Gary Ballance still harbours hopes of an England recall
But push him on which means more to him and it is not hard to discern that leading his adopted county to the top of the domestic scene would top anything he has achieved.
Ask around at Headingley and anyone will tell you that Ballance’s happy-go-lucky temperament is particularly well suited to dealing with not only the ups but the downs sport throws at you, which is just as well given what came his way last year when he went from England regular to yesterday’s man.
The Zimbabwe-born batsman, 27, who started his Test career in 2014 with four hundreds in his first nine Tests and an average approaching 68 after his first 10, found his hold on international cricket slip.
His lowest point came when he was non-playing drinks carrier throughout an entire tour of India after his technique appeared to disintegrate in Bangladesh. He returned “stressed out and unhappy”, according to one close source.
Ballance was dropped from the England set-up last year
But looking at him on the outfield at Headingley this week as he talked through the campaign ahead, taking charge at Yorkshire has refreshed him.
And a quick vox pop of their current squad, new coach Andrew Gale and even England captain Joe Root, suggests there is a unanimous belief he is going to be an excellent leader.
It is a measure of Ballance’s equable nature that he rails, albeit in a polite manner, when it is put to him that last year was a bad one on a personal level.
“It’s weird that people say that, but I got to represent my country, won some Test matches for England, and for Yorkshire came close in all three trophies. I scored a few hundreds as well,” he said.
“I don’t look back at it that terribly but the thing is when you have a bit of success you get judged on what you have done before.
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England headed to Sydney with the 2010-11 Ashes in the bag but a series win was at stake. Hundreds from Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Matt Prior set up a total of 644 before the seamers forced the tourists to an innings win
“It would have been nice if we had managed to win a trophy or two, that would have capped the year off, but it wasn’t that tough a year. Obviously you go through ups and downs but I try to keep myself level-headed whether it’s going good or bad.”
With Root’s accession to the England captaincy in February the prospects of a recall for his former flatmate – the pair lived together in Idle near Bradford in 2011 and 2012 – might seem a touch closer. But Ballance’s relaxed demeanour suggests if it comes, it comes. He is not going to lose sleep about it.
“I have not given up on England – not in the slightest. But if you get the opportunity to represent [and lead] the county who I have played for for 10 years it was impossible to say no,” he said.
“I don’t think that captaining a county means you can’t play for England any more but I love playing for Yorkshire and leading them back to the top would mean everything.
“I just want to focus on winning games for Yorkshire and if I ever get the call again, great.”
Team-mates are unanimous in believing that Yorkshire have chosen well in appointing Ballance. Jack Brooks, who could miss the first five weeks of the season with a calf problem, says first impressions of Ballance are deceptive.
“Yes he is very level-headed but he is very astute and is a massive cricket badger – he knows the game inside out and knows a lot of stats,” said the bowler.
The stats that matter are that Yorkshire were 19 points adrift of a three-peat last season in a Championship that went down the wire at Lord’s on the final afternoon, Gale’s side losing out to Middlesex.
Ballance has set his level-headed course on regaining the Championship pennant. It will be a tough ask with Yorkshire suffering early losses in the bowling ranks – Ryan Sidebottom, Liam Plunkett, Brooks and David Willey are all sidelined with niggles or longer term injuries. But it is one he is ready to face head on, starting with Hampshire tomorrow.