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2017 Ashes - Stevie Eskinazi Interview
By Cadence Media
Cadence Ambassador Stevie was brought up on the bouncy wickets of Western Australia, starting his professional career representing them in age group cricket before moving as an 18 year old to ply his trade in the UK, so is very aware of the challenges about to be faced by both competing sides. His Middlesex team mate Dawid Malan has had his position under scrutiny on the number 5 slot, although a recent hundred in the final warm up game has done much to allay these fears.
Please note that this interview was recorded on 3rd November both before Steven Finn had to return home after injury, and indeed Malan’s 100 in the final warm up game.
Stevie raising his bat at the 100 mark on his way to a career best 179 against Warwickshire in July this year.
Cadence (CW): So obviously the Ashes are coming up very soon, that’s a big focus in the world of cricket, so how do you reckon the Middlesex guys are going to get on?
Stevie Eskinazi (SE): Yeah it’s going to be really interesting actually, my dad is having dinner with Dawid and Finny today and we were chatting with them before they left about what we all thought. It’s interesting circumstances for both those guys as they have been a bit on the fringe for a little while and Finny coming in after unfortunate events of Ben Stokes, they both have massive points to prove. There is still a question mark over the number 5 spot that Dawid did have, though I think he had a good solid start to his England career. I think guys in those positions can often be most hungry to prove a point; they know they have a test match or two to show what they can really do. I wouldn’t write them off, those two guys, whilst they aren’t big household names in the series themselves I think they could be surprise packages.
CW: Yeah definitely, do you think Australian pitches will suit Malan?
SE: Yeah, I would say so. Dawid grew up in South Africa where the pitches are very similar; he is an unbelievable back foot player. He showed in the 20:20 he played against South Africa that he is not shy to take on the short ball and he is a really confident player; one of the classier, elegant players and I back him to get one of the classier 100s of the tour, I think the pitches will really suit him. His game has come a long way and he has been consistent performer in county cricket for a while now so if there is ever a time for him to set his mark in successful cricket and ashes series this is it, pitches like the Gabba and pitches like the Waca will suit him and then this is his time to do it.
CW: What about Finny, you have obviously spent a lot of time facing the nets. He of course has amazing potential and really announced himself on an ashes tour before with a load of wickets but was quite expensive, do you think he is at a crossroads of his career?
SE: It is a funny one, I was lucky enough to sit in the slips this year when he bowled some spells and thinking this is world class, and not just to get into the England side but as good as anyone can bowl in the world. His attributes, his height, his pace, he gets it right and he shapes the ball from a right hander he genuinely is as good as anyone in the world. So I really hope he can let go of his inhabitations and not see it as a crossroads, but see it as an opportunity as he wasn’t supposed to go initially. Someone like that has absolutely nothing to lose. He can go out and bowl as quick as he can and he is going to have the backing of a lot of the guys considering he is quite an experienced international player, playing over 100 matches for England. I think if he can get it right on those pitches with his height and his pace, it could be really tricky as he has shown on many many occasions in international cricket.
CW: Do you think it is confidence with him as a bowler more than anything?
SE: Yeah massively, he is only human and sometimes you look at these players your Joe Roots, David Warner’s, Steve Smith’s and you think that they are not affected. Getting to know Finny recently, he is only human and he has massive pride in his performance and like anyone, when it’s not quite going right, maybe you overwork to try and get it right. When he is good and he is in a good mental head space, which he really seemed like he was back in the last year he’s world class. Everything clicked for him towards the back end of the season. He got 8 for 60 odd against Lancashire and I was lucky enough to be behind the stumps watching it. I have never seen someone with that confidence and rhythm. So, I think if he can start the tour well it’s going to be a really key part for him. If he starts and gains the confidence I think he can do, I don’t want to say a similar to what Mitchell Johnson, but he does have the attributes to make a massive impact.
CW: As a fan, you can see that he has that potential. Changing discipline, do you see number 5 a straight shootout between Malan & Ballance?
SE: It’s a composition issue, they have picked James Vince and dropped Tom Westley which makes me think they are going to give him the first few tests at least.
I can’t see them giving Dawid 3 & Gary 5 then leaving Vince out, it doesn’t really make much sense, so I think initially they’ll play a few tour games and have 4 tour date matches. Actually a few of my good friends that I grew up with in Perth are playing against a few of my now team mates, which is going to be an interesting one! I always find these an interesting one because these guys have played hundreds of first class matches, they have shown a reason why they are there, so I think from a selection point of view that they will have an idea of what they are looking for to fill that gap and whether someone gets 50 and someone gets 70 in the first tour game, I don’t think it will necessarily make a difference. Obviously if there is marked difference and Gary comes out in the tour games and scores two hundred or vice versa then the hand might be forced. However, I think they will have a fair idea of who they want to start with. I think Dawid will come out at 5 and James Vince being selected to bat at 3. I think that’s probably the way they will line up this year.
CW: Ok and what about your season, obviously it’s been a tough season for Middlesex; what a difference from last year! Thrilling ends for both seasons but such disparate outcomes. Where do you think the differences were in this season to the last?
SE: Massively contrasting, after 7 games last year I was a county champion and now after 17/25 games I’m in the 2nd division! It’s a really interesting one. It’s an 8 team competition and two teams go down so realistically you don’t have to play poorly to go down. We understand and take responsibility and accountability for how the season went but we were one point away from staying up and we were 4 points away from 3rd place and that’s the difference between 249 or 250 (points) in 4 separate games, it’s really small margins. But to be honest with you, and I was having a chat with the guys about this, we play an outcome driven game and sometimes if you really want to be honest with yourself you need to face the reality of this outcome, so for me while being relegated, its super disappointing for everyone involved then it’s a chance for us to be really honest with ourselves. Last year we won the competition and played some excellent cricket and we weren’t that far ahead of the rest of the competition and similar we weren’t that far beyond but it’s a great chance for us to take stock, and start afresh. While it’s really disappointing it’s also really exciting for the new crop of young players coming through.
CW: Did you see Essex as being challengers for the title at the beginning of the season?
SE: Division 1 is so strong, I didn’t expect them to run away with it. We played them second game of the year at Lords and we ran all over them. We were probably 20mins away from them winning the game, with them 8 down. We were 380 runs ahead. So if you had asked me after the 2nd game then it looked as though the norm was going to be us dominating and Essex to be lower down. But what they did was play some really strong fighting cricket early in the season and they managed not to lose. I was speaking to Tom Westley and they said there were the first 5 games when we didn’t win, just like us for last year, it sets up the season. If you can hover around the first 3rd or 4th for the first 6-7 games where draws are inevitable, you only probably need to win 5 or 6 in the last 8 games and you’re away. They have an unbelievable side, Nick Brown, Tom Wesley, Jamie Porter, Simon Harmer 2 guys took 160 wickets between them nearly which is absolutely incredible. You are going to win a competition if you have 2 of the best bowlers and 2 of the best batters.
CW: What do you think of Silverwood as Essex coach moving into bowling coach for England? What was his impact, what did the guys say about him?
SE: Interesting one as they say, he was obviously the understudy for Paul Grayson and I guess when you have that relationship anyway there is that trust there. I think he recruited really well. Simon Harmer prime example. Jamie Porter someone he obviously mentored with 150 wickets. From a credential point of view he is the perfect man for the job. He has taken someone or a group of fast bowlers from reasonable obscurity to the best bowling unit in the country. If he can take what he has done for Essex and apply it to some of the world’s best bowlers then I think it’s a great recipe for success.
CW: You know we work with CALM a mental health charity, it’s a massively prevalent thing in young men, which of course is what sportsmen tend to be. You guys come under more scrutiny as young men than the normal guy on the street. How do you see that in sport, is it something that you think about?
SE: Yes I guess it’s becoming increasingly more important and we are becoming increasingly more aware of it through a variety of different initiatives.
The senior players talk about the education they got as young players and that it’s nothing like what we receive today. Initially this is brought to our attention as an issue so we can try and find out the triggers and what may or may not help us if/when we come across this. We have an incredible amount of help from the professional Cricket Association, team psychologists and there are a number of avenues that we can take to make sure that we are on top of it. But I do think it is a shame of how long it has taken for sports to grasp how big of an issue and I think that the fact that we are having our attention brought to it can only be a positive. As young players, we are open and honest about the way we are feeling, we are urged to seek help, we are urged to really open up emotionally because as I have said, we were on top of the world this time last year and then in division two which is going to have an impact, especially on young ambitious players who have been bestowed the opportunity to play and fulfil our ambitions so it’s not always going to go our way. You see the senior players, your Jonathan Trott’s, you see a lot of these guys that suffer from not only career threatening but life threatening debilitating thoughts and I guess we are really lucky that we have that education now.
CW: Fantastic points, do you see Cricket as a batsman yourself, do you see your role as more pressure on you, more than in any other sport as it’s so focussed on your own individual performance vs 11 of the opposition?
SE: Absolutely, the key for me as a young batter is that the responsibility that comes with all the positives that I can do in the games in front of 28k people and at Lords on your own with the bat is the most rewarding feelings in the world. But similarly if the batting group crumble that’s my responsibility, and that directly translate to getting relegated-the lows can be some of the worst times in your career. So, it is extremely hard question and one chance only profession often as a batsman, but I guess that’s what makes the highs so high and if you can keep it in perspective that’s the key for me. One bad innings doesn’t make a bad game, one bad game doesn’t make a bad season and similar a bad season doesn’t make you a bad bloke. Everything you are doing outside of the game keeps you in that perspective towards your batting.
CW: I think that’s a fantastic approach to have! Final question, what are your predictions for the Ashes?
SE: Evenly matched sides I think, home conditions are a major factor and so I’ll go for Australia 2-1 with 2 draws.
CW: Nice fence sitting. Man of the series?
SE: Steven Smith
CW: Bowler of the series?
SE: Interesting, Mitchell Starc
CW: That’s awesome, thanks so much.