There are cricketers that come along once or twice in a generation with who you form an immediate attachment. Often that attachment arises by coincidence, seeing that player’s debut or first significant contribution for example. On other occasions it is an attachment that arises more irrationally, the individual is your “sort of player”.
Whatever once formed, the attachment becomes emotional. You disproportionately want that player to do well, are more tolerant of his failures, more prone to praise his successes.
For me Dom Bess is one of those cricketers.
Today, as I write this, he has reclaimed his England test place for the second test in South Africa. While many will argue that, as in 2018, Bess has Jack Leach’s indisposition to thank for his selection, there is a deeper, underlying message that should not be ignored.
Bess has had a tough couple of years. He has struggled to fight his way into the Championship side at Somerset. Jason Kerr has rarely selected him for white-ball cricket. He has sought comfort in two loan spells in Yorkshire one in the Championship, the other in the T20.
It would be easy for someone in Dom’s circumstances to allow their head to drop. To feel sorry for themselves and become introspective. Not Bess.
Whether it was in Leeds or Taunton Dom Bess was the same effervescent character that first emerged in the 2016 championship campaign. Tellingly he endeared himself to everyone associated with Yorkshire cricket during his two spells with them. It was no secret that Yorkshire were keen to sign him permanently.
Fortunately for Somerset supporters this did not happen. Bess returned to Taunton and found a way back into the side when Jack Leach was on Ashes duty. And Bess retained his place when Leach returned to Taunton.
I believe that it is this personality, this determination that has led to Bess’ selection in Cape Town. Not initially selected for the tour Dom flew out to South Africa before Christmas with Craig Overton to bolster an England side ravaged by illness. In the three weeks he has been with England he has forced his way ahead of Matt Parkinson in the selectors’ minds. I would also argue that even if Jack Leach had fully recovered from his debilitating illness, Bess would have got the nod.
While both Parkinson and Leach are excellent spin bowlers and the latter has excelled with the bat in England colours, Bess is far superior to both with the bat and in the field. In the current England set up this counts a lot.
The question on the minds of most non-Somerset following cricket supporters will be why does Bess feature so little for the county side when he is so highly thought of internationally? The question for Somerset supporters is how do we get Dom into the first XI more consistently?
In the Championship I believe that Tom Abell and Jason Kerr have to find a way to play Dom Bess. I think that he needs to bat at six and given the opportunity to make runs regularly. He is more than capable of this but has lacked the opportunity.
The continued marginalisation of the Championship in 2020 into the seamer-friendly parts of the season would seem, at first sight, to work against an off-spinner like Bess. I believe the contrary is the case. If Bess can convince the Somerset selectors that he is worth selection in the top six Somerset can play an extra batsman or five seamers. Such a move would give Tom Abell an abundance of attacking options to exploit whatever the conditions present. It would also provide a way of forcing a result in the inevitable rain-shortened contests.
In white-ball cricket it is hard to argue that Bess has demonstrated to date that he should be selected. He has rarely appeared in the Somerset side, and when he has, he has disappointed. His time at Yorkshire for their T20 campaign was equally disappointing. The opportunity to play in the 50-over cup that arises in 2020 could provide just what Dom needs. He is, I believe, someone who will thrive on the responsibility of being a senior player in the side.
I believe a good 50-over campaign would provide Bess with a confidence boost that will take him to the next level. That level is one where he is a pivotal part of a successful Somerset side, contributing with bat, ball and in the field.
In the meantime, Bess has the small matter of a test match and test series to help England restore some pride. If the sporting Gods have any sense of justice, Bess deserves to play a starring role not just in this test but in the rest of the series.