Being Nick Compton

Compo ArtYou don’t score over 1,000 runs in the top flight of the English County Championship these days by just being a useful Cricketer. To achieve this feat for three seasons on the bounce would make you more than an average county player. You don’t get into the England squad and score two Test match centuries on foreign soil because your face fits. Nor do you get named as one of Wisden’s five cricketers of the year alongside such exulted company as Dale Steyn, Hashim Amla, Marlon Samuels and Jacques Kallis because of your surname.

Nick Compton has achieved all of these feats in the last couple of seasons. And he has achieved these by a mix of immense talent combined with an insatiable work ethic.

I would think that being Nick Compton comes with certain pressures other Cricketers do not face. Being born into a Cricketing dynasty with a famous surname inherited from a grandfather renowned around the globe would be a great thrill for most young boys and it is something that the man lovingly known as Compo by Somerset’s army of supporters is proud of. But when the young Compton first picked up a cricket bat there would have expectations few other young players would have encountered. To live up to the name! Somewhat unfair comparisons to the late Denis Compton, as iconic a name in the game as that of Wisden and Grace. And when young Compton first burst onto the scene at Middlesex he would have been only too aware of the stand at his home ground of Lords, the home of Cricket, which carries his family name in honour of his legendary grandfather. And with every success comes more comparisons and references. And then also during the lean times when things aren’t going to plan. To live up to the name!

But Nick Compton is his own man. That is for sure. You won’t hear him moan about these pressures, far from it. He talks warmly & is proud of the family heritage and has worked hard to gain his own excellent reputation.

Nick Compton has an impressive CV and his achievements are for all to see. The talent may have been obvious since youth but these achievements have not come easy for Compton and he has had to go and get them. And that is exactly what has done. Ask any of his Somerset team-mates about him and they will talk of him as an inspiration, a player that isn’t so much on his own planet when he bats but on his own universe. A man who takes being out as an insult. A man who works harder than most and takes nothing for granted.

It has been a strange 18 months or so for Compton, who is now reaching his prime at 30 years old. The year 2013 started well. Soon after scoring those two Test centuries for England in New Zealand, and being hailed by Wisden as one of the top five players in the world, Compton looked a dead cert to open the innings for England alongside skipper Alastair Cook and play a big part in England’s home Ashes series against the Aussies. But what happened next was not to the script.

Compton’s form in the home series against New Zealand in May 2013 can be described as luke warm at best with him scoring just 39 runs in 4 innings with a highest score of just 16. Despite England winning the series 2-0 there was much talk in the media of the need to make changes, with former England captain Michael Vaughn particularly critical of Compton’s contribution whilst also shouting aloud the merits of his fellow Yorkshireman and resident of Sheffield, Joe Root. Now Root is a big talent – that is not to be doubted – but whether Compton should have been subjected to such criticism just a few short months after successful tours to India and New Zealand is for debate and did seem over the top at the time.

Then after the noise and name calling the seemingly inevitable happened and Compton was dropped by England for the Ashes warm-up game against Essex in favour of Root, who national selector Geoff Miller described at the time as “currently the best opening partner” for Alastair Cook. So how could Miller reach such a conclusion about a previously untried youngster? Well only he can say. But Root kept his place and it was he who faced the Aussies with some success.

Compton was advised to go back to County Cricket and score runs. And he did – 1,001 of them to be precise – and he scored against the touring Aussies too. On his 30th birthday Compton’s smacked a defiant 81 for Somerset against the tourists at Taunton and 79 against them as a guest for Worcestershire as arranged by the ECB, but Compton would play no part in England’s Ashes campaign.

And here lies the dilemma for supporters of a county team, especially those of largely unfashionable Somerset.

Nothing gives the locals here more pride than one of our own gaining international recognition and playing on the big stage. And Compton is one of our own despite being born in South Africa and carving out his early reputation in London. For me Compton and Durham’s Graham Onions should have been in the England team to face Australia in the summer of 2013 but things would almost certainly have been different for the two county team’s fortunes if they had been selected. Somerset would have missed out on Compton’s runs to such an effect that it is probable the county would be lining up in the second tier of the County Championship in 2014 and, dare I say it, without Onions Durham would not have won their third county championship title?

It still angers me how Compton was discarded by England and I would love to see him back in the international side and I am sure he would seize the chance if offered. And for him to score another Test hundred would be the proverbial “V” sign to those who jumped on his back at the first opportunity. How ironic if that achievement were at Lords and he had the chance to salute those sat in the stand named after his famous grandfather.

In some ways I really want to see Compton in England colours once again, he deserves it.

But equally I believe Nick Compton is Somerset’s most important player as we head into 2014. He won’t thank me for saying it but in many ways I hope the selectors continue to overlook him. Some of the county’s batting performances were simply woeful in 2013 and if the team wants to condemn these memories to history then they need Nick Compton to contribute, commanding one end while scoring his annual 1,000 plus runs. These runs will be vital and will dictate where the team finish in the league table come September.

The club versus country dilemma has never been so evident for supporters of county teams.

Compton’s international ambitions have far from died and he knows what he has to do to regain his England place. In an interview with Sky Sports Compton said: “It’s just about getting my head down and scoring as many runs as possible” before adding “I’m going to be fighting as much as I can but first thing is to start strongly with Somerset and really give as much as I can here. Hopefully those England honours can take care of themselves then!”

Nick Compton is determined to get his England place back and, being Nick Compton, I wouldn’t bet against him achieving that. But for now let’s allow his runs for Somerset do the talking and everything else can wait.