In the 1990s, England’s Test team went through spinners like boys go through school shoes. Phil Tufnell was clearly their most likely match-winner, but was selected only intermittently. For the rest of the decade, England went through a variety of selection policies: young spinners (Min Patel), old spinners (John Emburey), one-day international specialist spinners (Richard Illingworth), part-time spinners (Graeme Hick) and even no spinners (at Headingley in the 1993 Ashes the attack was MacCague, Illot, Caddick, Bicknell, Gooch and Thorpe – they took a total of four wickets in the match).
However, in the 2000s, the bowling attack was generally much more settled. Wasn’t it? You had Ashley Giles, who was then replaced by Monty Panesar, who in turn was superseded by Graeme Swann. All different, all at least competent.
That statement is actually horse manure – despite these decent spinners, there were probably more rubbish spinners picked than in the debacles of the previous decade. We’ve already looked at Chris Schofield and Ian Salisbury (yes, Salisbury was still occasionally getting called up as late as 2000). Now it’s time to ask the question: whatever happened to
Well obviously he’s still playing for Surrey. But let’s do the time warp back to when he was apparently the second best spinner in the country.
It was as far back as 2002 that he debuted for England, following a handy first season at Worcestershire (his third county after Yorkshire and Surrey). The muddled selection policy of the time was evident in the fact that for this VB series match against Australia, Batty and Ian Blackwell bowled 20 overs, the latter also batted at five (above Owais Shah and Alec Stewart) whilst Ronnie Irani came in at three and bowled second change. Anyway, that unsurprising defeat to Australia was the first of nine ODIs for Batty, spread out across six and a quarter years, probably signalling that he was a last resort pick. His five wickets certainly didn’t come cheap.
His Test debut came in Bangladesh in 2003 as second spinner to Giles (fellow debutant: Rikki Clarke), but he was promptly dropped for Martin Saggers, a fact that probably still reduces him to tears today. Later that year he played in all three matches in Sri Lanka, taking five wickets in the first Test but just one in the next two games. His most significant contributions were actually with the bat in helping his team draw the first two matches in the face of Muttiah Muralitharan; he also managed not to drown whilst surfing with Michael Vaughan, so, er, well done Gareth. England’s next tour was the Steve Harmison-inspired demolition of the West Indies, in which Batty did not feature, at least not until the final Test at St John’s. He only conceded 55 runs, aside from the 130 that Brian Lara scored off him.
2005 saw one of the great series, and some of the great performances by a spin bowler. The same summer also saw our hero play both Tests against Bangladesh, but not feature until the fifteenth over. Of the second innings. Of the second Test. Yep – England so dominated the visitors that his record ran: did not bowl, did not bat, did not bowl, did not bowl (though he did take a catch), did not bat, did bowl (1/44). And that was that, internationally, at least until the staggering fact that he played a further three ODIs in 2009 (countered by the realisation that they were on the tour to West Indies that we never ever mention).
David’s son (you think we’re making a cheap football-related gag? Think again…) relocated from Worcestershire in 2009, back to Surrey where he formed part of their ‘galaxy’ of ‘stars’. He remains there to this day, as far from the England Ladder as, well, any of the other rubbish spinners of the last decade, most of whom have retired. Although he has certainly been a decent enough county bowler for many years, his career now seems to be petering out. Last season he only attracted headlines by not rescinding an appeal for a ‘Mankading’ against Somerset (quite right too), and two years before that he was reported to be in tears after suffering some verbal abuse from Worcestershire fans (it may just have been some seasonal fluvial flooding, you can never tell in Worcester). He is however just about taking enough wickets to startle the pigeons of south London, but this season faces new competition from Gary Keedy. The ex-Lancastrian, who like Batty was born in West Yorkshire, was probably unlucky not to have played for England earlier in his career considering the number of caps awarded to other chancers, so expect a bloody battle this year, which may all end in tears.