JOHN SIMPSON - LOOKING FORWARD TO PLAYING A KEY ROLE IN MIDDLESEX'S BLAST SIDE
John Simpson is relishing the extra responsibility of helping to steer a drastically remodelled Middlesex batting line-up through their Vitality Blast campaign.
With skipper Eoin Morgan away on international duty for most of the tournament, and Steven Finn standing in as T20 Captain, Simpson is by far the most experienced T20 batsman in a Seaxes side missing the bulk of its top order from last year’s run to the quarter-finals.
Opening pair Dawid Malan and Paul Stirling have since left the club, while AB de Villiers – one of their overseas stars from last season – will not feature this time.
Wicketkeeper Simpson, 32, said: “When Eoin isn’t playing, I might be the most senior guy in that batting group.
“It does put more responsibility on the heads of people like me, who have played a lot of T20, and more emphasis on my experience to help the younger guys around me.
“I’ve fluctuated in the order, from opening to going in five or six, but I probably played my best at three. That’s somewhere I enjoy coming in, batting against the new ball.
“I see my role as being adaptable, so if Morgs or Finny, and (coach) Stuart Law want to use me further down in a power-hitting role, I pride myself on being able to do both.”
Simpson believes the near-absence of imports from this year’s Blast should not only open doors for more homegrown batsmen to showcase their white-ball talent, but also give them greater confidence to perform.
“Previously, when the overseas batsman missed a game, it was almost like you were filling in,” the left-hander explained. “It was difficult when you had one of the great modern-day batsmen like AB or (Brendon) McCullum available to come into the team.
“But now the younger guys should get a good crack at it. That gives them some clarity around their roles, a chance to show what they can do on the big stage and it’ll be exciting to see some of the young talent Middlesex are bringing through.
“Martin Andersson’s very talented, he’s got all the shots – and it should create openings for players like Jack Davies and Dan Lincoln as well, but they’re going to have to learn and learn quickly.
“It’ll give these guys valuable experience going into the next Blast tournament and, with the Hundred next year as well, it’s an opportunity to put themselves in the shop window.”
Simpson and his team-mates launch the tournament away to defending champions Essex Eagles later today at 2pm before making their first appearance of the season at Lord’s on Saturday, when they face Kent Spitfires.
Lord’s will be the venue for every one of Middlesex’s home Blast fixtures – which normally attract a capacity crowd, but are set to take place behind closed doors due to Covid-19 restrictions.
“I guess we’ve become accustomed to the games at Lord’s being sold out and it is quite a strange experience when you can only hear your own voices out in the middle,” Simpson added.
“As a keeper or captain, when you’re trying to move a fielder and you’ve got 20,000-plus people in the stadium, you end up yelling all the time! When we had that taster game at the Oval (in late July), it was great to have the background noise.
“I think guys have got their heads around it now. The sooner we can get back to playing in front of a full house the better, but of course people’s health is the priority.”
Simpson has an added incentive for a prolific tournament with the bat – he is one of several county cricketers to have signed up for the Lord’s Taverners’ Runs & Wickets for Change fundraising programme, as is his teammate Nathan Sowter. .
The scheme allows sponsors to donate for each run Simpson scores this season, supporting the Taverners’ work to benefit young people with disabilities and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Visit https://www.goalgiving.com/campaigns/lords-taverners for more information.
Interview by Ben Kosky of the ECB Reporters Network