England player Tom Banton is relishing the prospect of a big summer of cricket as he fine-tunes his skills in Abu Dhabi ahead of the new English season.
Coming off the lockdowns and scheduling interruptions since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Banton is looking forward to a “normal” season, “lots of cricket” and the home series against India this summer.
The England and Somerset batter and Alastair Cook, the former England captain who leads Essex, both took time off from their pre-season training camps at Abu Dhabi Cricket’s facilities to attend a coaching clinic with kids at the Zayed Cricket Academy. There, Baton discussed his training and plans for the future.
“It’s pretty much back to normal. It’s been a pretty hard two seasons with the pandemic and obviously there has been some good times and bad times locked up in hotel rooms,” Banton told The National. “But it’s now been awesome, not just cricket but the whole world getting back to normal.
“I want to play as much as possible both during the domestic season and England’s international calendar. I've got to score runs and fingers crossed, the summer goes to plan.”
Banton, 23, is excited to play his part for Somerset across all domestic formats and the England home series against India, “against some of the biggest stars” in world cricket.
“Aside playing in the IPL [for Kolkata Knight Riders] I have never played against India,” he said. “Playing against India, against some of the biggest names in world cricket and to get some runs would be pretty cool.”
India are scheduled to play three T20s and as many ODIs during their tour of England in July, along with a one-off Test which will be a continuation of the series that was suspended last year with the Indians leading 2-1 following a Covid-19 outbreak in the Indian camp.
Banton is still new to the international scene, having made his debut for England against New Zealand in a T20 on November 5, 2019 and his ODI debut against South Africa on February 4, 2020. Winning his first England cap against New Zealand remains the best memory in his cricketing career so far.
“That was a great honour to play for England for the first time,” he said. “It will always remain as one of the most cherished moments in my cricketing career.”
Banton has played in 14 T20Is and six ODIs - the two formats in which he’s made a name for himself - but doesn’t rule out adjusting his game for the Test format.
“I’m working on it, and hopefully [will] fine-tune my game to suit for the longer format,” he said.
Banton is an all-round sportsman, having represented England U18 at hockey as well as rugby at school and club level. He revealed the reverse-slaps and scoops are influenced by his hockey skills and encouraged youngsters at the Zayed Cricket Academy to play play more than one sport, which would help them improve all-round and be innovative.
Cook, 37, played in 161 Tests and became one of England's greatest opening batsmen during his 12-year international career - a vast pool of experience that he shared with the kids.
“Get the technique right and then venture into other areas,” Cook said. “When I first started playing cricket I never imagined I would play and captain England.”
Cook retired after guiding England to a 118-run win over India in the fifth and final Test at the Oval in 2018. He scored 71 and 147 in the two innings of that match - a perfect send-off.
“Since retiring from international cricket there comes life’s priorities but I still enjoy playing,” Cook said when asked about life after international cricket.
“I always think about life after cricket all the time. I have done some commentary stuff and stay involved in cricket.
“I’m still playing and who knows how long I’ll be playing. To get into the coaching set-up is a big commitment. I still want to spend a bit of time at home. Obviously preparing for the domestic competitions and leading Essex will be the main focus for me this summer.”