Middlesex’s Max Holden is brushing up on his culinary skills in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
The left-hander should have been strapping on his pads over Easter weekend for the County Championship curtain-raiser with Worcestershire.
But the global pandemic finds Holden swapping his bat for a frying pan and donning a chef’s apron as he feeds team-mates Robbie White, Tom Lace and Jack Davies during lockdown at the county’s club-owned house they share in Edgware.
“I like to see myself as head chef of the house,” said Holden.
“I’ve done a lot of cooking seeing as I’ve got plenty of time on my hands. I prepare the dinners and stuff which is a role I have really enjoyed.
“I do a very good chilli and we’ve had a curry. I have to mix it up a bit or the lads would complain if it was all too similar, but I think my chilli is my banker.
“And it was Jack’s birthday about a week ago. I baked a cake for the first time which thankfully didn’t poison anyone, so that was a positive.”
Kitchen duties have proved a welcome distraction, with the ECB having ruled out any prospect of cricket before May 28 at the earliest.
Holden has more reason than most to lament the game’s absence, having been eager to put behind him a tough 2019 campaign – his first blip in what had to that point been an ever-blossoming career.
The former England Under-19s captain enjoyed a successful loan spell at Northants in 2017 and followed that with a maiden first-class hundred for the Seaxes in a 2018 campaign culminating in a Lions’ tour.
However, a big 50-over hundred against Kent was the one highlight of a dark season last time around as his red-ball form deserted him.
A long winter in the indoor school has seen him work on technical and mental aspects of his game, but he must now wait to produce the fruit of lessons learnt.
“I’ve never been under as much pressure or felt as low,” he admitted candidly.
“Those times when you’re struggling are when you learn about your character and I was quite pleased I never lost faith even though it didn’t go to plan at all.
“I had quite a good intent at the crease in my white-ball game but went into my shell a little bit in red-ball cricket.
“Even though it is a longer format, you still need that intent and positivity in your body language and in terms of looking to score, rather than just looking to survive.
“If you show that intent your footwork is better, and you get into better positions to defend as well.”
While the wait goes on, with no peers in the kitchen, Holden has had to look elsewhere to feed the competitive edge inherent in every sportsman.
That’s where Strava has proved a godsend. The whole Middlesex squad were issued with the social fitness network app in search of the fastest 5km runner on the staff.
Seamer Ethan Bamber is the current front-runner as the players use their one government-approved outdoor exercise session per day to take up the challenge.
Never one to settle for second best, Holden is diligently chipping away at the leader.
“Ethan is very, very fit,” added Holden. “You can tell when he bowls he doesn’t really get tired and can just keep going and going. He is the guy to beat, so we are pushing hard to keep up with him.
“I have got around 30 seconds to get down to his time. I think he is around 17:50 and I did 18:20 the other day, so still a bit to catch him, but not far off.”