Middlesex batsman aims to enjoy winning feeling again this season
- Credit: Archant
Nick Gubbins is itching to recover the winning habit with Middlesex after missing out on their second-place finish in the County Championship last season.
The talented left-hander featured in Middlesex’s first five Championship fixtures and then hit a rich vein of form in white-ball cricket before injury ruled him out of the last seven weeks of the campaign.
The Lord’s county clinched the runners-up spot behind Yorkshire – their best performance in two decades – and Gubbins is keen to be involved in another challenge for the title during the coming months.
Middlesex launch their 2016 campaign at home to Warwickshire a week on Sunday, and the 22-year-old is expected to open the batting with Sam Robson.
“The County Championship looks very strong this year and you’ve just got to look at our first game against Warwickshire to see that,” said Gubbins.
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“They’ll have people like Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell and Chris Woakes playing and we’ve also got a team of internationals so it’s great for me to be playing in big games with such quality players.
“Looking at our potential squad this year, we’re going to be very strong contenders and hopefully up there at the end of the season. Obviously you want to be part of a winning team.
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“I came into the side the year before last, when I played four or five games, and we didn’t win any of them, so it was quite special for me when I actually got to sing the team song after a four-day game.
“The Durham game at Lord’s, when Jimmy Harris got a nine-for and we finished it off at lunchtime, was particularly memorable – as were the subsequent celebrations.”
Gubbins proved his versatility last summer, representing Middlesex in all forms of the game and excelling during their Royal London One-Day Cup campaign.
Within the space of a week, he struck his maiden century for the club – a match-winning 141 against Sussex at Hove – and hit half-centuries against both Kent and Essex.
But Gubbins then suffered a stress fracture to the foot in Middlesex’s next County Championship fixture at the start of August, which sidelined him for the rest of the season and also wrecked his plans to play in Australia over the winter.
“It was a bit of a shame but these things happen in sport and you can’t think about it too much,” added Gubbins. “I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself.
“Last year was a good year so it’s just about carrying on and doing my best – each innings is a new innings and it’s really important not to think I have to better what I did last year.
“At the start of the season I’m looking to open up but I think being an opener gives you the possibility of batting anywhere and I’m happy to fit in wherever Middlesex want me to bat.”
Despite their consistent County Championship performances in recent years, Middlesex have struggled to replicate that success in the shorter forms of the game.
But there is fresh optimism around Lord’s of an upturn in fortunes in both 50-over and 20-over cricket this summer – at least partly generated by the arrival of former New Zealand star Brendon McCullum.
“A lot’s been said about our white-ball cricket but you look at the players we’ve already got, add the likes of McCullum and [Mitchell] McClenaghan to that, and you think something’s got to happen for us this year,” said Gubbins.
“I can’t wait for Brendon McCullum to come and I want to learn as much as I can off him while he’s here.
“From what I’ve heard he’s very open and I’m sure he’ll be happy to help us youngsters. I’ve grown up watching him and he’s one of my heroes, so I can’t wait to work with him.”
Gubbins, along with the rest of the Middlesex squad, took part in a team-building day last week at Radlett CC, which will stage their first Royal London Cup fixture against Hampshire in June.
Led by a team of workers from Bounds Green-based Sunshine Garden Centre, the Middlesex players constructed a new entrance to the Radlett ground, as well as digging and planting a hedge and flower beds and borders.
Sunshine horticulturalist Peter Stritter said: “The idea is that this will be a long-term partnership with Middlesex. We jumped at the chance to help them redo Radlett.
“It’s the sort of community project we like to get involved with and there was a lot of hard work put in – especially by Angus Fraser, who was one of my three favourite Middlesex players when I was growing up!”