Troubled past behind Ben Duckett as he targets England recall
Ben Duckett is back for England Lions despite middling returns. © Getty Images

Having been recalled to the England Lions squad for the tour of India, Northamptonshire batsman Ben Duckett insists his goal is to return to the England setup a year on from his inglorious return from Australia.

Duckett, capped in four Tests and three ODIs in 2016, was sent home the Ashes tour in December 2017 after he poured a mug of beer over James Anderson in a bar, while being fined the maximum amount for an England Lions player and receiving a final written warning over his conduct.

A little over a year later, Duckett received a call from national selector Ed Smith informing him of his recall to the Lions’ squad for their limited-overs and unofficial Test series in India in January-February. The 24-year-old told the Daily Mail that the past was firmly behind him and that earning a place in the England team was his focus.

“What’s done is done but I have definitely changed. Getting in trouble for something off the pitch is more frustrating than going through a lack of runs. That is something I could’ve controlled,” said Duckett.  “I know now that I want my cricket to do the talking. I don’t want off-field meetings getting in the way again — 100 per cent I have learned from it. Going forward I want to score runs, enjoy being in an England shirt again and try to get myself back around the full England squad.

“I feel my career was heading in the wrong direction and just to move will change things up for me. I just want to get back to my best.”

Duckett’s recall is viewed more as a leap of faith rather than reward for performances in county cricket. He averaged 25.4 for Northants in the County Championship and 19 in the Royal London Cup.

“It’s big to be recalled but it will be bigger for me to get out there and show what I can do,” Duckett said. “If I am brutally honest with myself, I haven’t put in the performances during the last 12 months so to have that call is great. To be backed when I have not been in form is really nice.”

His poor returns, Duckett explained, were in part due to an operation on a hand before the start of the county season.

Ben Duckett fell to R Ashwin in all three Test innings in India.
Ben Duckett fell to R Ashwin in all three Test innings in India. © AFP

“I was supposed to miss the first couple of games but we started with Middlesex at Lord’s and you don’t get the chance to play at Lord’s every day. Looking back I should have given it another couple of weeks,” he said. “For the first month or two it really affected me. I was gripping the bat differently. I was almost batting with one hand. I had it strapped all summer and although I am the first to say I don’t make excuses I was struggling. There were some horrible wickets early season, too. We tried to produce green pitches and back our bowling attack to bowl opponents out.”

Duckett played the last of his four Test matches in India in November 2016, struggling with scores of 13, 5 and 0 – out each time to R Ashwin’s offspin. After managing 92s in four preceding innings in Bangladesh, where he fell to spin on all four occasions, the left-hander has a Test batting average of 15.71.

As he shapes to return to India with England Lions, Duckett said he was not going to reflect on the past. “I got out to one bowler [Ashwin], who has exceptional variations and whose statistics talk for themselves. Every time the Aussies go there, he cleans up every single one of their left-handers so I am not going back over-thinking things,” he said.

England Lions play five one-day matches with India A in Thiruvananthapuram between January 23-31, followed by two unofficial Tests in Wayanad, starting on February 7 and 13.