Ben Duckett doesn’t want to talk about Perth.
For the Nottinghamshire slugger, there are too many good things happening now to go back to that night in 2017 at The Avenue bar, when he poured a drink on James Anderson and found himself banned from playing on the England Lions’ Australian tour.
“I’ve done enough in my career, even before this incident, to be remembered better than that,” he told BBC Sport.
Five years later, Duckett is set to resume a Test career that includes four matches against Bangladesh and India in 2016.
Barely a year ago the southpaw thought he would never play another Test, but a prolific summer has put him in prime position to open batting alongside Zak Crawley in Pakistan this month, passing from the third place he occupies. for Nott.
Duckett’s runs are the culmination of a long road back, not from indiscretion in Perth, but from a broken hand that meant he eventually had to relearn how to hold a bat.
Rushing after left-hand surgery at the start of the 2018 season – his last with Northamptonshire County Premier – Duckett unwittingly altered his grip to limit the pain. It also limited races.
“I actually forgot how I grip the bat and how I had done it for 20 years,” the 28-year-old explained. “I had problems with it for two or three years, but I just found a way out.
“I lost sight of my offside game for a few years, and that was always a huge strength.”
Duckett moved to Trent Bridge at the end of 2018 but it wasn’t until after the 2019 season that he started working with Notts coaches Peter Moores and Ant Botha.
“I found out how to hold the bat again,” he says. “It was weird, like I was a new player.
“It was Monday to Friday, every day during the winter. Ant Botha’s shoulder was hanging down at the end.
“It was a process I don’t want to do for the rest of my career. I want to play outside, rather than in a dark indoor school in December.”
The steady improvement with new old grip peaked this summer, when Duckett’s premier class average was 72, even higher than a 2016 season when his races did. the first player to win the Professional Cricketers’ Association Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year awards at the same time.
He made 145 for the England Lions against the South Africans on tour in August, was called up to the full England squad for the final test after Jonny Bairstow broke his leg, then was the England’s second top scorer in the 4-3 Twenty20 series win. In Pakistan.
“My game this summer feels like 2016, I’m just a much more mature player,” Duckett says.
Maturity is a recurring theme in the conversation with Duckett. As well as the Perth incident, he pleaded guilty to drunk driving aged 20 in 2015 and was caught speeding 106mph in 2019.
He twice missed tours for failing to meet fitness standards – once with the England Under-19s in 2013 and then a pre-season trip to Northants in 2015.
“I probably didn’t make it easy for myself sometimes, but it feels like forever,” says Duckett, who lost 10kg during the first Covid lockdown through running and high-intensity workouts.
“If you talk to someone who’s 27 or 28, they’ve grown since they were 18 or 19.”
Duckett also has a fresh perspective on playing for England, having “got carried away” when he was first called up in 2016.
“I probably got a little ahead of myself,” he says. “I thought my job was done before I even got on the plane and didn’t realize how difficult it was going to be when I got out there.”
Duckett’s four Tests were played on pitches that turned sharply. He notched half a century of open batting in his second Test against Bangladesh but then fell to number four to make room for Haseeb Hameed in India.
In his next three innings he made scores of 13, five and zero before being left out. Rejected by Ravichandran Ashwin at every opportunity, Duckett’s technique was publicly dissected by one of the greatest spinners to ever play the game.
“I don’t think Ashwin would have a hard time taking out any left-hander in the world,” said Duckett, a prodigious bowler sweeper.
“He would probably take me out again in India, but I would support myself to last longer and score points.”
Ashwin aside, Duckett has felt the pressure of England’s revolving door policy when it comes to openings.
If he gets another chance – he’s likely to edge out Keaton Jennings in the race for the first slot vacated by the omission of Alex Lees – Duckett will likely get a long stint on the team under captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum.
“Before, if you had two or three bad games, you were eliminated,” explains Duckett. “It seems like in this team under Stokesy and McCullum you have more time at the top of the order, which takes a bit of the pressure off.”
Duckett heads to Pakistan with the advantage of experience, albeit deadly. He’s been through the boom of life – sometimes on his own initiative – on and off the pitch, but he feels he’s fared better.
“I consider being dumped in India as one of the darkest times of my career, but also one of the best things about this Pakistan tour,” he says.
“I know how brutal Test cricket is and how tough the media can be, how hard you have to block that.
“It can’t really get any worse. I’m a better person, a more experienced person, and I can find ways to overcome this.
“That was a long time ago. It seems a blur. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to do it again.”
This story was first published on October 28