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Middlesex coach Stuart Law expects his senior players to stand up and be counted when the season begins – having confirmed new captain Peter Handscomb will not be among them.

The 29-year-old Australian batsman was appointed Seaxes skipper following Dawid Malan’s departure to Yorkshire at the end of last season, but is unable to join his new team-mates due to lockdown in Melbourne.

Middlesex are yet to decide who will stand in for Handscomb – although Stevie Eskinazi, who deputised for Malan last summer, is a likely candidate – but, regardless of the captain’s identity, Law wants all his established players to take responsibility.

“Other than Pete, we haven’t signed anyone else and we won’t have an overseas player,” said Law. “The opportunity’s there for people to stick their hands up and show they can play this game.

“We’ve got some exciting players coming through, but it’s time for those senior guys to really stand up, grab the bull by the horns and show a bit of intestinal fortitude to get the job done.

“If there was an extended four-day season – maybe nine or 10 games – we’d definitely have got Pete over here. But he lives in the centre of Melbourne, so he’s unable to travel.

“He’s been very understanding and we’ve got a few other options in the dressing-room. We used Eskinazi last season when the captain was away and the team had good energy and vigour when they took to the field.

“So he’s probably one of the front-runners, but you don’t make decisions like that on a wing and a prayer – the captain’s got to understand the direction we want the team to go in.”

Middlesex, who finished eighth in the second tier of the County Championship last season – their worst placing for a decade – did improve significantly in white-ball cricket during Law’s first year in charge, reaching the quarter-finals of both limited-overs competitions.

England’s World Cup-winning captain Eoin Morgan originally agreed to lead the side in the Vitality Blast this summer – which, according to the coach, may yet be possible when dates for the rescheduled competition are confirmed.

However, as in the case of Handscomb, it looks unlikely that overseas signings Mujeeb Ur-Rahman and Mitchell Marsh will be able to play a part in Middlesex’s T20 campaign.

“It’s a tough one – while we do want those players here, we’re thinking about rolling them on to next season,” Law revealed. “Luckily, the players we had signed have been very open and honest and understand the situation.

“It’d be unfair on the players who have taken pay cuts to help the club through the financial problem if we then splashed out on an overseas player, flew them over in business class and put them up in a hotel. That wouldn’t look very good.”

Before T20 cricket gets under way, Middlesex will take part in the Bob Willis Trophy, a red-ball tournament which brings them up against several of the leading sides from last season’s Championship.

With the competition set to be staged on a regional basis for logistical reasons, Law’s side are likely to take on champions Essex as well as the third and fourth-placed teams – Hampshire and Kent – and the 2018 title winners, Surrey.

“People might be looking to see how we perform against Division One teams, but I believe our squad is strong enough to compete against any team,” added Law. “I see this as a wonderful opportunity.

“I’m a big believer that the best form of cricket to teach you most about an individual is the long format. It’s great that we’ll get some of that under our belts.

“As long as we show we’re competing and enjoying the contest, that’d be the most pleasing aspect of this truncated season.”

Article written by Ben Kosky.

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