Toby Roland-Jones says Middlesex are targeting T20 improvement
By Peter Smith. Last Updated: 09/04/13 1:09pm
Roland-Jones: Aiming to recapture last summer's form
Hot prospect Toby Roland-Jones reckons Middlesex's innovative approach to pre-season training could give them the edge over their rivals this summer.
While cold temperatures, combined with rain and snow, have made conditions difficult for county sides preparing for the new season, Middlesex have been gaining valuable net time under a special marquee at their training base in Radlett.
The team have been able to get plenty of practice under their belts ahead of their campaign opener against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge on Wednesday thanks to their weather-proof structure and Roland-Jones believes it is a method which will soon be adopted by all the counties.
"It's been pretty tricky with the cold this year but we've done well to get the amount of cricket we've got in," he said.
"The marquee we've had has let us do more than a lot of other teams and proved to be a success.
"It's worked really well and given us an opportunity to net when it's not been the best conditions outside. We were even playing when it was snowing. That's really important and I think it's definitely something which will pave the way for other cricket teams across the country.
"The weather is always unpredictable but you want to be fully prepared for the season ahead. The marquee has allowed us to do that and the guys feel ready. Now hopefully things are starting to warm up and we might have a bit of sunshine!"
"At this stage it's a case of trying to remember things I did well last year and the reasons why I took wickets and repeat that and contribute to the team again this season."
Highly rated seamer Roland-Jones has been tipped by Sky Sports expert Dominic Cork as one to watch in 2013 and after an impressive campaign last year, where he took 61 wickets at 19.13 in the four-day game, Roland-Jones spent the off season in sunnier climes with the England Performance Programme and Lions squad touring India and Australia.
The 25-year-old enjoyed his spell away with some of the country's best rising stars - despite mixed results - and says the trips will stand him in good stead in the future.
"It was a great experience and good to experience different conditions," he said.
"Australia was pretty tough in terms of results [the Lions lost the five-match one day series 4-0] but I feel I learnt a lot. It was good to test myself on different surfaces and come up against players with different styles.
"It was great to be part of that set-up as well, although it wasn't something I envisioned myself doing a couple of years ago. It's exciting to be involved and a situation you want to make the most out of."
However, despite playing alongside full internationals such as Craig Kieswetter and James Taylor, Roland-Jones insists his focus is on helping Middlesex achieve their domestic goals, rather than force his way into the England fold this summer.
Roland-Jones in 2012
First Class Matches: 15
Strike rate: 37.9
Best innings: 6/66
Best match: 10/118
"Of course everyone has their aspirations and wants to reach the top of the game but for me it's a case of focussing on the present and not looking too far ahead," he said.
"It's great to hear people saying nice things about you but I can enjoy that once the season has gone. At this stage it's a case of trying to remember things I did well last year and the reasons why I took wickets and repeat that and contribute to the team again this season.
"There's still a lot of cricket to play and a lot to prove before I can start thinking about England."
Middlesex surprised many pundits with a third-place finish in their first season back in Division One of the County Championship last season and Roland-Jones says they are keen to emulate that performance this summer.
However, he revealed the team are also targeting success in the limited over formats, with a particular emphasis on the shortest form of the game.
"We'll look to be more competitive across all forms and maintain the four-day cricket we've been playing but, in particular, we want to improve in the T20s," he said.
"Over the last few years they've been pretty disappointing for us so it would be nice to rectify that and put a challenge together in our group. That will definitely be a focus, while in Pro 40 we've not been too far off and perhaps fallen at the last hurdle recently.
"People were surprised by our County Championship form last season but a lot of people were too quick to write us off; some even thought we'd struggle to avoid relegation.
"But we had strong aspirations to have a good season and it's nice to be on the other side now and have people saying we're going to be competitive."
Sky Sports will show each county at least three times, with 60 live fixtures from the Yorkshire Bank 40, LV=County Championship and Friends Life t20.
In addition, our cameras will be at Essex when they host the England team for their Ashes warm-up match. Click here for more details.