When World War II ended in 1945, Britain was eventually victorious, but the long and bloody war which lasted six years had left had virtually made that nation bankrupt. As the country was reeling from troubled economic times, Denis Compton emerged as a national icon by capturing the imagination of the public with his flamboyant, dazzling and cavalier strokeplay. Old-timers still romanticise the bygone era and reminisce about Compton’s thrill-a-minute triple hundred for MCC against North-Eastern Transvaal in 1948-49. He was also an accomplished footballer, whose talents were good enough to represent Arsenal.
More than six decades later, Denis Compton’s grandson, Nick Compton, made his Test debut at Ahmedabad. He made modest scores of nine and 37, but his three-hour stay at the crease in the second innings of that Test showed that he had it in him the art of building an innings. Though it was a constant battle for Nick to come to grips with alien conditions in India, his hunger for runs and a sound temperament gave an unmistakable impression of a cricketer, who has in him to succeed at the highest level.
The critics, however, weren’t impressed. He was criticised for not converting his starts into big scores. In the first Test against New Zealand at Dunedin in the ongoing series, Compton got out for a duck. But in the second innings, he gave a fitting reply to his detractors with a back-to-the-wall century. He was an able foil to captain Alastair Cook, as both laid a solid platform with a 231-run opening stand to take England out of troubled waters.
In many ways, Compton’s resolute century at Dunedin, encapsulates the essence of his batting. His game is built on the old maxim of knowing your off-stump, and leaving the ball well. He can wait all day long for the bowlers to get tired, and drift on his pads. At Dunedin, Compton showed the rare virtues of concentration and patience. The Kiwis even baited him by throwing the occasional carrot and bowling wide of off-stump, but Compton didn’t fall for the bait.
Compton may not fill stadiums with lissome flicks, silken smooth drives and playing lofted shots with twinkling footwork, but he has that insatiable appetite for big scores. The industrious Compton is in every sense a utilitarian.
It wasn’t always this easy for the quiet achiever from Somerset. When Compton decided to leave Middlesex in October 2009 and play for Somerset, it seemed like his ambition of playing for England will remain unfulfilled. In fact, the year before he left Middlesex, his career had touched its nadir, as he averaged just 8.50, over five First-Class games. The 2009 season wasn’t great for him either, as he amassed 860 runs at a disappointing average of 33.07. As he came from a rich cricketing heritage, the weight of expectations didn’t help his cause either. The timely decision to move to Somerset paid him rich dividends. On good batting tracks at Taunton, he was a thorn in the opposition’s flesh and made tons of runs.
In 2011, Compton aggregated 1010 runs at an impressive average of 56.11 for Somerset. In particular, 2012 was an annus mirabilis for Compton. He made 1191 runs at a Bradmanesque average of 99.25.
Compton admitted that former Somerset wicket-keeper, Neil Burns played a pivotal role in helping him to develop a sound defence. All those runs for Somerset caught the eyes of the selectors, and he was subsequently drafted into the English set-up for the tour of India. Interestingly, Compton doesn’t open the batting for his County, Somerset.
With an insatiable appetite for runs and the concentration prowess of a Zen master, Compton certainly can make it big in Test match cricket.
(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)