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Interviews

Stevie Eskinazi: 'I couldn't be sitting in front of the TV having done much more'

The Blast's leading run-scorer since 2020 is eyeing an overdue Hundred contract in Thursday's draft

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
21-Mar-2023
"I'm enjoying going out and trying to entertain people... playing shots that I never thought I could"  •  CA/Cricket Australia/Getty Images

"I'm enjoying going out and trying to entertain people... playing shots that I never thought I could"  •  CA/Cricket Australia/Getty Images

Stevie Eskinazi has dyed his hair peroxide blond, and no wonder. He has been ignored by the Hundred throughout its first two editions and with the 2023 draft taking place on Thursday evening, he will do just about anything to get himself noticed.
Across the last three seasons, nobody has scored as many runs in the Vitality Blast, the counties' T20 competition, as Eskinazi. He has been playing for - and last season, captaining - the second-worst team in the country, Middlesex, but has churned out runs with remarkable consistency while scoring at a strike rate of 147.
Yet in the Hundred, England's new, premier short-form tournament which is played in the height of summer, he has been unwanted. In the competition's first draft, back in 2019, that was understandable: he was relatively new to white-ball cricket, and had never managed more than 57 in a T20 innings.
In 2021, after the Hundred's first season was deferred by the pandemic, Eskinazi entered the re-draft as the second-highest run-scorer from the previous Blast season, but again went unpicked. Last year, after another strong Blast in 2021, he was overlooked again.
He seemed a safe bet for selection as a 'wildcard' or a replacement player after taking his strike rate to new heights, past 150, in the 2022 Blast, but the phone call he hoped for never came. In the 50-over Royal London Cup, which runs parallel to the Hundred, he hit 146, 182 and 135 in three consecutive innings, then watched on with incredulity as batters with a handful of professional T20 appearances won replacement deals ahead of him.
Performing with some success in Australia - he averaged 26.75 with a strike rate of 131.28 in his nine games for the Scorchers - and a pair of 50-over half-centuries for England Lions last summer have reinforced Eskinazi's belief in his own ability. "It does spur you on a little bit," he says.
"I feel like I'm in a good position to try and capitalise on being a miles-better player now than I was at the age of 25. I've definitely tried to keep up with modern trends at the top of the order; put simply, it's just go bloody hard, and don't stop going hard." At 28, he is approaching his peak as a batter, and retains hope of winning an England cap one day.
But first, he has his sights set on Thursday's draft. "I don't reckon I could be sitting in front of the TV having done too much more than I have done in the last 11 months or so," he reflects. "I'll probably have my family around - and might have a beer or two, to either celebrate or commiserate."
He believes he has improved his game against spin over the winter after working with Adam Voges in Perth, and with Mark Ramprakash during Middlesex's pre-season training, and hopes that providing a wicketkeeping option - "I'm not saying I'm Jack Russell, but I did a lot of keeping earlier in my career" - can finally secure him a deal.
Yet counterintuitively, being overlooked repeatedly might just have made Eskinazi a better cricketer. At the time of the Hundred's first draft in 2019, he averaged 30.95 in T20 cricket with a strike rate of 130.40; in the three-and-a-half years since, he has averaged 36.42 while striking at 144.25.
"There's been a bit of that 'I'll show them' mentality," he reflects. "Particularly last year, I was going out feeling a bit like me against the world: 'these guys don't think I'm good enough - I want to give them absolutely no reason not to select me next year.'
"I'm enjoying going out and trying to entertain people by pushing the boundaries of my own capabilities, playing shots that I never thought I could, and just seeing how much fun I can have giving it an absolute whack, basically."
Whether that is good enough to merit a Hundred contract will become clear on Thursday evening.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98