Middlesex batsman ready to put difficult 2016 behind him, he tells Huw Turbervill
While Middlesex enjoyed a triumphant 2016, winning the County Championship, it was a difficult summer for Nick Compton. He lost his England place after a second, less successful stint in the Test team, and then took a break from the county game.
Speaking ahead of Middlesex’s opening match of their title-defending campaign at Hampshire on Friday, Compton seems in a good place, however. After shoulder surgery, he is fit and raring to go. He has signed a new two-year deal, and he can look back on his 16 Test caps objectively.
Yes he was disappointed with an average of 28, but he still made two fine centuries against New Zealand. It does not compare with his brilliant grandfather, Denis, of course, who made 5,807 runs at 50.06, but then few players’ records can.
“My levels of play were quite below what I expected from myself and what others expected of me,” he told The Cricketer. “There’s no stop/start button for England, you have to perform well on that occasion – I felt I did that at times for England but I was a bit inconsistent.
“Getting runs is great, but it is those moments you share that I remember – and for England, that Durban Test (he scored 85 and 49 in the first Test in 2015/16) and winning the India series (2012/13) I will always hold close to me. I might not be the superstar that comes out of it, but I know I have played roles and done a job in a winning side and I am proud of that. I have no doubt I could have played better and what I showed was not the best of me, but I feel like I could have played longer and done a bit more. But shudda, wudda, cudda doesn’t really count.”
Compton played nine Tests in his first spell, then seven later, the last of which was against Sri Lanka at Lord’s. Understandably crestfallen, he returned to Middlesex only to take a break a fortnight later. He returned in August to make 131 against Durham, 63 against Nottinghamshire and 56 against Lancashire.
“It was a stop-start season; I wasn’t in my best form when I went to play for England and that was an obvious disappointment. I guess now it’s the start of a new season and I want to give it a new crack.
“At every stage players go through tough periods and I felt I was flogging a dead horse. It’s a bit like a writer’s block in a way, you try and nothing comes out, and it was like that with my batting. I felt a bit stale, it was arduous and hard work and I felt my concentration wasn’t quite there.
Compton scored 436 runs at 27.25 for Middlesex last summer
While people looked at it as a break, the simple fact was that I had been dropped. Instead of rushing back to first-class cricket next week, I just thought, ‘I am knackered’, my game wasn’t going well so I felt I had to go away and come back with a different outset. But you can run away from things as much as you want, you still have to find a way of playing again.
“It was slightly a way of coping with disappointment, but when you lose your England place, people assume you have to get on with it. But I don’t agree; it’s something I left my family for [in South Africa], I have spent 17 years in England chasing my dream. Arguably it meant too much to me at times, but going away and coming back is the best thing for me.”
Middlesex clinched the title against Yorkshire at Lord’s, with Compton lying on the square – a memorable cover image for April’s The Cricketer.
“We had been heading in the right direction beforehand, and when you spend every day with the same blokes, this is your bread and butter unless you’re an Alastair Cook or Joe Root – I played in a lot of teams that went close, but to make that final jump and win it is surreal.
“My main priority now is to be focused enough to be happy with my batting. I’m 33 but there’s no reason why I can’t go on for a number of years. I had a winter off and had a shoulder operation, which I had to get out of the way. I feel it’s a clean slate, it’s a nice time to get away from cricket and come back refreshed. I have put it to bed, but that does not mean I don’t not want to play for England. Let’s let momentum take care of that. If I’m playing great cricket suddenly then who knows, but right now just enjoying my cricket is enough for me.”