Stephen Eskinazi has been charged with improving Middlesex’s fortunes, having been named as the county’s new captain on Tuesday.
But whatever upturn in fortunes the South African-born batsman manages to engineer at Lords, it will be no more remarkable than his own personal transformation at the county.
Speaking exclusively to the County Collective, Eskinazi reveals that his career at Middlesex hung by a thread at one point, with the club advising him that it might be best for his future if he sought gainful employment elsewhere.
Looking back, he believes it could well have been the kick up the backside he needed, not just to break into the Middlesex first team but now to join a list that includes some of the most successful captains in English cricket history.
“The ups and downs of my career are the ups and down of many county cricketers’ careers,” he tells The CC. “When I look back on it, it’s incredible. In 2015, before I made my first class debut, I actually got called into Angus Fraser’s office and they rated me as a D in my appraisal and said I would be better off at a smaller county.
“They said they thought I might be good enough to play but unfortunately the squad they had was too strong from a batting point of view.
“They said they didn’t want to halt my development and said they didn’t think they could offer me a place in the side.
“I then got a hundred the next day in the Second XI final, which we had only made by default against a strong Notts team. I made my debut in the Championship the day after, got 30 in the second innings and got a contract two days later.
“I should have been out the door in 2015, then we won the Championship in 2016. It was an absolute rollercoaster of emotions. If you had asked me if I would be captain at any stage from the day I landed here in 2013 to 2015 and then 2017, when we were struggling, then I would have said you were dreaming.
“It’s something I’m unbelievably proud of.”
He should be too. Since that debut in 2015, Eskinazi has racked up 2,874 runs at an average of 33. In T20 cricket, he has scored his runs at a strike rate of 131 in a side that has regularly struggled in the shortest format.
Now he has the opportunity to breathe fresh life in Middlesex’s fortunes across the board.
Little wonder that he’s excited. And if needs any advice in the meantime, he can always turn to a man who is widely regarded as one of the finest captains of the modern era, World Cup winner Eoin Morgan.
“At a big club like Middlesex, we’re one of the biggest domestic teams in the world, and we’re lucky that we attract big characters, guys with a lot of experience. Guys like Morgy, Adam Voges, AB (de Villiers) coming along last year, at the time you see these guys as team-mates, but in the winter, when you sit back and reflect, you realise just how much of an impact it does have on you.
“The ability to have a beer with these guys at the end of the game in a relaxed setting. If you’re like a sponge, then you can soak up some much information. I remember when I first started playing T20 cricket I would just watch how he would carry himself on the field.
“Obviously the respect we all have for him and the respect everyone in the country has for him, he has just worked out a method that works for any group that he plays with. It’s a mixture of being able to relate to these guys as friends and also, as a young guy, keep your head down, and either daydream your way through a day or critical analyse what’s going on.”
It’s clear that the 26-year-old has been doing just that and has now been rewarded with one of the plum jobs in English cricket.
All he needs to do now, it put into practice everything he has learnt from the great names he has played alongside. Starting with a much-anticipated friendly against Surrey at the Oval this weekend.
In temperatures that will far exceed the usual early season ones he has become accustomed to.
“I remember last year, in our first game at Northants, it was six degrees and I dropped a slip catch – I don’t think I felt my hand for about three weeks,” he laughs.
“It will be the most watched friendly in terms of a crowd, it will be most watched friendly in terms of the online stuff too. To be honest with you, I think people would watch fly racing at the moment, given the chance.
“Honestly, I said this to Gus and Stu, it’s slightly different circumstances and not probably how I dreamed or envisaged it but it’s still an absolute dream come true. This place has become my home and like a family for me over the past eight years coming fresh from Perth.
“What we’ve been able to achieve as a county, particularly in 2016, and the calibre of cricketers that have come through and the calibre of cricketers that have captained this side, I’m still pinching myself.
“I’m not sure I can count myself in the same ilk as Mike Brearley and Mike Gatting but it’s still an incredible honour.”
And although he’s still in the very lucky position of having both a UK and an Australian passport, he is unequivocal over where he now considers home.
“It’s a really interesting one because my parents still live in Australia and a lot of my good friends still live in Perth,” he says. “My girlfriend at the moment still lives in Sydney too, so I’ve spent a fair amount of time there as well.
“But where do I feel most comfortable and where do I spend the most time? It has to be London. All my best mates are the Middlesex boys and I love coming back here. Spending time in a city like this and in weather like this – there’s no place I would rather be. I would definitely say the UK was my home now.”
He has some big shoes to fill.
But you get the feeling that he won’t be fazed by the prospect of trying to bring the glory days back to Lords.