Don't pigeonhole me - Benning
James Benning has been tipped for top things this summer - England's one-day set-up is in his sights, as is a place in their inaugural Twenty20 campaign
On the up: James Benning
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James Benning has been tipped for top things this summer: England's one-day set-up is in his sights, as is a place in their inaugural Twenty20 campaign. Benning, Surrey's big-hitting batsman, came to prominence with his one-day 189 against Gloucestershire under the camera's gaze last year, and has excelled in the short form of the game (a Twenty20 strike rate of 146.56) - but he's determined to make it as a Championship player, too.
"I don't see myself as just a one-day player," he says, a serious look crossing his face. "I play a similar way in all cricket, I'm aggressive, and that's probably why people see me. I hope people see I'm not a one-dimensional player."
He was given an early chance to show off his wares this season, being named to start in the opener against Yorkshire. He made big strides last year, too, and was rewarded with a place at Loughborough over the winter with others who didn't quite make the ECB but who England want to keep an eye on. A freak injury in his first winter net, when his cartilage popped in his wrist against the bowling machine, threatened to ruin his winter.
But he didn't let it get him down, not even when his fellow students Nick Compton, Will Jefferson and Mike Carberry were picked for the A tour. "I don't see it as a huge setback," he reasons. "I'm just going to try to push on and get further honours. I trained hard, and I'm ready for the season."
Resilience already characterises the 23-year-old Benning. Another freak injury wrote off his rugby career, leaving him following in his father's cricketing footsteps. But while he's mature, quietly spoken and determined, there's a hint of boyishness, too. "I've been excited all winter. It's one of those things - you just sit around and wait and wait and now I just want to play."
Heaven knows, England could use a big-hitting fearless batsman right now, as his Surrey captain Mark Butcher recognises. "His stock rises the more that England falters at the World Cup. He's worked very, very hard at his game. He's very talented and hopefully he will continue to impress."
And Benning's got a good chance of capitalising on the buzz that's infusing Surrey right now, with thoughts of winning the Championship after such a dominant promotion campaign last season. "We just need to do the basics," he says. "Everyone's very positive."
His action plan for himself runs just like his batting: hit clean, keep it simple, and don't hope for too much. "I'm just waiting for the phone call, if I get one. Until then, I'll just be going about, playing for Surrey, scoring runs."
Jenny Thompson is assistant editor of Cricinfo