Suddenly the most talked about batsman in world cricket is not Sachin Tendulkar or Ricky Ponting or Jacques Kallis. Jonathon Trott has now not only taken over at the top of the averages but is also the most discussed and analyzed batsman not just in Test cricket but also the limited overs game. And why not? When a player boasts of an average of 64 in cricket's traditional format and 55 in ODIs it is time to sit up and take notice of a very special talent who has all the qualities that go into a world class batsman – technique and temperament, concentration and determination, ethereal strokes and rock like defence and the happy knack of adjusting his game to the situation.
As a facts and figures man it has never failed to amaze me how so many top class English batsmen over the years have ended their careers with their average in the 40s. Oh sure, there are the legends like Jack Hobbs, Len Hutton, Walter Hammond, Denis Compton and Ken Barrington who all have averages in the fifties while the famous opener Herbert Sutcliffe averages 60. But there is no other country which has so many players with a 40 plus average.
A cursory glance will reveal that the names include such famous batsmen as Peter May, Colin Cowdrey, Tom Graveney, Graham Gooch, David Gower, Ted Dexter, Geoff Boycott, John Edrich, Robin Smith, Marcus Trescothick, Michael Vaughan and Graham Thorpe. Among the current crop Andrew Strauss, Alistair Cook, Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen belong in this category. Before Trott came on the scene out of some 35 batsmen who average over 50 (minimum qualification 30 innings) only six were Englishmen.
Trott alone has more than made up for this anamoly. That is no exaggeration for right now his career average is next only to Don Bradman's 99.94 – perhaps the single most famous figure in cricket. When a batsman averages 64 after 20 Tests and 33 innings the figures cannot be taken lightly. Nor can Trott himself be talked about in a dismissive manner.
Yes, there will be the temptation to mention other such batsmen who boasted averages of 60 and 70 after a great start only to flounder and wither away. Jimmy Adams comes to mind immediately. After 22 matches he was averaging 62 and his obdurate left-handed batsmanship gave the distinct impression that he was not a sprinter but a stayer. But he did not stay for too long next to Bradman's all enduring figure, his career nosedived and he ended with an average of 41.
About the same time Brian Lara had an average of 61 after 31 Tests thanks largely to big scores like the 277 against Australia and the record 375 against England. Over an extended 130-match career it would be unthinkable even for someone like Lara to maintain this figure though at the end of it all he still had a highly respectable 53.17 in Tests played for the West Indies. Then of course in the new millennium there was Mike Hussey who had the dream start to his career that few batsman have had. The Australian left hander after 22 Tests was averaging 78. With each season there was predictably a marked fall though today after 59 matches he still averages a very respectable 51.
Now the focus is on Trott who had a memorable start to his Test career – a century against Australia at Lord's in 2009. But unlike so many other players who have faded away after a dream start - Trott is mentally very strong. One has only to see him at the crease to appreciate his no nonsense approach, his single-minded dedication to the game and the team's cause. He is no swashbuckler though he has all the strokes. He is no slouch though his defensive technique is second to none. He is in short the complete player who can be counted upon to deliver almost each time and every time. One cannot boast of the kind of record he has run up in just two short years without the manifold qualities he possesses. He is a stickler for perfection and preparation and his methods have certainly produced results.
In a nutshell the 30-year-old South African born Trott just loves batting. He batted over 33 hours in six home Tests last year including a marathon nine and a quarter hours for his 184 against Pakistan at Lord's in the course of which he shared a world record 332-run eighth wicket partnership with Stuart Broad. He spent a further 20 hours at the crease during England's triumphant campaign 'Down Under' when his 445 runs at an average of 89 were crucial to England's Ashes defence. And not many have got two double hundreds in their first 20 Tests.
One wouldn't expect Trott whose approach is essentially that of a Test match player to be a success in limited overs cricket. On the contrary he has proved to be invaluable to the England team in ODIs – again from the crucial No 3 position. Three hundreds and eleven fifties from 25 games, a remarkable average of over 55 and an impressive strike rate of almost 80 mark him out as one of the few who can be depended upon to come good in both formats of the game. He had a most productive run in the World Cup with six scores between 47 and 92 in seven outings.
So can Trott's name be next to Bradman's in as far as the averages are concerned for an extended period? I think I will stick my neck out on this one and predict that it will. For, simply put, I like what I see when is out there in the middle.