FORMER England captain Michael Vaughan has called on Tom Banton to “give up his IPL deal” and play County Championship cricket for Somerset at the start of the 2020 season.
Banton, 21, is one of English cricket’s brightest prospects having enjoyed a breakthrough season with Somerset last summer, helping the county win the Royal London One-Day Cup and finishing as the leading English run scorer in the Vitality Blast.
His exploits helped him earn international recognition – Banton made his England debut in the IT20 series against New Zealand in November and will link up with the ODI squad for the first time in South Africa next month – as well as franchise deals across the globe this winter.
Banton has played in the Abu Dhabi T10 league – where he struck 80 from 28 balls in one of his matches for Qalandars – and Australia’s Big Bash in recent months, firing the second fastest half century in BBL history when he reached the landmark from just 16 balls against Sydney Thunder.
Following the ODI series in South Africa, Banton is due to play for Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League having been snapped up for 1 crore (US $140,000) at the draft in December.
If he plays the duration of the tournament, the starlet could miss Somerset’s first seven County Championship matches – the first half of the Division One season.
Vaughan has used his Telegraph column – and slot on BBC 5Live’s Tuffers and Vaughan Cricket Show – to argue that Banton should forego the IPL riches and instead target a spot in England’s Test team.
Vaughan wrote: “If I were in charge I would be on the phone this week to Tom Banton telling him to give up his IPL deal and play the first few weeks of the county season for Somerset because there is a slot available at No 6 in the Test side.
“Ollie Pope is not going to stay there forever. He is going to move up.
“Root and Stokes are rock solid at four and five.
“Joe Denly has done OK but is OK good enough when you have a Pope at six who will clearly be England’s No 3 by the time they go to Australia again?
“I have seen enough of Banton to know he is a superstar in the making.
“I’m not sure a stint in the IPL right now, when he might not get a lot of game time, is what he needs at this stage of his career.
“The IPL can wait. He has plenty of time to go to India.
“He needs to play four-day cricket and score some early hundreds. “If he does that I could see him batting at No 6 in the Test side this summer. It is possible.
“I really think he can be a Test player at No 6. In that position you can have a player who is a little bit different.
“He has everything. He is a bit like Kevin Pietersen in the way he hits the ball and sets up. He has presence at the crease.
“If he switches his mind on and really commits to it I see a kid who has a lot of talent and could fly into the Test team.”
The case studies of Alex Hales and Jason Roy, among others, would surely urge caution regarding Vaughan’s view that Banton, as an exciting white-ball player, “could fly into the Test team.”
Banton is clearly a player with potential in all formats. Jason Kerr, Somerset’s head coach, was particularly impressed by a patient 44 against Surrey at Guildford last summer which was made when the batsman came to the crease at 35-3, while he also made an invaluable 66 in the second innings of a five-wicket win against Warwickshire at Edgbaston.
An overall 2019 Championship average of 29.81, however, suggests work is needed before exposing him to the Test arena – while the experience that could be gained from playing the IPL and training alongside the likes of KKR teammates Pat Cummins, Andre Russell and Eoin Morgan should also not be underestimated.
The wisdom of moving Pope up to number three just as he is settling in to the team and scoring runs at six could also be called into question.
Banton is a player with the world at his feet, of that there is little doubt, and Somerset fans should cherish watching the youngster wearing the Wyvern as and when they can.
Quite whether that should extend to asking him to give up an IPL contract at this stage of his career, however, is up for debate.