This article was originally published on All Out Cricket on November 2nd, 2015.
We spoke to Tom Abell, Somerset’s 21-year-old opening batsman who recently won the 2015 LV= Breakthrough Player Award, about his impressive LV= County Championship season, opening up with his hero and following in the footsteps of Joe Root.
How did it feel to win the 2015 LV= Breakthrough Player Award?
I’m absolutely delighted. It’s come as a bit of a shock, really. Obviously I was one of the later candidates [Abell was one of two ‘wildcards’ added to the original six-man shortlist in August after a string of impressive performances] and given the seasons that a few of the other lads that were up for the award have had, it’s a huge pleasure and honour for me to win.
You’re in good company, with Joe Root, Rory Burns and Alex Lees winning the award in previous seasons. Is following in the footsteps of Root and playing for England the dream for you?
Absolutely, he’s doing incredibly well for himself and to be mentioned in the same vein as those players for winning the award is a great feeling for me. I’ve obviously got a long way to go to replicate the success that he’s had but I’m just looking forward to what lies ahead.
How would you describe yourself as a batsman?
I’d say my strength is my temperament. I think my game has some limitations compared to some of the players that I play against on the county circuit, so my role is to try and bat for long periods of time and start to play a few more shots once I’m in and establish myself. I try and pride myself on my defence as well.
Who were your cricketing heroes when you were growing up?
Tres [Marcus Trescothick] is someone I’d say I look up to and aspire to emulate. I watched a lot of him batting for Somerset and England when I was growing up. He’s a lefty so I can’t really model my game on his but he is definitely someone I can pick up little things from and try and learn from his experience.
You were prolific at junior level and named Young Wisden Schools Cricketer of the Year in 2012 after piling up the runs for Taunton School. How have you found the step-up, first to second XI cricket and now playing for the first team?
I found it a real challenge, to be honest. It took quite a while to find my feet in second-team cricket. Obviously there’s a lot more pace around than there is in school cricket, so that’s something I had to get used to. It probably took two or three years for me to find my feet, but over that time you start to build up an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses, and it’s just about trying to take those on the higher up you get.
You came into the side at the back end of last year and batted in the middle order but moved up to open this season. Is opening your favoured position?
I don’t have too much of a preference – I’m happy to bat wherever fits best in the side – but I’ve always been an opener, that’s what I’m used to, and I’m thoroughly enjoying the opportunities I’m getting at the top of the order at the moment.
You’ve scored more than 700 LV= Championship runs this year and averaged nearly 40. Are you pleased with how the season’s gone?
Yeah, I’m pretty happy with how it’s gone. It’s been a tough season for us here at Somerset but I’ve been happy that I’ve been able to get a few decent scores. I strive to be more consistent, to try and put good scores on the board more often, and that’s my aim going forward.
What have been your highlights of the season?
My first win in a Somerset shirt against Notts is probably up there and then from a personal perspective reaching my first hundred was very special. To be out there with Tres when he got his hundred, and for him to be out there when I reached mine, that was a pretty awesome moment [Abell and Trescothick shared an opening stand of 272 against Hampshire in September].
Who are some of the trickiest bowlers you’ve faced on the county circuit?
I’ve been pretty lucky to have the opportunity to face a lot of high quality bowlers this year. It’s been a real challenge but one that I’ve hugely enjoyed. Facing Vernon Philander on a fairly green pitch up at Nottingham was something that I hadn’t experienced before, and Fidel Edwards, Ryan McLaren, and Ben Hilfenhaus, too.
What are your plans for the winter?
I’m heading off to Perth, spending five months playing for Fremantle CC, which will be a new experience for me and I’m looking forward to getting out there. I’ve never had a winter away before, I’ve been at university the last three years, so it’s a great opportunity.