Steven Finn and Toby Roland-Jones coy over England recalls

Updated: 18/08/2022


It is lightly hailing at Lord’s, so naturally the start of another County Championship season is just around the corner, with Middlesex’s players gathered for their annual press day.

Despite the weather and a largely disappointing 2018 campaign in all three formats, the arrival of a high-profile new head coach in Stuart Law and the potential shown by a squad with a good mix of highly-promising youngsters and experienced stalwarts means there is a palpable sense of optimism in the air.

With England internationals Steven Finn and Toby Roland-Jones both back to full fitness, Middlesex’s bowling attack arguably has a strength in depth that few counties can match, and with the carrot of selection for this summer’s Ashes dangling it is one that few would fancy facing in early season conditions.

After an injury-plagued career and just four County Championship games last season, Finn is not getting carried away by talk of an international recall just yet – even if former England and Middlesex fast bowler Mike Selvey has been talking up the “considerable pace and menace” he showed in a pre-season outing last week.

Not getting ahead of himself

“There’s no speed gun at Merchant Taylors School unfortunately!” says Finn. “But bowling feels good at the moment and most importantly my knee feels 100 per cent after knee surgery and it has done for a few months.

“I think if I was to look too far that would be foolish and getting ahead of myself as I barely played cricket last summer, let alone international cricket.

“But of course I still have passion to play for England and I still desperately want to pull on the England shirt again, because you do feel like you have some unfinished business with them, with international cricket.”

Finn turns 30 on Thursday, practically a veteran in comparison to some of his younger teammates, although with age has come a more philosophical outlook on things and the injuries that have particularly blighted his last couple of years.

“There’s obviously a lot of importance in performing well, but it’s not life or death. As you get older and you experience more things I think your outlook becomes more calm, and that helps you to deal with success and failure far better.”

Fitness struggles

Both Finn and Roland-Jones have been heavily affected by injury (Getty Images)
Both Finn and Roland-Jones have had seriously bad luck with injuries (Getty Images)

In a similar boat is Toby Roland-Jones, who saw years of hard work in county cricket rewarded with an England call up in 2017 – bursting onto the international scene and taking 17 wickets in four Tests – before injuries ruled him out of almost all cricket until now.

Such a devastating succession of injuries – that saw him miss an Ashes trip down under and home series against Pakistan and India as well as the entire domestic season – just as his international career appeared to be taking off might have broken the spirit of some, but Roland–Jones believes he “was mentally pretty well built up to cope with the side of not being able to play” and it shows in his phlegmatic response to his long layoff.

A long time on the sidelines has also given him a sense of perspective and the realisation that it was years of remaining largely free from serious injury that helped propel him into the international arena.

“If that [the injuries] happens at the age of 22 then I might not be here chatting now. So, there are many different ways of looking at that situation and trying to look forward and look to the feeling that I had last week and hopefully that I have coming up over the next few weeks when I am able to play cricket again. It should be pretty amazing.”

Considering his almost zen attitude towards his injury problems, Roland-Jones is unsurprisingly fairly coy about his hopes of an international recall.

“I’ve got ambitions to try and represent England again, of course I do, but I think reality states that you have to, in my situation, be a bit more in the present than that right now. I think again it’s something that you have to be a little bit cautious about overreaching for.”

While Finn and Roland-Jones are for now remaining tight-lipped about any potential return to international cricket, they might well be grateful that the first Test of the summer is not until August, giving them ample time to take enough wickets to do the talking for them.

This post first appeared here

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