England’s hectic schedule is beginning to produce some unexpected squad announcements. Henry Cowen spoke to Toby Roland-Jones, the surprise inclusion in the 12-man squad for the first Test against Pakistan.
Congratulations Toby. The big question, given that we’ve learned today that Gary Ballance was doing his shopping when he was called, is what were you up to when James Whitaker called?
I was in the shower actually! I didn’t pick up and I had a voicemail on my phone from James Whitaker. On the voicemail he said that he had some good news for me so after composing myself for a little bit I gave him a call back and it was very nice to be on the receiving end of the news that I was in the squad.
At that stage, I suppose you must have been worried that the good news could still have been a number of things!
Yeah! When I heard him say he had good news, I thought: ‘Surely not…’. And then I had to remind myself not to get carried away and tried to put it to the back of my mind before I called him back. Fortunately it was news about being in the squad, he wished me all the best and it was great to hear.
You’ve been on the fringes of England selection for a while, had you remained confident the call-up would come?
I guess in a way yes, in that I’ve never really focused too much on the international side of things. I hadn’t paid too much attention to it, or thought that it had come and gone. It wasn’t something that was particularly in the forefront on my mind. You’ve got to focus on your county and everything that’s going on there. To me, it doesn’t seem right to pull focus anywhere else. It [hoping to play for England] is not something that I’ve channelled outwardly. I’ve always had ambitions but it’s something I’ve managed to keep inside. When those ambitions are realised, it’s a pretty nice feeling – it feels like the hard work has been rewarded.
And it must be nice that your call-up comes when you’re in particularly good form for your county?
It is nice to be in good form at any stage, and I do feel a bit like my bowling peaked in Scarborough. I felt like I found something really close to my best there, which was nice. To gets news like today off the back of good form makes it even more special.
And you got some good players out at Scarborough. Does it help to know you’ve very recently dismissed players like Kane Williamson?
I guess so, but I think that – at the age of 28 – you build up a bank of memories of how you’ve bowled. It’s not so much confidence, it’s an underlying knowledge that you’ve been here long enough to belong. You can use that at times when it’s perhaps not going your way, you have reserves of trust and faith in your skill rather than relying too much on what’s going on that day. It’s the one benefit of being slightly older. I certainly have a far greater understanding of my game than I did when I was a younger bowler and that’s certainly a nice place to be.
And you’ll be at Lord’s. Should you get picked, will it be nice to play at your home ground?
It’s certainly nice to have familiar surroundings, and outside of Middlesex there’s the history that the ground represents. To be included in any squad there is pretty special. One of the things that’s most exciting is just to embrace the set-up. Whatever happens it’s a good learning experience and one that I plan to take full advantage of.
You must have dreamed of this from since you first played cricket. How does it actually feel to be here now?
I guess now it’s one of those strange things where I’m trying not to think about it! Like you said, the question of selection is still pending so I’m not thinking too much at all down that route. It’s just about getting to be part of the squad that’s there, looking to really tap into the guys and it’s another chance to try and improve as a player. I’ll be trying to push any thoughts about the magnitude of being there to one side, and instead to really focus on the process, how I put my game across and how I react to the ideas the coaches and the set-up have for me. It will be exciting, for sure.
You’ve scored a lot of runs recently, how are you going to get yourself up the order at Test level?
Batting is a topic of hot debate in the Middlesex dressing room! It’s funny, we’re bowlers by trade but all we talk about is our batting and compare who’s done what. I’ve batted at No.10 for Middlesex for a number of years and where I find myself in the order for England, if it happens, is not something I’ll be worrying too much about. I’d bat anywhere to make my Test debut!