Middlesex batsman Gubbins feeling in good nick as new Law era looms for Lord's
PUBLISHED: 10:00 26 March 2019
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A winter of tinkering means Nick Gubbins can't wait to spearhead the quest for runs in a new era at Middlesex.
Gubbins propelled himself to the brink of England selection in the Seaxes’ championship-winning season of 2016, only to suffer a horror year 12 months later as Middlesex were relegated.
And signs of revival last term were stunted by a succession of LBW dismissals – seven times in 12 innings – late in the campaign.
Undeterred, with the help of new head coach Stuart Law, the left-hander believes he’s located the source of his struggles.
“Stuart is a legend of county cricket, so when he comes up and talks to me about my batting it’s ears open really,” said Gubbins.
“It all stems back to head position and your shoulders needing to be in a neutral place, not too open, not too closed.
“If you get that part right everything else falls into place. I may have had times last year when my shoulders were a bit too open which meant the bat was coming down at a funny angle.
“The fact is come the start of the season, whatever is gone is gone and everyone’s figures start from nought, so no matter whether you had a good or a bad season the year before it all starts again.
“That’s the excitement of it, especially with this new chapter here at Middlesex.”
Aside from his own tweaks, the 25-year-old is hopeful the 2019 schedule allows a more sporting contest between bat and ball.
The previous two campaigns have seen Championship cricket largely top and tail the season, handing the initiative to the seamers. And last year, even when it made an appearance in the heart of the summer, the use of the pink ball swayed the odds even more against those with willow in hand.
Middlesex in particular felt the full force of the pink ball, being rolled over for 56 in their first innings against Kent, losing 7-12 under the lights.
Mercifully, the pink-ball day/night cricket experiment has been shelved for now, and with red-ball cricket scheduled alongside the World Cup in mid-summer, Gubbins is hopeful he and his fellow batsmen can flourish.
“I was fortunate enough to be away on Lions’ duty when we had the wrath of the pink ball down at Canterbury,” he said.
“It made Grant Stewart look like a 90mph Jimmy Anderson. He’s obviously a good bowler, but from what I hear those conditions were a bit of a farce for a game of professional cricket.
“In 2016 every wicket for the seamers seemed to be hard earned, similar to Test cricket, whereas last year was a bit more like club cricket where if you land a ball on or around a length it is likely to do something.
“You would hope the four-day schedule this year would help the batsmen a bit. There is a new groundsman in place at Lord’s, so hopefully he prepares some good cricket pitches. We back ourselves as a side to win games on good cricket pitches by just being better than the other side for four days, rather than in matches where both sides skittle each other out over two.”
Gubbins is also excited by something of a revolution in fielding practices being headed up by new assistant-coach Nic Pothas.
Law identified fielding as an area for improvement and recruited Pothas last month as an expert in the art.
And even Gubbins, arguably Middlesex’s most accomplished outfielder, has been challenged by the former wicketkeeper’s innovative approach.
“Nic provides an abundance of energy which I think is the first thing you need as a fielding unit,” he added.
“He’s very inventive, keen on agility, and massive on co-ordination. We work with different colour balls, heavier balls, lighter balls and lots of volume catching.
“Not necessarily just whacking balls at us, but throwing them and depending on the colour of it you have to catch it with a particular hand.
“Hopefully we see the fruit in the summer of the hard work we’re putting in right now.”