Former Hampton School student Zafar Ansari is propelling Surrey back to the top with bat and ball, but the 22-year-old insists his England chances are non-existent until they get there.
Last season’s Championship relegation was the culmination of a miserable summer at the Kia Oval, but a blessing of sorts for a number of Surrey’s young guns.
Ansari, Matt Dunn, Rory Burns, Jason Roy, Tom Curran – the list goes on – have been handed even greater responsibility in the second tier and responded in impressive fashion with both Ansari and Roy nominated for the 2014 LV= Breakthrough Player award.
While Roy’s destructive hitting has caught the eye for one reason, Ansari has forged a different role, combining wickets with his left-arm spin and two centuries at the top of the order.
Surrey skipper Gary Wilson and spinner Gareth Batty have tipped him for the top, but Ansari is adamant international honours are not on the agenda until Surrey return to the top flight.
“I don’t think I would be entitled to expect my name to be in the mix,” said the former Weybridge cricketer.
“I don’t feel like I am particularly close to being good enough to play international cricket.
“Partly because I think I haven’t done it for long enough to warrant that and also the difference between Division One and Division Two cricket is quite significant – then the jump to Test cricket is marked.
“Moeen Ali is a different case because he has done it for a while now,, but until you do it in Division One I don’t think you can really put a particularly strong case in for moving up.”
Ansari has not just found a platform on which to demonstrate his mature approach to batting, he has also plugged a vital gap at the top of the Surrey order.
Since former skipper Graeme Smith was ruled out with a fractured knee in May, Ansari has been pressed into opening up the batting with Burns And with the news Smith will not be returning to south London next season, the role could be Ansari’s to keep.
“There are things about it that I don’t particularly like but it has gone so well that you don’t want to change things,” said the 22-year-old.
“Initially I saw it as a short-term option until Arun [Harinath] or Dom Sibley moved up there. They are seen as openers, whereas I am not necessarily seen that way. It is nice to be given that chance.
“When I did it a couple of years ago I was treated as a batsman and I didn’t really bowl. I think my bowling is good enough to be treated as a genuine bowling option.
“Just in terms of my enjoyment of the game, the most important thing is I continue to bowl as a frontline bowler and that has happened.”
* The LV= County Championship. Watch the next generation break through. To Vote for your 2014 Breakthrough Player visit LV.com/cricket