Ethan Bamber on the new season and the role of Wantage Road in his life and career

Press Day, two days before the start of a new county season is always rich with excitement and optimism. No points have been won and lost. All is to play for. All things are possible. Despite the inevitable leaden April skies and distinctly chilly air, this was certainly true at Lords as the Middlesex team gathered in the Allen Stand. Before us, the ground staff were diligently preparing the wicket for Friday’s opener where Middlesex will take on Glamorgan. Batters will have been eyeing up the tavern boundary which looked barely a pitching wedge away from the strip. Bowlers might will have been considering the benefits of coming in from the Nursery End now that Tim Murtagh will no longer have ownership rights.

The mood amongst the Middlesex players was refreshingly buoyant and upbeat. The disappointments of a relegation season which had moments of real promise when the team did hit their straps, just not often enough, are behind them. Positives can be taken. Lesson can be learned. The only way to  look is forward.

That was certainly the case for last season’s leading wicket taker in both Championship and Metro Cup, Ethan Bamber. Twenty-five now, Ethan is very much his own man and no longer ‘Mini Murts’. Whilst still youthful of manner and appearance, he has a body of work to be proud of, some of it hard won in adversity.

A personal journey for Ethan

Thoughtful and distinctly grounded, Ethan was keen to separate personal and team performance. Whilst happy to have been leading wicket taker he was personally frustrated “not to have contributed more in the last 4 games of the season” where Middlesex ultimately fell just short on the final day at Notts. As a leading performer in the team, he said, “when you are going nicely and the team is up against it, you want to be the person to make the impact. If you are in a good place, you feel an obligation to contribute and I wasn’t able to do that in the last four games”. As a team, he felt “there were nice moments, nice sessions, nice days” but the team never got a “consistent groove” and were too often “pulling out performances when behind in the game”.

Philosophically, Ethan’s belief is that ultimately individuals need to click as a team then “build your own body evidence, winning those “key moments” with which comes collective belief. His analogy of a “building a bank of credit’ was considered and apt. That said, on a personal level, whilst loving the challenge, he also admired the quality in Division One and what top teams brought in terms of “depth and relentlessness”

Ethan’s reflective nature was very much to the fore considering how he had evolved since his championship debut at Wantage Road, snagging Ricardo Vasconcelos as his maiden scalp. His ready smile and response of “I hope I have evolved”, merely prefaced a much deeper and thoughtful answer. Wantage Road, it seems, has played a recurring role in Ethan’s journey, being not just the venue for his first-class debut, but where in the Covid year he realised that he was “struggling off the field and a long way from where he needed to be” and then last year, where after a disappointing 2022 and missing the first game in 2023, “despite being really nervous, I felt he was back to the level he expected of myself”.

An evolving game and craft

Evolution, there certainly has been for Ethan, both personally and professionally it seems. His “game and craft”, he says, is “ever evolving” but behind that positivity comes the awareness that he had “wasted games early on in his career, feeling perhaps I shouldn’t be there”. Now, thankfully, those more brooding sentiments are behind him and he believes he can be “someone the boys trust, know what they can get, reliable in those moments and who they throw the ball to”.  With the likes of Tim Murtagh and Stephen Finn no longer on the field, Ethan believes that preparedness to be a leader and step up whenever needed is a quality that he and the likes of Tom Helm, Henry Brooks share as a tight collective unit as well as individually.

That same positivity definitely extends for Ethan across all formats and he is clearly happy to discuss his love of the white ball game. Let’s not forget, he was leading wicket taker in the Metro Bank One Day Cup too and that tournament was “brilliant for me last year”. He is, unequivocally, driven to compete in all formats for Middlesex, whilst conceding that there is some “getting better to do” one would bet on him doing it too.

So, what would Ethan’s advice be to any young player coming into the game now? His response gets the due consideration I had by now come to expect. The game, he suggests, “is going in directions we may not even know yet, so never limit yourself and always be spurred on to try stuff, whilst trusting your own experience of what got you there in the first place”.

Despite moments of self-doubt, this has clearly worked for Ethan Bamber and there is every reason to hope that this year he will very much be the man to step up for those big moments.

Listen to the full interview with Ethan here: