Alt text here


over 3 years ago | Interviews

“Gus [Fraser] gave me a call to give me the heads up. Then I received a call from Mo Bobat [ECB performance director] explaining that I’m part of this group that they’re selecting the squads from and I’d be getting back to training sooner than I thought, which was nice.”

It was a welcome couple of phone calls for Tom Helm after a lengthy period of inactivity. The news Bobat was relaying to him was of his inclusion in England’s 55-man training group ahead of the international summer, meaning he could be in store for a debut in the next couple of months. Nevertheless, such are the strange circumstances of the period, it didn’t exactly feel like an international call-up.

“It could be seen that way, but it doesn’t really feel that way to me,” he said. “It’s just nice to be getting back training. I’m hoping that I do get through to the next stage, but there’s a lot of guys in contention. But even if nothing comes of it and I can get back to training and get back to bowling, either way it’s nice.

“It was a great phone call to have, purely on the sense that you’re being told that you get to stop sitting around at home and you can get out there and do something.”

Like the rest of Middlesex’s first-teamers, Helm was on furlough prior to his ascension into England ranks. Now, the build-up begins after a lengthy lay-off, with the seamer specifically part of England’s white-ball plans ahead of a possible ODI series with Ireland later this summer. Helm had his first bowling session last Monday, crossing the river to The Oval where the likes of Jos Buttler, Ben Foakes and the Curran brothers have all been building up their workloads too. Nevertheless, his first couple of sessions just involved him bowling into a net.

“I’ve just tried to get back through the motions and make sure my body’s in the right place, my feet are in the technical positions they need to be in. I’ve been lucky that because it’s not that far away, Alan Coleman, our bowling coach, has been coming to The Oval with me and been able to be there for questions I want to ask. There’s not been a whole heap of technical stuff done so far, it’s just been getting back into the rhythm of things.”

Part of getting back into rhythm also involves hitting the gym – an experience which is rather unusual in these peculiar times.

“I did my first proper gym session today,” Helm said last Friday. “I think Radlett went through a deep clean this morning and the club had to jump through a load of rings to get it up and running, but it was just me and our S&C [strength and conditioning coach] in the gym with all this space to ourselves, and it’s difficult at times because you have to wipe everything down, and I was wearing gloves. It’s different, but it’s perfectly doable and it’s something I’m happy to put up with if it means I can get back in the gym and start getting fit again.”

Welcome to the new normal. With no-one to bowl to yet, Helm hasn’t begun experimenting with new ways to shine the ball (the ICC has temporarily banned the use of saliva), but he’s fully aware that when the game does return things will feel very odd.

“It will be different and I’ve heard a few things of how umpires might not take your stuff when you come onto bowl. You might have to run to the boundary to pop your stuff on the floor. It certainly will be different when we go back to it but they’re all changes people will willingly accept and just get on with.”

There’s certainly happiness on Helm’s part to be back in action. “It’s nice to get out and do something meaningful rather than go on what feels like an aimless stroll, which is how it’s felt for the last six weeks or so.”

Nevertheless, Helm has kept busy, and he shares insight to what the rest of the Middlesex squad have been up to too.

“It’s been strange. We’re a lot luckier than a lot of people. Middlesex have been great. Because of furlough there are optional calls three or four days a week where we do yoga, pilates, a gym session at home with the equipment we’ve got, which varies from person to person. A lot of the boys will be playing a lot of PlayStation as you can imagine, and there’s a bit of voluntary work here and there. I’ve been down to North Paddington Foodbank a couple of times this week just to help out when I can.”

As for the current uncertainty over when the county game will return, Helm isn’t trying to think too far ahead.

“It's hard to follow. You hear so many rumours – ‘It’s going to be this day, we’re going to play this and this, it’s going to start this day or it’s been postponed to this day’ – I’m keeping an open mind. Whatever cricket we play this year will be a bonus after what’s gone on. I’m just taking it as it comes. We’ll have plenty of time to prepare when we get told. I’m not really worried about the start date. I’m just hoping nothing bad happens between now and then.

There are certainly a couple of teammates who Helm reckons will be itching to get back in the thick of it.

“Max Holden will be struggling. He absolutely loves it. He would have scored endless amounts of hundreds in the lounge shadow batting, I’m sure. [Tim] Murtagh would be a left-field one; he might give off the impression that he’s getting old and he’s not that fussed anymore but I think he loves it as much as anyone.”

Share this post