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Ben Duckett buries ghosts of the past to rewrite his career story

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Last updated on 16 Feb 2024 | 12:16 PM
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Ben Duckett buries ghosts of the past to rewrite his career story

Six years post the horror tour of India, Duckett has conquered his biggest demons and has done so in style

Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja had struck tons on the first day of the ongoing Rajkot Test, but by the time Ben Duckett had got to 73, he had already hit more fours (15) than both Rohit (14) and Jadeja (9). And by the time he got to his hundred, he’d hit 4 more boundaries, including a massive six.

In each of the first four innings of this series, Duckett had managed to get off to starts and rattle India but had failed to make those starts count. But after threatening to rip into the Indian bowling four times in as many innings, he finally righted the wrongs today in Rajkot. 

What unfolded was absolute carnage. A stunning exhibition of boundary-hitting that left India absolutely shell-shocked. 

But the boundary percentage of Duckett today, in many ways, was the least interesting part about his innings. Rather, his control percentage of 92.4% — while striking at 112.7 - was the most fascinating aspect.

A common perception about Duckett is that he’ll always keep the opponent ‘in the game’ due to the high-risk nature of his batting. That you *will* get him if you hit the right areas enough. 

India found out today after Duckett stood there flaying everything without giving the bowlers a sniff. 

The century in Rajkot was Duckett’s third of his career, all three coming under Stokes' leadership. Since coming back to the side in 2022, the 29-year-old has really turned his career around — highlighted by his average of 55.43 since the Pakistan tour.  

But while he’s had plenty of high points in the last 18 months, it’d be hard not to pick his efforts today as the biggest highlight of his career so far. 

You can make an argument for the above on the basis of the quality of the bowling attack he faced alone. Attacks don’t — and won’t — get tougher than a quartet of Bumrah, Ashwin, Jadeja, and Kuldeep in India. To score a century against this attack, no matter the surface, is a stellar achievement. 

But factoring in what he went through eight years ago, this is almost certainly the defining moment of Duckett’s career.

For six years, Duckett’s career was defined by the horror tour of India in 2016 in which he averaged 6.00. There, on some really good batting wickets, he turned out to be a sitting duck against spin and was eaten alive by Ashwin, who dismissed him thrice in three innings while conceding just 15 runs. 

Six years on, he’s conquered his biggest demons and has done so in style. His 88-ball ton today was the fastest ever by an Englishman on Indian soil and third fastest by any overseas batter overall. 

The icing on the cake was the huge six he hit off his nemesis Ashwin, on the fourth ball of the 21st over, to move to 88*.  In that particular moment, Duckett hit his biggest demon for a six — literally. 

After being axed from the Test side in 2016, Duckett ground it out at the first-class level and made his way back up sheerly through the weight of runs he scored: between January 2017 and November 2022, he scored 4,644 runs at an average of 41.46 while scoring the said runs at a strike rate of 73.3.

He was already a transformed man when he re-entered the side in 2022, but the culture brought into the side by Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum has helped Duckett unlock a whole different side of him and reach a whole new level. 

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