Gary Ballance heads to Australia this week – a country which could play a significant role in his career over the next two years.
The highly-rated Yorkshire batsman is touring Down Under with the England Lions squad and could play one-day matches at iconic venues such as Melbourne’s MCG and Sydney’s SCG during the next month.
Headingley team-mate Joe Root has shown just how quickly a player’s career can progress by impressing for the full England side in all three forms of the game this winter.
After tackling New Zealand in their forthcoming series, England travel to Australia next winter for Ashes combat and then for a 50-over World Cup in 2015, with Ballance a stronger possibility for the latter competition.
But if he enjoys a strong County Championship campaign this summer, it is not impossible for the Zimbabwe-born left-hander to force his way into the Test squad within the next 12 months as well.
Yorkshire skipper Andrew Gale said: “I’ve got no doubt that Gary will go on and play for England, definitely in the shorter format, and he’ll be a massive player for his country if he continues to develop like he is.
“Gary likes to perform under pressure. We saw that all last season; that he plays at his best when we’re under the pump.”
Ballance, 23, has an impressive record in limited-overs cricket, having scored 2,459 runs in 85 List A and Twenty20 matches, including four hundreds and 11 fifties.
And he has done it against some of the best players in the world – none more so than at the Champions League t20 in South Africa last October when he scored half-centuries against Trinidad & Tobago and Chennai Super Kings.
Ballance’s unbeaten 64 against T&T at Centurion when the game was slipping away sealed the county’s qualification into the competition’s main group stage.
“That knock against T&T was as good an innings as you’ll see in t20 and the way he timed it – along with Adil Rashid, who played out of his skin too – was perfection,” said Gale.
“He’s got the ability to go through the gears too. T&T were cruising at one stage but Gary gave himself a chance and has the ability to start hitting sixes and take the game away from you.”
The Lions play eight 50-over matches in Australia – starting against Victoria Second XI at Junction Oval in Melbourne on February 7, before tackling Victoria at the same venue and then at the MCG.
They play Australia A in a five-match series between February 16 and March 1. The first three are at the Blundstone Arena (Bellerive) in Hobart and the last two at the SCG.