By Charlie Talbot-Smith
ASHLEY Giles suggested this week that it was too soon to consider James Vince as a potential Test batsman – but the man himself disagrees. Adamant, in fact, that he couldn’t be more ready.
At the age of only 23, the top order, right-handed batsman has been a fixture at the Rose Bowl for more than four years and went on his first England Lions tour in 2012.
However, it is only in the last year that Vince, often compared with former England skipper Michael Vaughan for his batting style, has truly made his breakthrough from white-ball sensation to consistent four-day performer.
Last summer Vince topped 1,000 first-class runs for the first time and, at the start of this summer, he has been nigh on unstoppable. A superb 144 not out for Hampshire against Gloucestershire in Bristol and an outstanding 159 versus Surrey at the Rose Bowl have been the highlights of his early season and the clamours for his inclusion in Peter Moores’ new-look England set-up have grown louder.
And the man himself, who despite his young age will captain his county in t20 cricket this year and has already racked up 75 first-class games, is confident he is more than ready to make the step-up if the call were to come.
“There are guys who have played for England recently that have come in at a young age,” he said.
“You look at Ben Stokes, Joe Root, even someone like Stuart Broad, these are guys that have come in and made an impression straight away.
“From the people that I have spoken to, it seems it does take a bit of time to adjust to the international game so the earlier the better in that sense. I definitely feel ready but I have to keep doing what I am doing and if the opportunity comes then that would be great.
“I had a strong finish to the end of last season, I felt good about my game.
“Then all through the winter I felt in pretty good touch and I have just carried on from where I left off really.
“Of course it was a target to start the season well; it’s a great time to get off to a good start as well with the way everyone has been talking about this season.
“It takes a bit of the pressure off you (to make a good start) but a lot of batsmen have started well, it’s about whether you can carry that on.”
This winter Vince was part of the England Performance Programme that shadowed the England squad during the Ashes before heading to Sri Lanka in January for some first-class action with the Lions.
The runs that are flowing so freely now were not quite so forthcoming in Sri Lanka although a side injury did limit Vince’s chances. And he admits that he found himself thinking so much about his England chances that he was driven to the point of distraction, something he was worked hard to rectify back at the Rose Bowl.
“I was unavailable for a couple of games in Sri Lanka because I got a side injury, I didn’t play as much as I would have liked which was a little bit frustrating,” he added.
“Playing with the Lions is all about exposing you, getting you ready for what to expect if you were to get the call.
“I probably did think about it (England selection) too much during the winter and I came back home determined to try not to let it get in the way and think about something else.
“Being around the set-up and being so close to the guys that are your competition really, it is easy to get sidetracked in terms of your mental preparation.
“You start thinking that you have got this far but you have to impress and compare yourself.
“Coming back to Hampshire has worked especially well for me and I have been able to score big runs and I hope that continues in the four-day game, and with the t20 starting next week as well.
“Absolutely, I would love to get the opportunity to play for England but I have to try and concentrate on Hampshire.
“As batsmen you are under enough pressure as it is, so I don’t want to put myself under any more than I have to.”