Former New Zealand star keen to contribute to Middlesex cause
James Franklin is hopeful his bag of allsorts will give Middlesex plenty of options on the last stop of his cricketing journey.
The New Zealand all-rounder called time on any lingering international hopes with the Black Caps this winter by actioning some of his Irish ancestry to join the Lord’s side as a non-overseas player.
At 34, Franklin admits to being in the twilight of his playing days, but the fact wife Kerry and six-year-old son Charlie have also come halfway around the world to set up home in London should serve as an indication of his commitment to the cause.
And, with left-arm swing, useful runs and the ability to captain a side in his armoury, Franklin has no intention of going into retirement gracefully.
“There is plenty of cricket left in me, but I realise I’m not 24 any more,” said the Wellington all-rounder.
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“I have at most four or five years left in me and at least three, so this added up to a good move for me and my family.
“Hopefully, I am thinking, someone like myself can be quite useful for the wider squad and the 11 in terms of a bit of versatility.”
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As if to underline the options Franklin offers Middlesex, his debut was delayed until their County Championship clash with Somerset at Taunton, which gets under way on Sunday, partly to allow more time for his role in the side to be discussed.
His early stints in county cricket with Glamorgan and Gloucestershire paint him as a bowler who could bat, while his second spell in Bristol, which ended in 2010, suggested the opposite.
That trend continued back in his homeland with Wellington over the winter, and Franklin believes he has undergone a natural transition to batsman/bowler rather than any conscious decision to favour the willow.
“I think it has just evolved that way over the last couple of years where I have been pretty productive with the bat and not as productive with the ball as I was 10 years ago,” he said.
“That is not to say I still can’t produce some good stuff with the ball, so I’ve been trying to work out with [coach] Richard Scott and [managing director of cricket] Angus Fraser whether it’s a 50/50 split or more weighted towards batting.
“I could be a fourth seamer and probably bat anywhere between five and seven, depending on conditions and who else we go with.”
If Franklin can bat in the middle to lower-middle order, it will be a major boost to Middlesex – who are without the services of Dawid Malan for at least a month after he suffered a fracture to his right hand in last week’s draw with Nottinghamshire at Lord’s.
Fraser’s men were hanging on at the death after Malan’s inability to bat, coupled with an all too familiar first-innings collapse against the Outlaws left them playing catch-up from the middle of day two onwards.
Yet Franklin seems unconcerned about the prospect of having to shore up a batting side whose flaky tag refuses to go away.
In fact, he almost gives the impression that he fancies himself as a man for a crisis.
“I have played in plenty of teams where top orders don’t do that well and you’ve got your pads on pretty early trying to resurrect things,” he added.
“I’ve played a lot of cricket, so there are not too many situations that faze me that much. You have got to deal with what you are dealt and do the best you can.
“There will be failures and good times along the way – that is just cricket. Hopefully we can be consistent over the season, make knockout stages of the one-day competitions and be in contention in the last few weeks of the championship.”