The emergence of T20 cricket has played a major role in the introduction of several franchise league tournaments around the globe and that has helped young players to showcase their talent in front of a bigger audience. One such player is Tom Banton, who grabbed the limelight in 2019 after batting exploits in England’s T20 Blast. He was the second-highest run-getter of the season with 549 runs in 13 matches for Somerset. In the same year, he scored 454 runs in 11 matches during the Royal One Day Cup.
His sensational form with Somerset helped him get a contract in the Big Bash League 9 for Brisbane Heat where he scored 223 runs at a scintillating strike rate of 176.98 including a 19-ball half-century. In 2019 he also made his international debut against New Zealand and was touted as the next big thing in English cricket. However, things didn’t turn out as expected for the youngster as he failed to cement his place in the side.
In an exclusive conversation with News18 CricketNextBanton opened up on his comparisons with the likes of Jos Buttler and Kevin Pietersen during the early stage of his career which put some added pressure on him. The 24-year-old made some honest admission regarding how the sudden transition from the second team of Somerset to playing in England was intimidating for him.
“Yeah, I think it did (on whether the comparisons with Buttler and Pietersen put added pressure on him). Obviously, I’m not gonna be hide behind that. Obviously, going and playing in various leagues around the world, like the IPL, playing for England against obviously all sorts of big international teams, which was at the age of 20-21 was quite intimidating. I’d gone from playing second team Cricket Somerset to playing in all this stuff within the year,” Banton told News18 CricketNext.
The young wicketkeeper batter said that the tough period helped him grow as a cricketer.
“It was obviously a big step up and I’ve learned a lot about myself through that time and hopefully those the last two years where I haven’t been as consistent as I would like to I’ve kind of gone and now I can and look forward really, and not really think about those times. Well, I’m happy it’s happened because I’ve learned obviously, quite a lot about my game and how I wanna be as a cricket also as a person,” he added.
Banton was in contention to land a place in England’s 2022 T20 World Cup squad but a finger injury pushed him down in the pecking order as he eventually missed out on a spot.
Talking about that tough phase, Banton said it was annoying to miss out but didn’t get worried as he is focussing on scoring runs to win his place back in the England team.
“I think that’s just part and parcel of sport, to be honest. I’ve not had many injuries, touch wood so this is probably one of the main ones I’ve had and yeah, obviously it’s annoying, I’m desperate to play, but I’m not getting too worried about that. England stuff takes care of itself I think if you do well and you play the way they want to play, then, if you put the performances in, that stuff will sort itself out. I don’t wanna think about that stuff really at the moment. So just try and focus on where I’m at the moment,” he said.
After winning the 2022 T20 World Cup, England will now shift their focus on the ODI World Cup which will be held in India later this year.
Banton, who is currently playing in the inaugural season of ILT20, said that he is not thinking much about the comeback in the England team as his primary focus is to do well for Gulf Giants in the UAE.
“Look, I don’t wanna think, too much about England aspirations, obviously. I think everyone’s aiming to play in that and hopefully, I can try and get back in that group, but at the moment I’m not even thinking about England stuff. I’m just trying to focus on the here and now being working really closely with Andy Flower, who’s been awesome and kind of got my game back where I’d like it to be, where it was a few years ago,” he asserted.
On being asked whether England’s ‘Bazz-Ball’ approach in Tests suits a player like him who looks to play an attacking brand of cricket, Banton suggested that the red-ball format is a different challenge but playing with the right mindset is surely going to be helpful.
“I think so, people would joke with me about it, but I haven’t thought too much about that. I think at first, obviously, Red Ball cricket’s gonna be in April and think, look, the wickets are probably a bit different to test cricket, so it’s probably gonna be a bit harder to do that, but as long as you got the kind of the right mindset, then I think for me it’s obviously gonna help. If I do well, I’m gonna get it, I don’t even think about that type of stuff. I just try and focus on here and now really,” he said.
Banton recently went unsold at the 2023 IPL auction in December but the Englishman admits he has been a bit inconsistent with the bat in recent times which was the reason behind it.
The 24-year-old stated that he will available should any franchise want to sign him as a replacement player in case any an injury ahead or midway through the upcoming IPL.
“I’ve probably, I haven’t done well enough I think, to get into the IPL so, it’s not something I’ve got upset or annoyed about. It’s just something I’ve gotta just crack on with. Look, I did it when I was 21 and that was amazing. And now I’m just trying to focus on, being the best I can be and hopefully get back to performing,” he said
“Yeah, for sure (on his availability as replacement player in IPL). I’d love to go back and do it. I didn’t do it in India and I’ve heard great things about all the travelling and all the crowds and obviously, etc. You know how it works. I did it in Dubai (UAE), so it was lockdown, it was a bubble, so it’s gonna be completely different,” he added.