James Hildreth: Still Striving For Greatness
Mr Consistent. That’s James Hildreth. Somerset’s evergreen middle order batsman is a man for all seasons. A classy accumulator of runs in first-class cricket, Hildreth can turn it on in all formats to stake a claim as the best player never to play for England.
Back in 2003, Hildreth made 9 and 0 on his first-class debut. Since then he has gone on to score 25,000 runs for his county. What does he put his continued success down to?
“You’re always tweaking, always looking for ways to get better, but that consistency comes through consistency in my opinion. (Look at) Alastair Cook’s technique – how consistent it was, he never really got flustered, he kept within his game and very rarely went outside of it. I think that’s hugely important as a batter, especially in four-day cricket, that you’re maintaining those basics, having some consistencies in your game that you trust and you go back to every innings. You know they work so stick to them, tweak your game because you’re trying to get better, then remember that this has worked time and time again, so there’s no reason to overhaul everything, because you’ve got a basic game that’s serving you well.”
Comparisons with Cook are commonplace for Hildreth. The pair played together for England Under 15s, but while Hildreth never represented England, Cook went on to have his illustrious career.
“Me and Cookie go back a long way, from days wHen we both used to go to the England Under 15 camps at Lilleshall at the time, and we used to pick him up en-route. To see how his career has progressed is such an amazing thing to watch. He’s such a great guy and he shows the characteristics he has now when he was 15 years old. It was really obvious he had this steely determination and certain technique that he would just go back to relentlessly – it’s just great to see him evolve in the way he has done and become our best ever Test batsman.”
Now over 15 years into a career that has yielded more runs than most players could dream of, the man from Milton Keynes is looking to cross the generations as cricket moves into another new era. What does he make of the upcoming Hundred.
“First of all, it’s really exciting to have a new format of cricket coming in” Hildreth said, as we interviewed him at his home ground of Taunton. “To be honest, no one knows how it’s going to go. No one has played it. It’s not an international format, but look at T20, how that’s evolved. I don’t think anyone could foresee how that would evolve and the effect it would have on 50 over cricket and Test cricket, and how people are playing in that format. The variations of shots that have come in since T20, in the 15 years or whatever it’s been going, has changed the game massively in all formats.”
Hildreth was Gray-Nicolls highest run scorer in 2018 in the professional game, earning him the GN Golden Gloves award. But what are his aims at the start of a new season?
“My goal, every year now, is to win the Championship with Somerset, that’s my number one goal that’s the main thing I want to do. We’re getting close, we were second in 2018 and 2019, from a team point that’s where we want to be. Personally, with 14 games now you’ve got to look into four figures, over a thousand runs, 1250. Getting a thousand runs was great last year but you want to be the top run scorer in the country. You’re trying to challenge yourself against your peers and keep trying to better yourself to ultimately get more runs than anyone else.”
With his all-round game, and his desire to keep improving and squeeze every last drop from his career, you wouldn’t bet against Hildy lifting the County Championship before he’s done.