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WEEKLY FEATURE - ANGUS FRASER DISCUSSES NEW HEAD COACH & THE NEED FOR A SECOND HOME

10 months ago | Uncategorised

Middlesex’s new head coach will oversee evolution not revolution according to Angus Fraser.

The club’s managing director confirmed a permanent successor to Richard Scott should be appointed in the next 10 days, after hopes of an immediate return to the County Championship’s top tier were ended by last week’s defeat to Kent.

The new incumbent will have scope to bring an overseas player through the Grace Gates ready for next season.

But there will be no wholesale cull of the current playing staff, with the focus on revitalising the now misfiring core of the 2016 Championship winning side, while continuing to develop the club’s young home-grown talent.

“Top of the new head coach’s in-tray will be better performances,” said Fraser.

“Cricket is not like football where a transfer system means you can swap seven in and out if you want.

“We’ve spoken to a couple of overseas players who fit the profile, but the bulk of this team won the championship in 2016 so they are fine players.

“Nick Gubbins was with the Lions last winter; Dawid Malan has been with England; John Simpson played in the North versus South games and Stevie Eskinazi would probably have been with the Lions by now if he were English qualified.

“Some players have had a bad year but are still highly regarded, so you show faith, work with them and hope they come through it.

“When I was appointed in 2009 the club was where it was. We got promoted, were the second best side in the country behind Yorkshire and then won the title.

“We’ve fallen away a bit so perhaps we’re starting another cycle and if so that’s about developing our own cricketers.”

It was that desire to develop burgeoning talent which led to Middlesex’s decision not to chase a marquee signing last winter.

Two academy products, Ryan Higgins and Harry Podmore had left for pastures new in search of regular cricket and Fraser feared more would follow unless they were given opportunities.

Despite his batting unit in particular coming up short, Fraser remains unrepentant, reasoning sometimes you just can’t have your cake and eat it too.

“I don’t regret not bringing in a senior batsman over the winter,” he said.

“Having been relegated and lost a couple of young cricketers because we couldn’t guarantee them the game time they wanted, we didn’t want that to become a trend.

“If you don’t give people like Max Holden opportunities they end up going the same way.”

Playing staff aside, one of the big challenges facing Fraser and his team going forward is owning their own ground.

While Middlesex will always want to maintain their love affair with Lord’s, as tenants they, unlike rival counties, have little control over the wickets prepared.

In an era of the uncontested toss, that’s meant they’ve found themselves inserted five times out of six this year on bowler-friendly surfaces which have realised the third-lowest tally of batting.

There are alternative venues within the county and beyond such as Uxbridge, Merchant Taylors School and Radlett.

These will be utilised fully over the next two years, given Lord’s will be in demand for the 2019 World Cup and the new franchise competition the following season.

However, at all these Middlesex are effectively guests with little or no more idea of conditions than their opponents.

“Our long-term vision is to get a ‘home away from home’ that we own, so we are not going cap in hand to beg, steal and borrow from grounds around the county,” said Fraser.

“We are lucky we have grounds where the clubs do what they can for us, but we’re at the behest of their generosity.

“We are always going to want to play at Lord’s, but we need a home away from there where you can turn up and know exactly what conditions to expect and what you are doing.”

Back in the here and now Middlesex’s last home match of the campaign against Derbyshire begins on Tuesday.

Despite it being a ‘dead rubber’ Fraser expects leading wicket-takers James Harris and Tim Murtagh to return as the hosts resist excessive experimentation in a bid to secure fourth spot.

“We have used 22 players this season which is the most for a while, so players have been getting opportunities,” he added.

“We’ll be picking the best side to win the game.”

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