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Gary Ballance — the headline writer’s dream and the correspondent’s nightmare

Gary Ballance is England's new rising star © Getty Images
Gary Ballance is England’s new rising star © Getty Images

Gary Ballance has been prolific in this series. He has piled on woes for the Indian bowlers and thereby toyed with the peace of mind of quite a few journalists. Arunabha Sengupta attempts a balanced account of the struggles with auto-correct during a long Ballance innings.

Gary Ballance is the Yorkshire youth with some dubious methods of partying; but Gary Ballance is also the man with back to back hundreds in the last two Tests. The Lord’s innings was a class act, essayed with limpet-like adhesiveness in demanding conditions. The one at The Ageas Bowl was easier on the eye and more blistering in execution. And the way he launched into the Indian bowling in the second innings — if you can stretch the definition to call that bowling — it made a second hundred in the Test look prominently on the cards before he got a howler of a decision.

He is indeed England’s rising star, someone Vic Marks has (perhaps somewhat ambitiously) earmarked as the Allan Border of the 21st century — though somewhat less prone to linger at the wicket when on the wrong side of a marginal decision.

Yet, all the entreaties of this writer, directed at the selectors of the England side, are to find ways to drop him from the side. Go ahead and ban him — even better. May be they can still unleash a Steve Bucknoresque late reaction to his escapades before the Lord’s Test. Disciplinary action, young man, you may have scored tons of runs but that is definitely not cricket — and all that sort of rot. Or they can even pull a Kevin Pietersen on him. Those excellent gentlemen are, after all, pretty good at side-lining the best batsman of the side — especially the ones hailing from southern nations of Africa.

But, why am I so keen to see the excellent young man cut down to a size that is way too small for him? Is it the partisan gripe of an Indian journalist? No, I assure you I have very good reasons and many members of the English written press will agree. And I am quite certain that you will sympathise. Gary Ballance is a great name — for headline writers. England lose Ballance Late in the Day enables even the most unimaginative desk man to masquerade as the soul of sparkling wit. He gets kudos while still wondering what all the hullaballoo is all about.

But, spare a thought for the correspondent, rolling up his sleeves, spitting on his hand and typing assiduously into his laptop — often with the sun streaming into the press-box, making him squint to see the words form on his screen. ‘Ballance,’ he writes, and the smart-arsed word processor autocorrects it into Balance. He goes back to the word and changes it, curses, adds Ballance to the dictionary. But to no avail. The next time he keys in Ballance, Microsoft Word again promptly helps out by changing it back to Balance; as it did just now in the sentence I just wrote.

So he churns out excellent descriptions and they are metamorphosed into hideous near-gaffes. He scans his copy before sending it across at the end of the session and finds that the ‘The reassuring figure of Balance’ had ‘emerged into the ground’ only after ‘Robson had been dismissed’. It will not make very pleasing reading for Sam Robson, he thinks, and changes the word.

But, then he finds Balance has done all sorts of things that are almost impossible in the cricketing or linguistic sense. ‘Balance remained rooted even as the innings tottered’, ‘Balance left the crease and lofted Jadeja over cover’, ‘The catch was not taken. Dhawan sprawled on the ground and Balance got a life’. The sun shining into his eyes renders his laptop screen a shiny and obscure surface as readable as a crystal ball. He gives up the unequal struggle of checking the Balances, and invokes the power of Replace-All, branding all the Balances with an additional ‘l’. He sends off the copy with the dangerous line that makes even Boycottaggers look respectable — “Moeen Ali danced down the wicket with his beautiful Ballance.”  Oh, the horror.

In fact, in this article is has been a relief to write Balance with a capital B. For the writer there is the Zen-like sense of making oneself go with the flow. I have deliberately written Ballance where I meant Balance, just for autocorrect to do its bit without my intervention. It is good to work together again. For the word processor it has possibly been a sense of accomplishment. You see, there had been a strained relationship between us through these three Tests, with Microsoft Word repeatedly reverting to Balance, and yours truly correcting the correction over and over again until nerves were strained and heated looks were exchanged — most of them through the blinding reflection of the sun at tea time. And all along, Ballance (there goes auto-correct once again with my manual correction in tow) kept piling up runs, refusing to budge from the crease.

The only silver lining was perhaps when the smug guy at the desk captioned a photograph of the smiling centurion with the words ‘Balance beams after his hundred’.  Heh, heh, gotcha … Balance beams, right! This is not gymnastics, old boy.

Complete coverage of India’s tour of England 2014

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)

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