Cricket: Middlesex seek better batting
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Middlesex may be forced to seek batting reinforcements to revive their on-field fortunes – but there will be no wholesale cull this winter.
Director of cricket Angus Fraser has confirmed there would be no knee-jerk reactions in the wake of another dispiriting defeat to Durham at Lord's this week which ended the Seaxes' promotion hopes.
Fraser fears the horse-trading mentality seen in elite football is creeping into cricket's ranks, but concedes continued fragility within his side's top order means adding a proven run-scorer may be inevitable.
"Cricket isn't football where you just go out and sell a team and buy a team, thankfully, because I find football very depressing when all people talk about is who are you going to sign, whereas the thing is who are you going to develop," he said.
"We want to be competing for trophies, but we also want to produce cricketers from within.
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"But there comes a time when you ask, do the players need that senior figure like a Chris Rogers or an Adam Voges type for the others to play around?"
There was both sympathy and a word of warning for those members who have been bending his ear on the need for change.
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Sympathy because three years on from lifting the County Championship title, they were entitled to expect more, but a warning that, given the 2020 schedules, finding that experienced head wouldn't be easy and that it risked young talent moving on and blossoming elsewhere.
"Members measure us by red-ball cricket and understandably so," Fraser continued.
"Having been here three years ago in 2016 and seen us winning a title, to now be knocking around the middle of the second division and seeing us fall away in games as we have done, with a lot of the same players is extremely disappointing.
"But if we suddenly start bringing players in, we'll lose players. Someone like Ryan Higgins moved to another county because he wasn't getting the opportunities he wanted and Harry Podmore did the same.
"So, there's a consequence for your actions and you don't want to be constantly losing cricketers. And there are no guarantees. We were lucky with Chris Rogers and Adam Voges.
"Next summer you've got a two-month period in the middle which is going to be T20 and 100-ball related and you might want different players.
"This year the combination of De Villiers and Mujeeb worked very well, but that doesn't create a space for an overseas player that may be playing four-day cricket."
The batting malaise - four of the regular top six are averaging under 25 in red-ball cricket - reminds Fraser of his days in struggling England sides as a player.
Nevertheless, in the last two Championship games starting with their visit to champions-elect Lancashire on Monday, he says batsmen must take inspiration from team-mate Toby Roland-Jones' change of fortunes (with the ball) and not mentally run away from the fight.
"It's a confidence thing isn't it, but it's no good walking out to bat and fearing what an opponent is going to do," he added.
"I can remember when I played in England sides that were struggling and sometimes players were happy to get out to good balls because at least no-one could criticise them.
"Everybody has had miserable periods in their career where you don't know where your next wicket or run is coming from, but if you keep getting stuck in, competing and trying to get the better of the bloke at the other end, it will turn.
"It's like Toby (Roland-Jones). He didn't bowl particularly well at the start of the year, but he didn't deserve the figures that were on the piece of paper in front of him most days. Then all of a sudden he gets 19 wickets in two matches."