County Championship: Tom Helm ready to fight for place in Middlesex starting XI
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Paceman one of a number of options in exciting Middlesex attack
Tom Helm claims scrapping for a spot in a first XI has always been an occupational hazard.
So, jumping ship from his beloved Middlesex in search of an easier route to the top is something he’s barely given a second thought.
The 23-year-old paceman was talked about as a possible replacement on England’s Ashes tour this winter, after impressing with the Lions and on the ECB Pace Programme.
Yet, competition at Lord’s from the likes of Steven Finn, Toby Roland-Jones, Tim Murtagh and others meant Helm played just five red-ball Championship games last summer.
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Such a scenario caused former teammate Ryan Higgins to end his stint in NW8 this winter and head west for Gloucestershire.
For Helm though, a lesser light of teams through most of his formative years, the struggle to become a shoo-in is nothing new.
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“I was never that guy who was the best in the team when I was growing up - I was always middle of the road,” he said.
“You had the guys who were the best, two or three who would stand out above the others. The rest of the guys filled in and I was always one of those. I was always okay, never great.
“I was never thinking ‘I’m going to be playing cricket I’ll be fine’.”
Even when an extra yard of pace found as a teenager catapulted Helm up the pecking order of club side Chesham, and Buckinghamshire Schools, realising his dream to play professional cricket didn’t come easily.
His first trial for the Middlesex Academy saw him drop out early, but he returned the following summer and remembers vividly the magical moment he was offered his first professional contract with the Lord’s tenants in 2012.
“Gus (Angus Fraser) took me to a little café in Kings Langley,” he recalled. “Mum and Dad were there and when Gus said he was going to offer me a contract Dad and I started kicking each other under the table. We got really excited from then on really.”
Little surprise then, having taken the longer, humbler road this far, he’s happy to play the ‘sometimes’ frustrating game when it comes to becoming a red-ball regular for the Seaxes and, who knows, maybe England too.
“While it can be frustrating because you want to play every game and feel you are more than capable of it, when you do break in it is a real pat on the back to yourself to think who you’ve got past,” he added.
“I guess the thought has crossed everyone’s mind that if you left and went to maybe a lesser county would you play every game, but I personally haven’t questioned whether I am in the right place. The bowling coaches here are the best in the business.”