English cricket - perhaps all cricket, but I haven't spent enough time among the cricketing cultures of other countries to know - is infected with nostalgia. Often, as when someone whose cricket-watching experience pre-dates one-day cricket can't stop telling you that the modern game is rubbish, contemporary players are lazy and the sport is going to hell in a handcart, this is a bad thing. At other times, such as when a reminder is required of why this is the most complex and vivid and culturally rich of games, it is most definitely a good one.

For English men - and often women - of a certain age, one of the players who has been the focus of more dewy-eyed reminiscence than most is Denis Compton. Denis Compton played in 78 Test matches between 1937 and 1957, and scored nearly 6000 runs at 50. He could really play. But what stands out from people's recollections of him is the way in which he played the game with an insouciant joy and an improvisational abandon which acted as a blissful counterpoint to the eras of austerity and consuming war during which he played.

My father is nearly 87. He loves cricket and has watched it since before the Second World War. He isn't the nostalgic type and it can be difficult to persuade him to talk about the past, even though he has led a more interesting and cosmopolitan life than most. Something he once told me about, though, was what it was like to watch Compton and his favourite partner Bill Edrich at Lord's during their peerless summer of 1947. This, with war gone but rationing still biting, seemed like the greatest sporting experience known to man, while my mother, who went to the Headingley Test of 1948 at the age of eighteen, wasn't sure which player she fancied the most, Compton, or his Australian opponent and friend, Keith Miller.

Now, more than seventy-five years after Compton came to Test cricket, his grandson Nick is about to make his debut. Like his grandfather he is a good-looking man but in a way which betrays his upbringing on the eastern coast of South Africa. It is a look which speaks of long days in the sun and the carefree pleasures of existence, but, as a batsman, he is about as dissimilar to his father's father as it is possible to be. After an inconsistent start to his professional career in England, Compton has settled for being a player of self-denial and discipline. While he has the straight bat and classical nuances of a player brought up on true wickets at good schools, he leaves the ball more than most, and, when he hits it he often gives the impression of forcing it away with more effort than timing. It is possible to mistake him for a player with a lower ration of natural ability than he has.

In Ahmedabad this week, with the Indian spinners probing his mettle and the sweat welling up inside his shirt, the younger Compton's talent and discipline will be tested more than ever before. Early-season Taunton, with the chill wind cutting through the sound of the St.James's bells, it will assuredly not be.

With the iron-hard Cook at the other end and his impeccable lineage, Compton won't lack for support, on the field or off it.

As ever, he will carry many people's hopes.

As ever, time will tell if he can fulfil them.

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