With Englands top-order wobbles proving a taxing conundrum, Middlesex batsman Stevie Eskinazi is targeting the role of international troubleshooter by scoring an avalanche of runs this season.
Eskinazi is a product of three nations having been born in Johannesburg to an English mother and Zimbabwe-born father, while he played for Western Australia age-group sides after his family moved from England to Perth.
Despite considering his accent “strange”, the right-hander has lived in England for 15 of his 24 years and has designs on churning out the necessarily volume of runs to weigh heavily on the minds of selectors.
Eskinazi scored 793 runs last season at an average of 34.48 (Source: Getty)
Eskinazi, who introduced himself to the domestic scene with back-to-back centuries in 2016, is currently six years into a seven-year residential qualification period, meaning opportunity could potentially knock in the not too distant future.
“For top-order batsmen at the moment, its a very exciting time,” Eskinazi told City A.M.
“I think there are going to be opportunities for good young players to put their hand up and youve just got to make sure that when they [selectors] look down that list of run scorers and consistent performers that you are there.
“My aims and ambitions at the very top level are to play for England. I have short-term goals – performing consistently for Middlesex – but like any young player my ambition is to play international cricket.
“There is no bigger shop window than Lords and an England selector [Angus Fraser] is our director of cricket. Consistent performances here, I think, will stand you in unbelievable stead.
Middlesex are hoping Lord's will be staging Division Two cricket for just the one season (Source: Getty)
“In the current climate, there is an opportunity for players to stick their hand up and Im extremely excited about potentially putting my name up there with good consistent performances.”
For international honours to beckon, Eskinazi, who describes himself as a “no-frills player”, needs to be at the forefront of Middlesexs bid to return to Division One of the County Championship at the first time of asking.
Eskinazi scored 793 runs last season at an average of 34.48 as Middlesex were relegated 12 months after being crowned domestic champions for the first time since 1993. Upping his own and his sides output is the stated priority.
“Every player is hungry and every player likes to set themselves personal goals. Batting in the top order in England, they have to be realistic goals and have to match up with your processes,” added Eskinaki.
“For me, its about trying to get the side off to a good start as many times as possible. As a batting group, we scored a lot less runs last year than the season before.
“The batting unit – captain Dawid Malan, Sam Robson, Nick Gubbins and myself – have come together and said: We can be the force, be the guys who stamp authority on a match and go out there and get some really big first-innings leads.”
England batsman Dawid Malan has been named Middlesex captain for the 2018 season (Source: Getty)
Middlesexs relegation in September was shrouded in anger and recrimination after the England and Wales Cricket Board dismissed their appeal over a two-point penalty deduction, which ultimately cost them their top-flight place.
The sanction was imposed for a slow over rate during their a draw with Surrey at The Oval – a match which ended prematurely for safety reasons when a crossbow bolt was fired onto the square from outside the ground.
“There is no room for any sense of injustice,” said Eskinazi.
“What happened last year is always going to be a motivator for us and getting out of the second division and back to the top flight where we believe we belong is extremely motivating. Nobody is feeling sorry for themselves at this time.
“Weve chatted a lot in the post-mortem of last year and funnily enough we didnt play a completely polar opposite season to the year before. We were only two points off fourth place so I guess that tells a story within a story.
“But we have a no-excuse culture and we know that we didnt play the sort of cricket wed like to. We were 10 or 15 per cent off being where we think we should be.”
Middlesexs quest for redemption begins with a showdown with Northamptonshire at Lords on Friday, and the whole club is exuding the message that anything other than promotion this term is borderline unthinkable.
Eskinazi added: “We dont see ourselves as a Division Two club. We pride ourselves on being one of the biggest and best performing counties in the country. There is real excitement at doing ourselves justice.”