Young Middlesex bowler hopes 2015 can be his breakthrough year at Lord’s
Fast bowler Tom Helm believes this is the year for him to lose the ‘promising youngster’ tag at Middlesex.
The right-arm seamer has been highly regarded by those in the know at Lord’s for some time, spending several of his recent winters on England programmes at Loughborough and elsewhere.
Opportunities for first-team duty have been limited, however, with Middlesex’s formidable fast bowling battery affording Helm barely a handful of first-team appearances since his first-class debut against Yorkshire at Headingley at the back end of 2013.
However, a loan spell at Glamorgan last summer and a winter’s hard graft at the county’s indoor school in Finchley mean the soon to be 21-year-old feels he is ready to contend with the likes of James Harris and Toby Roland-Jones for a coveted spot in the Lord’s side’s seam attack.
“For a couple of years now I have been told ‘this is going to be your year’ and you have got x amount of potential to do whatever, so it does not feel like my days as a youngster are running out,” said Helm.
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“I don’t feel like ‘it must happen now’, but I’m ready for it to happen now, so hopefully this year can be the one.
“I feel in a very different place to the one I was in this time last year. I feel like I’ve come on leaps and bounds to 12 months ago.
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“I’ve probably picked up a yard of pace and I’m more confident in myself with and without the ball in hand. So I’m ready and raring to go.”
Ironically, jumping the queue in the pecking order has meant getting in line for Helm over the close season.
Under the watchful eye of bowling coach Richard Johnson, the emphasis has been on getting straighter in delivery stride to aid both his rhythm and accuracy.
“Winter has been about my alignment at the crease,” he said. “I have tended to come across myself and then that means having to bowl around myself, so I have spent a lot of time redoing my drills, getting into straight lines and heading at the target really.
“With my action I feel like I’m in a good place – for me that is the main thing that needs to be dealt with, and I’m on my way to dealing with it. It feels like it is coming on nicely, so we’ll see how we get on.”
Steven Finn’s exclusion from England’s current tour of the West Indies looked set to delay Helm’s progress, but a pre-season niggle for Roland-Jones opened the door for his maiden first-class game at Lord’s in this week’s County Championship curtain-raiser against Nottinghamshire, which eventually finished in a draw.
It was a good first impression as the wickets of Steven Mullaney and Will Gidman gave him a first innings return of 2-70, figures which could have been even better but for three dropped catches off his bowling.
Hitting the ground running could be important at a county where, in the past, established players have been given ample chance to throw off a run of poor form, while youngsters have been required to make an almost instant impact.
But Helm insists the standard he demands of himself provides all the motivation he needs for the journey ahead.
He added: “There is enough pressure on you anyway when you are trying to break in.
“In your own head you know if you do what you are capable of then you feel like you are going to get a good run, so there is no added pressure for me.”