Middlesex’s new vice-captain Sam Robson says there is no danger of over-confidence when the team launch their quest for an immediate return to top-flight cricket.
The Lord’s side, relegated by just a single point in 2017, begin the new Specsavers County Championship season as the bookies’ favourites to win Division Two.
That status may be partly down to the widely-held perception of a sizeable gulf in class between the two divisions – but the 28-year-old opening batsman is unconvinced.
“Maybe there’s a bit of a gap but I’m not a complete believer that it’s as big as people make out,” said Robson, who will lead the team in their opening fixture against Northamptonshire at Lord’s on Friday week following confirmation that the ECB want the club’s new four-day captain Dawid Malan to take a couple of weeks’ break.
“I’ve got a lot of mates playing in Division Two and sometimes I think it (the gap) gets talked up too much. You look around and there are some top-class overseas signings in the division.
“Look at last year, when Essex came up and won Division One with almost a month to spare – that wouldn’t have happened if the gap was all that big.
“That’s one of the things we’re drilling into everyone – it’s really tough work and we’re not going to be feeling complacent.
“A lot of guys here have things to prove personally and there’s a hunger to bring all that together and hopefully prove last year was a blip.”
Robson, who has amassed over 8,000 first-class runs since his county debut in 2009, seems likely to play a regular leading role this summer.
With Malan now established in the England set-up, the right-hander – who played seven Tests himself back in 2014 – should have ample opportunity to prove his captaincy credentials.
In that regard, Robson cites former opening partner Chris Rogers, who captained Middlesex for the best part of three years and recently joined the coaching staff at Division Two rivals Gloucestershire, as his chief role model.
“Although he was an overseas player, ‘Bucky’ really was a mainstay of the team – he was passionate about his captaincy and led from the front,” added Robson.
“As a fellow opening batsman, the roles are similar. I still speak to Chris and to Adam Voges as well, so they’re guys I’ll lean on for advice.
“Dawid will be doing the job most of the time, it’s his team and my job is to give him advice and help him out when he’s here.
“He’s likely to miss a few games but when he’s not here he’ll only be a phone call away. I’m looking forward to standing in, seeing what it’s all about and I think I can do a good job.”
Middlesex will also start the season without Eoin Morgan, who had been made available by England but suffered a broken thumb during net practice last week. But they have moved quickly to sign Aussie batsman Hilton Cartwright who could make his debut in the three-day pre-season match against Durham MCCU which is due to start at Merchant Taylors on Saturday, weather permitting.
Nick Gubbins is also making good progress in his recovery from the hamstring injury he suffered in the North-South Series, with hopes that he will be fit to step up his bid for an England call-up by the end of April.