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“Enjoyable. Hot. Sweaty.”

Those were the three words that Middlesex seamer Tom Helm used when asked to describe his winter that saw him travel to all parts, offering his services for franchise and country.

Indeed. Helm, 28, received his first England call-up when the national side made an historic trip to Pakistan in September. Matthew Mott’s side became the first England team to visit Pakistani shores since 2005.

Recalling the moment, Helm said: “It was just after the Hundred had finished so we had gone out and celebrated our performance in the competition.

“I was checking out of our hotel at the time when I got a phone call from Matthew Mott. I told the lads and then luckily, I wasn’t far from home so I was able to go back and tell the missus that I would be going away for a few weeks. It was an exciting day.”

Although the Aylesbury paceman didn’t feature in any of the seven T20 matches, he remained positive and feels better about his game having been a part of the ground-breaking tour.

“It was nice working with David Sakar, who I had never worked with before but had heard good things about.

“How I trained and the times of training were very different. Being around the best players in the country, you pick up the odd thing here and there which I found really interesting.”

As Pakistan return from exile and start to welcome the world onto home soil, there are strict and unique security measures, meaning that visiting sides are very well looked after.

The tour seemed to be mundane: hotel – training – hotel – match – repeat…

“Unique is a good way of putting it. It was eye-opening,” say Helm.

“The security was very different. Being in an armoured convoy to and from the ground, with helicopters and all the measures that they had in place. You appreciated what effort had been put in just to allow us to play.

“The crowd was unbelievable – I’ve never experienced anything as noisy in my life. On the bench, I’d be sitting having a chat with the guy next to me and it wasn’t a normal volume of conversation; we’d be shouting.

“The hotels were great. You can tell that the place is rich in culture and a lovely place to be, but unfortunately we didn’t get to see that.”

From Pakistan, it was straight to the next assignment for Helm – the Abu Dhabi T10 – where he was given the opportunity to turn out for Deccan Gladiators, who went on to win the competition, defeating New York Strikers by 37 runs in the final.

Playing alongside Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Jason Roy and Will Smeed, Helm was one of four Englishmen in the setup and he contributed to the Gladiators’ success, taking five wickets in as many matches with best figures of 2/11.

With T10 being the shortest recognised format of the game, Helm admits that you’ve got to be switched on all the time due to its fast-paced and frenetic nature…

“Most balls are trying to get whacked and there’s no rest,” explains Helm. “In T20, if you’re going well and you bowl two or three good balls sometimes the next few get played with an element of respect, but every single ball in the T10 was trying to go for six.

“That’s quite daunting, but with that, every ball goes up in the air so there’s a chance to take a lot of wickets and have fun.”

The Franchise circuit can be gruelling for those players who jaunt from one tournament to the next, month after month, year after year…

For Helm, this was an exciting opportunity as he had the chance to continue making a name for himself and place himself in the shop window.

He wasn’t initially drafted to play in the Abu Dhabi T10, but came in as a replacement and grabbed the opportunity with both hands. Having not played any cricket since the end of the Hundred, he could have been feeling a little rusty. Helm, however admitted that it wasn’t the case.

“I suppose I hadn’t played for a while,” says Helm. “But with the amount of training I had done – I probably bowled more in Pakistan than if I had played.

“I had some time in the indoor school and I knew I was going, so I had a bit of a heads up. It’s one of those where you kind of go for it and hope it works out!”

From T10 to T20 and it was time for Helm to move on. Staying in the United Arab Emirates, it was the inaugural ILT20 competition, where he turned out for Gulf Giants, who won the competition.

Despite his stellar performances for Deccan Gladiators, Helm’s services were not required on the pitch and as a result did not feature during the entirety of the tournament.

As such, it’s hard to take many positives away from the experience, but Helm being the professional that he is, was able to do so.

“This was my first big franchise tournament away from home,” says Helm. “I was disappointed that I didn’t play as things are always more fun when you’re not wearing a bib.

“We had Andy Flower as our Head Coach, who I had dealt with in the past on England Lions trips. His approach to training is as good and as intense as it gets for guys that aren’t playing. It could be quite easy for you to be cast aside if you’re not in the main 11 or 12 on the day.”

There is no doubt that Helm had some exciting experiences during the winter. However, the England call-up and what then followed probably wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t performed so well in the Hundred.

Helm is the joint-fifth highest wicket-taker in the competition’s history and 2022 was a breakthrough year as he finished joint-top of the wicket-taking charts – finishing alongside Paul Walter and Jordan Thompson with 14.

While some might not agree with him, Helm is grateful for the Hundred and recognises its importance in player development and elevating the profile of top domestic players – making the powers that be at ECB towers and further afield stop and take note.

“Being in the right place at the right time and performing the way I did – being the flavour of the month – makes a massive difference and it’s the competition that everyone wants to play in.

“Rightly or wrongly, and whether or not the perception of players I think is that the 50-over competition is still a very good standard, but if you were to be the leading wicket-taker in the Hundred or the One-Day Cup I think the performances in the Hundred would be viewed more favourably.

“The money is a bonus, but it’s also about playing on TV in front of people and if you are to perform well and people see it then there’s a chance that you might get picked up somewhere else or be at the front of the minds of national selectors.”

Birmingham Phoenix have retained Helm for third edition of the Hundred in 2023 and he says that he’s excited to return to Edgbaston in August.

“I’ve had a really enjoyable couple of years at Birmingham. Daniel Vettori was obviously our Coach here and I have a good relationship with him.

“I played last year and did well. Our core team looks fairly similar and it’s a great competition to be a part of – the crowds are good, the standard is good and you’re under a different pressure which is where some people can do their best work.”

But before all that, Helm has a job to for Middlesex and he has set his stall out on what he would deem to be a successful summer in 2023.

“The volume of cricket I played last summer is more than I would have played in years gone by.

“I would love to turn around and say that I’ll take 100 wickets, but for me it’s about playing as much as I can and putting a run of games together.

“Obviously, I’d love to play for England – that’s everyone’s dream. But for that to happen, I’ve got to be putting in performances week-in, week-out.

“I want to focus on playing a number of games and contribute to some success here.”

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