Launched by LV=, the County Championship Breakthrough Player Award is into its second year after Yorkshire’s Joe Root claimed the inaugural title in 2012. Now following in his footsteps is Surrey’s up-and-coming batsman Rory Burns, who beat off stiff competition from Shiv Thakor, David Willey, Scott Borthwick, Luke Wells and Gary Ballance to earn the most public votes and scoop the 2013 award. AOC spoke to the 23-year-old about his breakthrough season.
Congratulations, Rory! Given everything that Joe Root’s gone on to achieve over the last year, how does it feel to be following in his footsteps by winning the LV= County Championship Breakthrough Player Award?
Thanks, it’s really great to have won. If I could even come close to emulating Joe’s success it would be pretty good because he’s gone on to do very well for England.
It’s been a tough season for Surrey but a good year for you personally. Are you pleased with how things have gone?
Personally, I’m pretty happy with how things have gone. There’s obviously still room for improvement. I could have got a couple more hundreds and at times I let it go after some good starts. But for a first full season in the County Championship I’m pretty happy with how it’s gone.
Over the course of the season who would you say is the toughest bowler you’ve faced?
I had some pretty good duels with Somerset’s Alfonso Thomas. He has some tasty skills, gets it going both ways and he covers up the ball when it’s reversing. He’s certainly a tricky customer.
How would you describe yourself as a batsman, is there anyone out there you would compare yourself to?
I guess someone like Graeme Smith or Simon Katich. I’m not completely textbook but I know my game well and I’m quite compact. I tend to score most of my runs through the leg side and I’m good at working it off my legs when bowlers get too straight. And I like a cut shot too.
What have the pitches at The Oval been like to open the batting on this year?
A lot of them have been quite slow. You have to wait until it’s right in your scoring zone and you’re on top of the ball before playing your shots. Later in the season we’ve had some big turning ones; Ollie Rayner was ragging it square in our match against Middlesex. It’s been fairly tricky in games where the spinners have come on early after four overs. There have also been some good tracks which have been enjoyable to bat on, especially at the top of the order.
What would you say are the key components an opening batsman needs?
You need to know your game plan, where you’re strong and where you’re not strong and play within that. I try and leave well, as a left-hander that’s especially important. If I leave well it draws the bowlers into bowling straighter and that opens up more scoring shots.
How about bravery?
Definitely, especially with someone like Boyd Rankin coming in at you with a short leg and a leg gully like we had at Guildford! You’ve got to be prepared to wear a few.
In Graeme Smith, Ricky Ponting and Hashim Amla you’ve played with three legends of the game at various points this season. What have you learned from each of them?
Smithy is quite similar to me in terms of scoring areas so I just watched the way he lined the ball up. Ricky tried to help as much as he could in terms of technical points that might help me open up more scoring areas in one-day cricket. Hash is completely different to both of them. He’s the most chilled person I’ve ever played with. The way he goes about his game shows there’s not just one way to make runs. Each of them is a great player in their own right.
Surrey have taken some stick this season for playing older players rather than putting faith in youngsters. Do you think the fact that a player who has come through their academy has won this award helps to show that there are opportunities for youngsters at the club?
At every club there are experienced players. We’ve got good young players coming through, Matthew Dunn and George Edwards especially. Dominic Sibley is opening the batting now and Arun Harinath is still young and has done well for us this year. The young players are ready to fight for places by getting runs and getting wickets in the seconds. You don’t just get it given to you, and that’s the way it should be.