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over 5 years ago|Player

Stevie Eskinazi admits he felt nervous when Middlesex first thrust the wicketkeeper’s role upon him – but he is open to the idea of retaining the gloves long-term.

Eskinazi kept wicket regularly during his teenage years in Australia and for Middlesex’s second XI, but he had never performed the role in first-class cricket prior to their recent County Championship games against Sussex and Gloucestershire.

With first-choice keeper John Simpson struggling for form and understudy Robbie White relatively inexperienced, the Seaxes turned to Eskinazi in an effort to balance the line-up and secure wins that would keep their slim promotion hopes alive.

“Mala (captain Dawid Malan) tapped me up just after our game at Northampton, said they were looking at options going forward and would I be comfortable with doing it?” Eskinazi recalled.

“Keeping’s something I’d enjoyed doing in the past, so if that was what the team needed I was happy to help. At this stage of the season, it really is ‘team first’.

“I was apprehensive about taking the gloves initially, as anyone would be having not done it for a couple of years – not necessarily for myself, but I didn’t want to let the team down at a critical moment.

“If you just took a random slip fielder and gave him the gloves I don’t think it’d be that easy, but I kept in grade cricket in Perth for five years and three or four in the second team at Middlesex. It’s not a skill you forget.

“It’s extremely difficult and I take my hat off to guys who do it consistently for long periods of time, but I told myself to watch the ball as hard as possible without worrying about the technical stuff and so far, so good.

“That gave me a bit of confidence – I did start to enjoy it again and, if this ends up being a long-term thing I guess we’ll sit down and talk about it.”

In the modern era, any wicketkeeper – specialist or otherwise – is also expected to contribute runs to the side and Eskinazi has continued to do that in the two games since he donned the gloves.

The 24-year-old scored his fourth half-century of the campaign in Middlesex’s victory against Sussex, following that up with knocks of 45 and an unbeaten 20 to help salvage a draw at Bristol last week.

Realistically, the latter result has probably put paid to the Seaxes’ chances of a top-two finish – they go into this week’s clash with second-placed Kent at Lord’s trailing their opponents by 43 points.

And the fact that Eskinazi is the only Middlesex batsman to pass 500 Championship runs so far this season highlights one of the obvious reasons for that situation.

“My primary role in the team is still to try and get big runs,” added Eskinazi. “We’ve got guys in the dressing room who have made hundreds and double hundreds and been very consistent over the last few years.

“Our ambition is as high as ever, but sometimes you have to readjust your targets. If you’re winning low-scoring games, making contributions of 50 or 60-odd can be very valuable.”

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