Mum's the word for Tom Westley as he looks to establish himself in England's top order with the Ashes in sight
When it comes to making a success of his fledgling England career, mum is most definitely the word for Tom Westley.
The Essex batsman may not yet have scored the runs from No3 to guarantee his selection for this winter’s Ashes tour of Australia, with a half-century on debut against South Africa at The Oval last month his sole score of note in three Tests so far.
However, Westley’s main motivation to do well ahead of this week’s second Investec Test against West Indies at Headingley is the pride his mother, Margaret, would feel if he retains his place for next month’s series finale at Lord’s.
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“It’s actually strange,” admitted Westley. “I spoke to my mum on the phone last night about hopefully getting selected for the third Test of this series and she just started crying, she couldn’t speak back to me.
“Growing up that’s what she envisaged for me as her son - playing at Lord’s. I can’t even bring up the Ashes to her. I was actually shocked on the phone because she couldn’t speak back to me, and I was like ‘signal gone?’
“We were talking about tickets for Lord’s if I was selected and she couldn’t get a word in. I think getting selected on the Ashes tour would be that times by 10.”
For now, though, Westley is putting thoughts of the future to the back of his mind and concentrating on the job in hand that starts at Headingley on Friday. “I am focusing on the here and now because I want to score runs, I need to score runs,” he says. “If I don’t score any runs then I probably won’t achieve that childhood dream of playing in the Ashes.
“So, I’m very much in the here and the now. I don’t want to overload myself with pressure to score runs because it is obvious. Any specialist batsman playing for England needs to score runs.”
At 28, Westley has the self-awareness that perhaps those starting their international careers at a younger age lack. It is healthy then that he is not only comfortable with the pressures that come with playing Test cricket but also the scrutiny.
“It’s obviously been a step up from Essex but it’s something I’ve really enjoyed,” he says.
“I would have liked to have done a bit better. I’ve got starts so that’s been quite frustrating but every time I’ve played for England I’m looking forward to it because it’s what you dream of as a youngster.
“What’s the main difference? It’s a combination of everything. There’s this side of things, the media, the scrutiny and the commentators picking your technique to pieces which is naturally going to happen. That’s something I expected. But that’s part and parcel of international cricket.
Tom Westley was dismissed for only 8 in the first Test at Edgbaston ( Getty)
“I feel if I prepare the way I have done for Essex then it’s only a matter of time before I score runs. I’ve actually really enjoyed how intense it is.”
Westley recognises that his technique, which is heavily biased towards the legside, is a target for criticism. Yet he says: “I score consistently through the legside so that’s not something I’m too concerned about. That’s the way I play.
“I’ve got a start in a few of my innings and that’s the difference between county cricket, where you can get to 30 or 60 and hope a score comes along, and Test cricket, where the scrutiny is on you.
“It’s my role to score hundreds. That’s what I’m there to do at three and make match-winning contributions but I’m confident in my ability and my game plan. It’s worked for me for a number of years at Essex and hopefully I can implement it at Test level.
“I’m not going to be someone who changes my entire game plan because I’m playing Test cricket.”
Westley’s long-standing friendship with former England captain and Essex team-mate Alastair Cook has helped him settle into this new environment.
So, what advice has Cook given him? “Just be myself,” says Westley. “We’ve had big partnerships for Essex, and he can give me all the advice in the world but, ultimately, it’s up to me to score runs. I’ve got to score runs the way I’ve done for Essex. Not go out of my bubble or game plan. It’s no differen.t”
A weak West Indies should provide Westley with an opportunity to score those runs, even if he admits he “missed the boat” in making just eight during his only innings of the opening Test at Edgbaston.
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“I know West Indies didn’t cover themselves in glory in the last Test but they are a very talented side,” said Westley. “These are the Tests that are here in England at the moment so if I can score runs in them then it is only going to help.
“If I play this next game and get a good start and kick on then my time will come. That is my philosophy. I know there is a pressure but fundamentally I want to enjoy playing cricket for England and hopefully in time the runs will follow.”
Investec is the title sponsor of Test match cricket in England. For Out of the Ordinary thinking visit investec.com/cricket