(Photo: Getty Images)
By Luke Baker
RYAN Higgins is learning on the job at Gloucestershire after his ‘leap of faith’ but for a red-ball rookie, he looks right at home.
All-rounder Higgins made the switch from Middlesex to the West Country over the winter and, including a warm-up game against Cardiff MCCU, has played four first-class games in the past month – the same number he appeared in during the entirety of his time at Lord’s.
Knocks of 41 and 63 during the second County Championship game of the season against Glamorgan demonstrated the sort of improvement he was hoping for in his red-ball batting when deciding to head Bristol.
Combine that with a pair of five-fers in the month of April – against Kent and Sussex – and the 23-year-old appears to the manor born now that he’s getting regular game-time.
Some questioned his decision to move from a side that won the County Championship just two years ago to a club that haven’t even finished in the top half of Division Two since 2011 but for Higgins, it made all the sense in the world.
“I don’t think it was a backward step at all,” said Higgins. “I wasn’t playing at Middlesex – I was only playing the white-ball stuff, where Middlesex had lost a lot of games.
“And they got relegated from Division One last year, so I’m playing exactly the standard I would have played if I had stayed.
“I probably wouldn’t have even played, so there were a lot of things I feel have moved forward for me.
“Being 23, I’ve seen a lot of guys stay at their counties and not take that leap of faith. That doesn’t always work.
“The way the county game is set up you need to be young when you start playing – you develop your game playing first-team cricket.
“I am pleased with how I’ve started. I’ve learned a lot with the bat especially – there were times in the first couple of games I could have kicked on with the bat and put the team in a better position.
“But those are the learnings I’ll take early from the season. When I do get in with the bat, I need to make it really count.
“I’m learning so much playing first-class cricket and it’s so different from second XI cricket. You can only get that by playing.
“You get put in tough situations that naturally will test you mentally and your technique and skills. You learn very quickly what you need to get better at and keep working on.”
A win, a loss and a draw to open the four-day season potentially suggests another campaign of mid-table mediocrity, at best, for Glos but Higgins is quietly optimistic.
He added: “I think it has been a really positive start and the boys are confident in the way we’ve started and going forward.
“I’m not surprised at all. The boys have trained so hard over the winter and everyone has got more confident as the season got closer.”
Friday sees the start of a particularly interesting game for Higgins as Gloucestershire head to Lord’s to face his old employers Middlesex.
But other than a slight concern about heading to the wrong dressing room, the all-rounder is looking forward to the clash.
“I don’t feel like I have anything to prove because it was my decision to leave, rather than Middlesex’s decision to let me go,” he explained.
“There’s no real feeling of animosity or anything like that. They know the cricketer I am and I’m really looking forward to playing against some of my good mates.
“I’ve never been in the away dressing room – that will be interesting, making sure I’m walking left instead of right! Lord’s is a great place to play and it will bring up a few old memories but I’m excited.”