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    James Rew Interview: Embracing Strengths and Rejecting Bazballer Aspirations
James Rew Interview: Embracing Strengths and Rejecting Bazballer Aspirations
James Rew. Source: The Times

James Rew Interview: Embracing Strengths and Rejecting Bazballer Aspirations

He might be following the same path as Jos Buttler, transitioning from King's College to playing as Somerset's wicketkeeper-batsman. However, Rew's role model is Alastair Cook

Reflecting on his upbringing, Rew mentions, "Jos Buttler was probably my main inspiration." Rew seamlessly replicated Buttler's journey from King's College, Taunton, and could potentially follow him into international cricket in the future.

Despite sharing similarities with Buttler's career trajectory, Rew has a distinct playing style. He greatly admires another left-handed batsman, Alastair Cook, and appreciates Cook's tenacity and approach to his innings.

Although Rew only turned 20 in January, his five centuries in the Championship last summer raised the question of whether he could become England's long-term Test wicketkeeper. However, while other young players like Ollie Robinson, Jamie Smith, and Phil Salt naturally fit with Ben Stokes's England, Rew prefers a more patient approach. Last year, his Championship strike rate was around 50, which is considered reasonably quick, but below England's average strike rate of 76 since Brendon McCullum became coach.

Reflecting on his abilities, Rew admits, "I don't possess that skill yet—I would like to be able to do that. I believe the best way for me to contribute to the team and score the most runs is to dig in and work hard during my initial 30 to 40 balls."

While Stokes previously stated that a young Cook wouldn't have a place in his Test side, Rew has no intention of abandoning his method. He states, "If it gives Somerset opportunities to win matches, I probably won't deviate from that. My objective is to assist Somerset in winning their first Championship title. Therefore, I will continue playing in a manner that benefits the team the most, which is likely my current approach."

James Rew. Source: Somerset Cricket
James Rew. Source: Somerset Cricket

James on Performance, Composure, and Growth

"I have the potential to continuously improve my game since I'm still young. However, for now, my focus is on maintaining my current level of performance and doing my best for the team," said James.

Last summer, Rew had an outstanding performance. Only two players in Division One scored more runs than him in the County Championship, with a total of 1,086 runs at an average of 57.15. Remarkably, most of these runs were made while he was also keeping wicket, which was quite impressive considering he had only played half a Championship season before.

"It all happened so quickly. I remember starting the season with a few low scores in the initial games, and then suddenly, halfway through the season, I had a few centuries."

To Rew, this highlights one of his crucial qualities: maintaining composure, regardless of his performance on the field. When asked if he throws his bat in frustration, he laughs.

"I'm quite relaxed. After walking off the field, I simply take off my pads. I don't get angry; I try to stay level-headed. I don't let success make me overly excited or failures bring me down too much."

"I always believe that the key is starting well and not getting carried away because I tend to be a slow starter. Regardless of whether I have scored runs before, going out to bat and starting my innings is always a challenge."

A winter tour with England Lions to India further solidified Rew's position as one of the promising players in English cricket. Although his performance in the three first-class games was modest, averaging 21.8 as a specialist batsman, he believes that observing India's approach has made him a better player.

"They exhibit an impressive approach to handling spin, emphasising simplicity. Their scoring rate appears effortless and rapid, devoid of any apparent exertion. Unlike the aggressive style known as 'Bazball,' they consistently maintain a near-century strike rate by showing respect for well-delivered deliveries. Their exceptional skills enable them to effortlessly dispatch poor deliveries towards the boundary.

"Observing their performance instilled a sense of confidence in me, affirming that I can continue playing my natural game. It reinforced the importance of patience while ensuring that every slightly errant delivery is promptly dispatched to the boundary."

Rew had the opportunity to collaborate with Andrew Flintoff, who served as a mentor to the team, as a result of being selected for the Lions.

Flintoff's focus was not on technical aspects but on finding ways to score runs, whether through aggressive play or individual styles. He possessed a clear and straightforward approach, which contributed to his remarkable success. He avoided cluttering his mind with unnecessary thoughts and technicalities, instead concentrating on devising strategies to score runs against any opponent.

Rew, in a different manner, also experienced similar benefits. During his time at school, he excelled in hockey and squash. The strong connection between King's College and Somerset allowed him to seamlessly transition from lessons to academy training, enabling him to participate actively.

England's development program has long recognised and appreciated Rew's qualities. At the age of 17, he was chosen to represent a county select XI in 2021, which made him realise his potential for a career in the sport. The following year, he showcased his talent in the Under-19 World Cup and scored an impressive 95 runs in the final against India, despite the team's defeat.

James Rew. Source: The Cricketer
James Rew. Source: The Cricketer

A Batsman and Wicketkeeper's Path in Cricket

That innings occurred when Rew was playing as a specialised batsman at the number four position. Despite focusing more on batting, Rew remains dedicated to his journey as a wicketkeeper, which started when he was 11 years old and no one wanted to keep him for a club game.

Rew remembers, "My mom bought me a pair of Kookaburra gloves from Sports Direct or something. I tried it out and never really looked back. I really enjoyed getting involved and trying to take all the chances." His progress as a wicketkeeper is expected to accelerate with Shoaib Bashir and Jack Leach bowling together for Somerset.

During the upcoming summer, Rew anticipates continuing as a keeper-batsman at number six, but he aspires to move up in the batting order. He says, "Even if I batted at four, I would probably be happy to continue keeping." He also hopes that Somerset, the defending champions, will find a place for him in their T20 Blast team.

"At the moment, my T20 cricket isn't at the level I'd like it to be. But I will work on it and strive to become as good as I can be in white-ball cricket, which would benefit my performance in red-ball cricket."

Contrary to the common belief that wicketkeeping can hinder a player's batting, Rew holds a different perspective. He explains, "When you're keeping, you're involved in the game and you see exactly what's happening. I think it probably helps my batting to be able to observe the conditions of the pitch." He adds, "I consider myself a batsman, but I train just as much as a wicketkeeper does. There's definitely enough time to do both." Moreover, Rew firmly believes that there is still ample time for batsmen who approach first-class cricket at a more traditional pace.

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