While the KP drama of will he or won’t he be picked rolled on, many judged that while a player of his abilities should slide straight into a side that just drew a Test series against a tame Windies, and had been knocked out embarrassingly early in the World Cup. The argument against was simply, where would KP play, as England’s middle order, for Tests anyway, was its only real strength, with Bell, Ballance, and Root all hitting runs. As great as Pietersen was though, while he compiled probably his finest county innings ever of 355 on that very judgement day for him, there was another ex-England man in the peak of his powers in the Surrey pavilion six years his junior who was equally worthy of a recall.
A First Class average of 88 for the current season, and a T20 average of 37, Steven Davies, the one-time England wicketkeeper is having a breakout summer. Playing as a specialist bat since early 2014, Davies has relished playing with Surrey, in a team which, this season, has had batting superstars of the ilk of Kumar Sangakkara and KP himself. And not only has he been able to watch in awe of these two maestros, he’s been able to match them – including an unbeaten double century to start Surrey’s county season.
Almost surprisingly Davies made his England debut as a late call up for a T20 against the Windies whilst on tour in 2009, backing up for Matt Prior, only to be replaced by Craig Kieswetter. Again, he toured with the England squad to back up Prior not long after in 2011 to Australia for the ODI side, and again, without having much of a chance to cement a position in the side, he was replaced by Prior.
It was later in 2011 though where Davies became more than just another English cricketer. During an interview, he came out publicly as gay, making him the only openly gay male professional cricketer in not just England but the world. While Davies had been open about it with his family for 5 years, and had told his teammates, this was the first anyone publicly knew, and it was an important moment for cricket. In a sport that struggles to accept diversity at times, having an openly gay cricketer, still in the game, and talented enough to stay in the sport to make a long career out of cricket was significant.
Unfortunately, what has also been significant is Davies’ absence from the England set up since. The cynic may think there is a direct relation between his coming out and his non-selection since, the more realistic would say he was playing as a keeper-batsman and was always going to be behind Matt Prior. This is understandable, as Prior’s numbers have him up there as one of the more successful keepers as far as runs scored for England. The sudden death of Surrey teammate Tom Maynard in mid-2012 had an effect on all his teammates, some like Davies contemplated giving the game away. In the end it was just the gloves he discarded. Distracted and until the last 18 months out of form, he hadn’t been worthy of national honours.
Credit must be given to the ECB, as they either by luck or by well thought out selections, have one of the more diverse squads in world cricket. There is room for improvement as they have yet to recall Davies, while many other players have been on the England merry-go-round of recent years. The ECB would never use sexuality as an excuse and nor would any player, but as many gay men and women know, it does play on the mind at times when you aren’t offered the same opportunities as a straight yet equally qualified person may get.
One can only hope Steven Davies can continue his consistency with the bat, keeps a positive open mind about returning to the national setup, and truly puts his hand up for selection.
He shouldn’t be thought of as ‘that gay cricketer’, but considered a stylish left handed batsman, and a genuine Test and ODI candidate for England.