(Photo: Naomi Baker/Getty Images)
By Charlie Talbot-Smith
IT has been a pretty bleak winter for Tom Westley – his pride has been dented and his finger broken.
The timing could not have been much worse for the 28-year-old who had to settle for a spot on the Lions Tour after missing out on Ashes Test selection.
In Westley’s absence, James Vince continued to flatter to deceive in England’s troublesome No.3 position.
And, if not for the broken middle finger on his left hand that has required surgery, it is not too much of a stretch to suggest that Westley would be heading to New Zealand next month.
As it is, however, the Essex batsman has to settle for rehabbing his injury – he is already two weeks ahead of schedule following surgery before Christmas – and preparing for the new county season.
“It has been quite a testing three months. It was nice to be involved with the Lions, I was doing some good work with the coaches out there,” he said.
“I felt I was in quite a good place and then the first game against Queensland I managed to bust my finger fielding, so I didn’t even get to bat! Even more frustrating.
“But it is a new year. I am off to Cape Town with a few of the other Essex guys to try and do some warm-weather training.
“My finger will be fine come the start of March so I should be in a good place. I am desperate to get back playing, to try and score runs and then push my name forward for selection again for England.”
Westley’s first taste of Test cricket this past summer did not go quite to plan.
A top score of only 59 from nine innings across the series against South Africa and West Indies left the right-hander with an average of only 24.12 – interestingly, still higher than Dawid Malan’s before the Ashes began.
But the real concern for Westley was that he seemed to struggle more as his Test career went on and a problem with his balance saw him trapped leg before three times against the Windies alone.
“It is difficult to deal with as a cricketer, especially as one that for a number of years has played nearly every game and hadn’t been dropped,” he added.
“It dents your pride and it is disappointing. There is no hiding place, but I was fully prepared going into it.
“I was not too flustered by what went on. I was just a bit more frustrated and disappointed in myself that I didn’t play as well as I know I could do.
“But it did give me time to reflect, go away and work on a few things and then hopefully come back a better cricketer.
“It was a couple of alignment and balance things, I just wanted to improve on that. During those two series I got out LBW more times than I probably have been in the last however many years for Essex.”
Indeed, Westley’s response to the setback has been immediate – now he just needs to placate his friends and family.
“Test cricket can be very fickle, you have to grasp the opportunity when it comes your way,” he added. “I am always willing to accept the challenge, I can accept the decision myself. It was in my control to score more runs and I didn’t score enough so that, in my eyes, is very black and white.
“I didn’t score enough runs to warrant a place on the Tour. I think the hardest bit is those close to you, telling them.
“You can’t process it for them, so you feel very disappointed and like you have let them down even if of course they reassure you that you haven’t.
“I believe if you are level-headed, you can take things in your stride. I can accept not being selected but it’s the people around you that make it hard.
“Family and even close friends, and the guys you play with in the changing room that you are really close to. You know you have let yourself down, but you can process that by thinking ‘I will re-address that and score more runs’. But it’s those around you because you can’t think or feel for them.”