After a 2015 campaign which saw Essex left-hander Nick Browne catch the attention of many with their eye on the county game, he’s starting to be talked of in terms of an England place. Henry Cowen spoke to the 25-year-old opener about how he’s worked on his game and where he goes next.
Last season was something of a breakthrough year for you – passing 1,000 runs and scoring five centuries, how enjoyable was it?
It was obviously really nice to score that amount of runs. I believe I could’ve scored a few more runs, though, and I missed out on a couple of tons. I could’ve scored bigger hundreds, as well. I scored five hundreds but my highest score was only 150 and that’s one of my goals this year, to score bigger hundreds. That was my only disappointment but it was a great year and I loved scoring runs for Essex.
You’ve been something of a late developer in county cricket, did you think you were going to be so successful last year?
Yeah, I knew I was going to score runs last year. I obviously got a few runs the season before and I took that confidence into last season.
Would you put that success down to something technical, or was it more of a mental thing?
I think a little bit of both – a little bit technical and a lot about belief. If you have done it once, it gives you the confidence to go out there and do it again and again and again. Belief was a big thing and also a bit of game-playing. It was important to get that experience, to work myself out and to find out what kind of player I was.
Which I suppose you need to find out whenever you move up a level?
Yes. How are the bowlers looking to get me out? How am I looking to score runs? How am I going to bat for a long time? Those were the kind of things I was looking to work out and I feel have now worked out.
So it’s about assessing your strengths and weaknesses, and breaking it down to work out how you can succeed?
I try and simplify the game as much as possible. You talk to Alastair Cook and he has two or three shots – and he plays them very well – but he will tell you the same. I’m a big believer in strengths and super-strengths. Make your strength a ‘super-strength’ and play to it as much as possible.
For those people who have never seen you play before, how would you describe your style?
I would say I’m a pretty watchful opener at the start. When I’m in I like to play off my legs and also hit big drives down the ground.
Is patience a big part of your game?
That is my strength and I’m going to stick to it for the rest of my career.
In terms of Essex, there’s been some change over the winter, presumably there is a mood of real optimism?
It’s brilliant, we’re really excited. I’m really confident that we will do will this year – in all forms – but particularly in four-day cricket, which for me is the pinnacle. We need to get out of the wilderness, we’ve been in Division Two for too long. We need to be playing Division One cricket and playing well, and we’ve got the squad to do it now. It’s a very relaxed dressing room at the minute which is good. Chris Silverwood coming into the dressing room has been brilliant for us, and it’s the same with Ravi and Tendo (Ryan Ten Doeschate) taking over. I think it’s good we have got that split, and with two relaxed characters and very methodical thinkers I think it will be very good for us.
Obviously Alastair Cook isn’t at Essex all of the time, but what’s it like to have one of the world’s best openers to talk to?
He’s the best influence you could have. First of all, he is a lovely bloke, and second of all, he does everything right. He will be in the gym early in the morning, he will hit loads of balls before the day and he’s a great influence around the dressing room. In my eyes he is the number one cricketing influence – for me and any other cricketer out there. It’s especially useful for me, as a left-handed opener, to watch him bat and how he goes about it.
Does he talk to you about your game as well as his own?
I think you have got to seek your own advice. Not too many people are going to come up to you and say, ‘You’re not doing this right.’ You’ve got to seek it out, and as a squad we’re pretty good at that. We speak to the senior guys who know their game a bit more and Cookie is very good at that.
You’re a young English player scoring runs, it must be hard not to look ahead and start dreaming of a Test cap?
You’re always going to dream, you dream of it your whole life. There is no point worrying about it too much, though. It is a dream at the moment and hopefully one day it’s going to come to fruition. All I’ve got to do is look to score as many runs as I can. I can’t look too far ahead. It’s lovely seeing your name mentioned but all I can do is score runs. Have a good first month and then hopefully have a good year.
The opener’s spot has not been sewn up for England. It has been Cook and one other for a while now. I suppose that helps.
As an opener looking to play for England it does help. Nobody has sewn the spot down yet so you’re always going to look at that – it’s natural – but my job is to score runs for Essex. I’m looking to score 1,000 runs for Essex and help us get promoted. I can’t do any more than that.
If it did happen, I imagine it would make you feel more at home to walk into the England dressing room and have your county opening partner as the skipper?
Yes, it would be a much easier place to walk into! It’s Test cricket, it’s a tough old world.