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over 4 years ago | Interviews

Stevie Eskinazi is convinced new Middlesex skipper Peter Handscomb will slot seamlessly into the dressing-room – although his arrival at Lord’s could still be months away.

Australia batsman Handscomb signed a two-year deal to lead the county following Dawid Malan’s move to Yorkshire, but he is yet to meet most of his new team-mates after being stranded at home by the coronavirus pandemic.

However, Eskinazi, who turned out for Sydney CC alongside fellow Seaxes Nick Gubbins and Nathan Sowter during the winter, did have an opportunity to sit down with Handscomb and was enthused by his first impression of the incoming captain.

“Because a few of us were out in Australia, with the way the Sheffield Shield and Big Bash worked out, we did find a way to get a coffee or a drink with Peter,” said Eskinazi.

“I think the guys are excited to see what he’s like around the group. He was asking a lot of questions and you could see straight away he’s someone that’s going to fit in at Middlesex.

“He’s a good hard-working player. Everyone knows he’s a world-class batsman, but he’s salt of the earth as well and clearly enjoys the social aspect of the game.

“We’re looking forward to having that kind of role model in our dressing-room. There’s been a change in direction from the top and I feel we’ve got the right people leading us.”

Eskinazi – who is now back in Australia, having returned to his parents’ Melbourne home to quarantine – might have been an alternative candidate for the Middlesex captaincy, but for his barren run of form last season.

The 26-year-old performed well when standing in for the injured Malan in a handful of 50-over and County Championship fixtures, but a modest batting average of under 20 cost him his place in the red-ball side towards the end of the summer.

“We have a massive point to prove and we were all looking forward to getting back, no-one more than myself,” Eskinazi admitted.

“I didn’t finish last season as I hoped. I was disappointed and hurt by the way it went and that was something that drove me all through the winter.

“I’m among a group of guys that can’t be considered young any more. We don’t have the leniency that goes with that label and we have to stand up and perform.”

Despite being on the other side of the world from the majority of his team-mates, Eskinazi has found it easier than expected to maintain the ‘group’ ethos, with the squad organising regular training sessions via Zoom.

In addition to strength and conditioning programmes the squad also use the videoconferencing platform to keep in contact on a social basis.

“There’s more space at my mum and dad’s house and it made sense to go back,” added Eskinazi.

“Some other players based outside the city did the same, like Nick Gubbins and Martin Andersson – I just had to get on a 24-hour flight to do it.

“I was sceptical at first about how it would work in terms of motivation, not being around your team-mates and coaches, but it’s gone as well as we could have hoped.

“That camaraderie is something you don’t really have during the winter, so you look forward to having people around you.

“But we’ve got to be pragmatic and think of people who haven’t had it as easy as us. If we keep ticking along, we will get an opportunity at some stage to go out there and do what we love.”

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