Leading man Middlebrook finds release decision hard to take

James Middlebrook
James Middlebrook

Departing Northamptonshire all-rounder James Middlebrook admits the decision to let him go has not been an easy one to accept.

The County announced last week the 37-year-old, whose contract is expiring, would not be offered a new deal for next season.

Northants CC v Durham, County Groung, Wantage Road, Northampton.'James Middlebrook. NNL-140415-165008005

Northants CC v Durham, County Groung, Wantage Road, Northampton.'James Middlebrook. NNL-140415-165008005

With the emphasis being put on a younger looking squad for 2015, the experienced Middlebrook was deemed surplus to requirements by the cricket board at Wantage Road.

This despite the fact, after a dreadful season for the club in the LV= County Championship Division One, he is the leading run scorer and third highest wicket taker.

That, says Middlebrook, is what makes it a difficult pill to swallow.

“If I’d had a bad season and not performed then I could perhaps have understood,” the man who arrived at Northamptonshire from Essex in 2010 explained.

Northamptonshire v Lancashire day four of County Championship at County Ground Northamptonshire''James Middlebrook NNL-140430-135500002

Northamptonshire v Lancashire day four of County Championship at County Ground Northamptonshire''James Middlebrook NNL-140430-135500002

“But I’ve had one of my best seasons with bat and ball.

“I thought I might be alright and was told that I should be okay.

“Now I’ve been told it is a money issue and they have decided to go down the youth policy route.

“The fact I’ve been playing well meant it was more of a shock really.

“It’s all been a bit last minute which makes it quite hard to take.

“But that’s sport at the end of the day.

“As a professional sportsman you have to accept someone will decide you’re not needed at some stage.”

With another decent season behind him, though, Middlebrook hopes another county will be willing to give him a chance to extend his career.

“I’ve never been a stats person,” he continued. “I’ve always played for the team and got on with my job.

“But now the PCA (Professional Cricketers Association) do a most-valuable player list and I see my name in the top 20 in the country for the Championship.

“It makes you think ‘hang on – I am good enough to keep going’.

“I’ve batted in just about every position in this side, have done my bowling and captained the side when called on.

“For those reasons I think there is life left in me.

“I look at Glen Chapple, who is 40, at Lancashire and he was one of the best bowlers I faced this season.

“I really don’t think it is about age – you play someone if they are good enough.

“Ask any young cricketer and of course they want to being playing.

“But they will also tell you it is good to have one or two senior players there to give a bit of advice and help them through the tough times.

“David Ripley didn’t want to let me go and I would have liked to be around to help these youngsters come through.

“There needs to be a balance between youth and experience in my opinion.”

While Middlebrook is keen to keep going he accepts his exit from Northamptonshire might mean his playing career has come to an end.

If that is in the case he insists he leaves the club with no bitterness.

He added: “The club let me circulate my details early and I’ve had a few nibbles but nothing certain.

“It would be nice to keep playing and I certainly feel I’ve got another couple of years left in me.

“I hope so anyway.

“But if nothing comes up then I just have to take the next step.

“I have always thought I will go down the umpiring route and it might mean I have do that a little sooner than I wanted.

“I’ve had 21 years of professional cricket.

“I was 16 when I joined the Yorkshire academy and, when I signed that contract, I never thought about having a 21-year career ahead of me.

“Hopefully there will be more to come but, if it happens, it happens.”