Middlesex seamer Toby Roland-Jones spoke exclusively to Lords.org about winter training, hopes for the new season, and his thoughts on Middlesex teammate and potential England opener Sam Robson.
Roland-Jones is a key member of Middlesex’s strong bowling line up, and after two solid third-place showings in the LV= County Championship Division One since promotion in 2011, he is hoping for even better this season.
"We have played well in the last couple of years but we’ve been disappointed with how the seasons have finished," said the 26 year-old.
"We’ve felt we could have, and should have maintained a challenge to the end. It will be nice if we can start the season like we have the past couple of years.
"We’ve got a strong bowling attack and a batting line up that can make it tough for bowlers, so we’ve got a team in place that can challenge for the title - it’s making sure we maintain that for a little bit longer and who knows where we’ll be."
Now in his fifth season at the county, Roland-Jones is relishing the challenge of being viewed as one of the more senior bowlers in the attack.
"As a unit we lost Corey Collymore at the end of the season, and nobody has come in to replace him, so it’s nice to think myself and James Harris will have to up our roles in terms of seniority in the attack," he added.
One bonus for Middlesex will be the increased availability of England fast-bowler Steven Finn, and Roland-Jones is looking forward to Finn spearheading Middlesex’s attack.
“If Steve’s around more then it adds an extra edge - we haven’t seen a great deal of him over the past couple of years and the opposition won’t be looking forward to it."
If Steve’s around more then it adds an extra edge - we haven’t seen a great deal of him over the past couple of years and the opposition won’t be looking forward to it
Another one of Roland-Jones’ teammates who will be looking to impress national selectors is Sam Robson, who hit a century for the Lions in their match against the Sri Lanka A Emerging Players, and Roland-Jones had plenty of praise for Robson.
"A lot is being said about Sam which is fully justified, he’s a cracking lad and I’ve grown up with him at the club. His rise has been special to watch and to play alongside. He’s a very organised player, he’s got a very experienced head for his age and he’s certainly not going to give his wicket away any time.”
Robson has had the benefit of playing alongside experienced international openers in Andrew Strauss and Chris Rogers, and Roland-Jones has praised their influence on Robson’s career.
"Sam takes what he can from guys who come in and we’ve been lucky to have Andrew Strauss open with him for a while, and Chris Rogers is here too; Sam’s a a guy who’s tuned in and he knows these are guys he can learn from and at the moment he’s made the most of those and it seems to all go right for the guy.”
"I think he’s got it in him [to play for England] and it’s about that step up and being the right guy in the right place at the right time.
"A lot’s been written about him and that’s for other people to write, but I wish the guy all the best in everything that happens to him."
Listen - 'Robson has what it takes'
Middlesex have been in indoor training at Lord’s, and Roland-Jones has been enjoying getting back to playing cricket.
“It’s nice to have a winter here for the first time in a couple of years, I had surgery on my keen so it’s good to get back to routine training and get back in with the lads.”
"It’s always a nice feeling to be around the ground as the season gets near and you start casting your mind ahead to when the season will begin, especially when you feel like preparations are going well, and we’re slowly getting ready for that outdoor training.
“With indoor training it’s sometimes hard to focus, so we’ve been working on lots of match situations to go alongside the regular batting and bowling, as well as the less interesting gym work that we have to do.
“It’s harder for the coaches in terms of organisations with comings and goings with the Lions or Ireland, but in March we’ll get everyone back and that’s when it feels like the season’s about to start.”
After topping the Middlesex wicket-tables and being named the club’s Player of the Year in 2012, Roland-Jones started 2013 with a real bang, notably taking a hat-trick against Derbyshire at Lord’s in April. However, injuries disrupted his season, and with that in mind he is pensive when looking ahead to this campaign.
“Personally I don’t set any goals, it’s a game where anything can happen. I've had a couple of years being injury free and a couple of frustrating ones so I try to keep fairly level.
“It will be great to start the year well and if I get going and stay injury free you feel you hit a rhythm and I’d like to maintain that and be part of a successful team."
Fifty over cricket
One of the main changes to the county calendar is the re-introduction of a 50-over tournament in the Royal London One-Day Cup, and Roland-Jones is looking forward to the challenges that the extra ten overs a side brings.
“It doesn’t sound like much on paper but in the way an innings is put together it does make a real difference so it’s something we’ll have to think about, in the way we’ll utilise certain power players.
“For a bowler like myself who likes to hit a harder length it might suit me a little bit more with batsmen maybe having a little less impetus at the top of innings but everyone’s in the same boat.
“As long as we put the right plans in place we’ve got as good a chance as any.”
MCC Cricket Annual 2013: Middlesex CCC