Ben Duckett: The long-serving England batsman will return to the team in Pakistan


Ben Duckett made 145 for England Lions against South Africa in August

Ben Duckett doesn’t want to talk about Perth.

For the Nottinghamshire batter, too many good things are happening right now to go back to that night in 2017 at The Avenue Bar. He threw a drink at James Anderson and saw him banned from playing on the Lions tour of England in Australia.

“I’ve done enough in my career, even before that incident, to remember it better than that,” he told BBC Sport.

After five years, Duckett will begin his Test career in 2016 with four matches against Bangladesh and India.

As recently as a year ago the left-hander thought he would never play another Test, but a fruitful summer has put him in the prime position to open the batting with Zak Crawley in Pakistan in December, moving up from the third spot he occupies. for Notts.

Duckett’s runs are the culmination of a long road back, not from Perth’s indiscretions, but from a broken hand that will eventually require him to relearn how to hold the bat.

Rushed back from surgery on his left hand at the start of the 2018 season – his last with Northamptonshire’s first county – Duckett inadvertently changed his grip to limit the pain. He also limited the runs.

“I forgot how to swing the bat, and how I did it for 20 years,” says the 28-year-old. “I had problems for two or three years, but I found a way out.

“I lost the offside game for a couple of years, and that’s always been a big strength.”

Duckett moved to Trent Bridge at the end of 2018 but did not work with Notts managers Peter Moores and Ant Botha after the 2019 season.

“I learned how to hold the bat again,” he says. “I thought it was unique, like I was a new player.

“It was Monday to Friday, every day in the winter. Ant Botha’s shoulder was hanging by the end.

“It was a process I don’t want to go through in my entire career. I want to be outside playing, not in a dark indoor school in December.”

His steady improvement with the rookies culminated this summer, when Duckett’s freshman average was 72, even higher than his 2016 season. First player to win the Professional Cricketers’ Association player of the year and young player of the year awards at the same time.

Having made 145 with the Lions against South Africa on tour in August, he was recalled to the full England squad for the final Test after Jonny Bairstow broke his leg, then became England’s second-highest run-scorer in the 4-3 Twenty20 series win. in Pakistan

“My game this summer looks like it did in 2016, I’m a more mature player,” Duckett says.

Maturity is a recurring theme in the conversation with Duckett. In addition to the Perth incident, he pleaded guilty to drink driving in his 20s in 2015 and was caught speeding at 106mph in 2019.

He has missed the tour twice for failing to meet fitness standards – once with England Under-19s in 2013 and then a pre-season trip to Northants in 2015.

“I probably didn’t make it easy on myself at times, but it feels like a lifetime ago,” says Duckett, who lost 10kg during the first Covid lockdown through running and high-intensity training.

“If you talk to anyone who’s 27 or 28, they’ve grown since they were 18 or 19.”

Duckett also has a fresh perspective on playing for England after he “carried it” when he was called up in 2016.

“I probably got a little ahead of myself,” he says. “I thought my job was done before I got on the plane and I didn’t realize how hard it was going to be when I got off.”

All four of Duckett’s Tests were played on very spinning pitches. He scored a half-century opening the batting in the second Test in Bangladesh, but was later dropped to number four to make way for Haseeb Hameed in India.

He made 13, five and nothing over the next three innings before being out. Temporarily dismissed by Ravichandran Ashwin, Duckett’s technique was publicly dissected by one of the greatest spinners to ever play the game.

“I don’t think Ashwin would have any problem getting out any left-hander in the world,” says Duckett, a brilliant sweeper of spin bowlers.

“It would probably take me out to India again, but I’d go back to last longer and run.”

Ashwin aside, Duckett felt the pressure of England’s revolving door policy when it came to openers.

If he gets another chance, he’ll likely be ahead of Keaton Jennings in the race to fill the starting slot. Alex Lees’ layoff left him empty-handed – Duckett is likely under captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum.

“If he had two or three bad games before that, you were out,” Duckett says. “You seem to get more time in this team with Stokesy and McCullum at the top of the order, which takes a bit of pressure off.”

Duckett travels to Pakistan with the benefit of experience, despite the bruise. He has gone through the rigors of life – sometimes on his own – on and off the field, but he feels he has come out better.

“I think leaving India is one of the darkest times of my career, but also one of the best things that came into this Pakistan tour,” he says.

“I know how brutal Test cricket is and how harsh the media can be, how you have to block that out.

“It couldn’t be worse. I’m a better person, more experienced, and I can find ways to overcome it.

“It was a long time ago. It seems like a blur. I’m so grateful I got the chance to do it again.”