It’s over two years since Joe Denly last played for England – something the Middlesex opening batsman hopes to put right at his new county.
Signed from Kent during the close-season, the 26-year-old is relishing a new challenge at Lord’s.
“It was quite a tough year last year and I felt I needed a change of scenery and a fresh start, and I’m very happy that Middlesex came along and gave me that opportunity,” he told West London Sport.
“Obviously playing from a very young age at Kent, emotionally the move was quite tough. But for cricket purposes – the development of my game and playing for England in the future, stuff like that – it wasn’t really a tough one for me to make.”
Denly scored 67 on his international debut, helping England beat Ireland in Belfast in August 2009. But he failed to build on his promising start and was dropped after earning 14 one-day and T20 caps.
“Getting back in that England side is a goal of mine but it’s not one of my main goals at this moment,” he explained.
“Having moved clubs my main focus is on scoring runs for Middlesex and doing that on a consistent basis in all forms.
“I finished the season off pretty well last year, so had a reasonable year in the end, so I’m looking to take that confidence into this summer.
“I’ve had a good winter and hopefully scoring runs on a consistent basis will mean England recognition won’t be too far away.”
Denly’s impressive end to last season included a brilliant T20 century against India at Canterbury and a career-best 199 against Derbyshire in the County Championship. It was quite a turnaround and, Denly says, bodes well for the new season.
He admitted: “The first half of last year was quite a low point for me.
“I didn’t know where my next run was coming from but that second half of the year, to score the runs I did – especially the hundred against India and the 199 – I ended up taking a lot from that confidence-wise and I learnt a lot as well about my game.
“I feel in pretty good touch at the moment – in good spirits for the summer.”
And what of the coming summer? Middlesex are back in the top flight of the County Championship having won the second division title last year.
“We’re very realistic,” Denly insisted. “We know it’s going to be a tough year in Division One but at the same time we’re a very confident team at the moment.
“The confidence and the ability we have means we’re not going in as underdogs – we feel we can challenge every team we come up against.
“Hopefully we’re going to leave our mark on a few of the teams this year. We’re excited about the challenges coming our way.”
Middlesex begin the new LV=County Championship season away to Somerset on Thursday 5 April.