Cricket: Middlesex youngster Holden inspired by Root
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Max Holden is taking inspiration from England Test skipper Joe Root as he continues his apprenticeship in white-ball cricket.
The Middlesex left-hander initially afforded the one-day game little more than a cursory glance, his classical style more suited to the longer format.
However, England’s 50-over success, the explosion in the 20-over game and now talk of The Hundred and franchise cricket has prompted a rethink for fear of being side-lined for half of every English summer.
Small of stature and lacking the power-hitting prowess of county colleagues such as Paul Stirling and England one-day skipper Eoin Morgan, Holden is aware of his need for reinvention.
And he believes the way Root, himself not a power-hitter, has made a success of the white ball game can give him a blueprint.
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“When I was younger I was known as a bit of a blocker really and red-ball cricket was probably more suited to my game,” he said.
“But a couple of years ago I made a decision. The direction white-ball cricket was going, the way I was playing I wasn’t going to be successful at it.
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“The last thing I want is to be pushed to the margins of the season, so I want to play as much as I can. You don’t want to be sitting around for three weeks waiting for the next red-ball game.
“I don’t want to be pigeon-holed as a red-ball only cricketer, but rather someone who can be relied on by the team in all formats.
“Someone like Joe Root gives me clues about a way of playing in white-ball. I guess in the 50-over game he is the one the rest of the team bat around really.
“He plays very few dot-balls, is brilliant at rotating the strike and when the ball is in his area he has still got a lot of boundary options as well.
“It gives you confidence that guys like him who are not the biggest hitters around have still found a place to be really successful in T20 and one-day cricket.”
The early signs for the 20-year-old have been encouraging with three 50s notched up in just eight list-A and T20 fixtures.
His 84 from 65 balls in the Vitality Blast against Somerset last week saw him looking increasingly at home amid the frenetic world of the powerplay.
“I think opening in the powerplay suits my game,” he added.
“There’s only two men out, so plenty of gaps in the outfield and you only have to clear the 30-metre circle of guys in the ring to get your boundaries.
“You still have to pick the right balls and the areas you want to score, then it’s about using the pace of the ball where you can and hitting the pockets of space.”
Aside from the technical challenge, embracing the white-ball game has demanded a mental and emotional shift.
Holden freely admits the risks involved in scoring quickly and the razzmatazz surrounding T20 bring with them a fear he can’t allow himself to be engulfed by.
“When you go into T20 with big crowds and a lot of distractions it is easy to go within yourself and play in an almost timid sort of way,” he added. “Instead, you have to think it is a great opportunity – enjoy it.
“If you go out there with any fear you waste that opportunity thinking about getting out or things like that.
“You see the way the England team play. They come across like they have no fear so they go out and express themselves. Some days that will work, some it won’t, but either way they stick to the way they want to go about things.”
Despite Holden’s promise, Middlesex resume their T20 campaign against Hampshire at Lord’s on Thursday hoping to end a run of four successive defeats.
They will at least be buoyed by this week’s 18-run County Championship win over Division Two leaders Warwickshire.