, you aren't really getting a proper chance to get rid of things like that and it's a reminder to stay on top of things as much as you can."
Compton's chances of getting on the plane to India probably hinge on whether the selectors want to blood youth or opt for an experienced county cricketer. One factor possibly in Compton's favour is that if Jonny Bairstow and James Taylor both tour, after making Test debuts this season, the selectors may not want to take another young batsman like Root as well, especially if Kevin Pietersen remains absent.
Now batting at No. 3 for Somerset, Compton was an opener for much of his career for Middlesex and believes the skills for each role are transferable - although it might just be that fact that could hinder his chances if Jonathan Trott is promoted up the order for the India series.
"The top three is where you will face the best bowling so you have to have the technique for it," he said. "The similarities are there; you can be in second ball or after two hours. As a No. 3 you have to be ready like an opener even though you don't walk out straight away. It's not a case of sitting back. It can be tough but it's about being mentally ready, and for me it's been about controlling my emotions."
Compton has started to flourish in the middle stage of his career, following the move from Middlesex to Somerset in 2010. Although his run-scoring feats this season are what have caught the attention, he also averaged a very solid 56.11 in 2011 and now feels as comfortable as he ever has in his batting.
"When Jacques Kallis was playing against us earlier in the season he said he had not learnt his game fully until about 30. For me that was quite insightful," he said. "I've had ups and downs during my career and now understand my game. I'm not saying that the young players aren't ready or can't be ready, but the ones that come in and excel from ball one are few and far between.
"Alastair Cook springs to mind, Michael Clarke would be another but even they would probably say that they only understand their game fully now they are older. Some players learn their game at first-class level others evolve at Test level. I feel like my time is now and feel ready to step up."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo