“It's a gut punch. It was an emotional day. Just a surprising one really. Not the news anyone would have expected. As a Liverpool fan we all wanted Klopp to sign a lifetime contract. Definitely a sad day for us,” Scotland batter Michael Jones recalled what every Liverpool fan felt when Jurgen Klopp announced he would step down at the end of the ongoing season.
Mind you, he is representing Desert Vipers at the International League T20 (ILT20), a side owned by the Glazers, who also own Manchester United, Liverpool’s fiercest rivals.
Football is a popular sport in the UK. And only around the age of 14 did Jones decide to put all his focus on cricket. He believes it is vital to play other sports as well, as some skills are transferrable.
“I played a lot of football as a youngster. I would have loved to have taken that up like anyone would. Football is really massive in the UK. I think it was about the age 14-15 when I started focussing on cricket and put any other sport to the side a little bit,” Jones told Cricket.com.
“It's cool to play a lot of sports as a kid, not just solely focus on cricket. You see a lot of guys now who have played hockey, tennis and stuff like that - how useful and transferrable those skills are into cricket. The guys who have played hockey tend to be really good at playing sweeps and reverse sweeps because the technique is fairly similar to hockey. So, it's good to mix those skills and be able to use them in cricket.”
Jones played for Lancashire till the Under-17 level before making the switch to Durham. In fact, playing for Durham had a lot to do with the fact that he played a lot of games for Scotland A and Scotland Development XI.
“I got to play for Durham, almost through Scotland, because Scotland used to play Scotland A fixtures against Durham in the pre-season games,” Jones explained.
“That's where the connection came for me - through playing for Scotland and then ultimately travelling to Durham. Signed a contract with Durham the following season and have been there ever since. Been there 6-7 years. I am loving it.
“Played a whole lot of second-team games before making my debut for Durham. Last couple of years, I have been exposed to white-ball cricket as well, which has been great.
“There will be competition for places like there always is next season, but hopefully, I can carry on playing as much as I can, and Durham can keep going in the right direction, which I think we definitely are at the moment.”
In fact, Jones slammed 87 against Ireland on his One-Day International (ODI) debut, in 2018, which actually came a few months before he even played for Durham.
If that was not enough, he scored a 55-ball 86 against Ireland at the T20 World Cup 2022. However, he has played just two more games in the format and has since not played for Scotland at any level.
With the legendary Kyle Coetzer no longer playing, this could certainly be Jones’ opportunity to cement his place at the top, which is something he acknowledged.
“Whatever is best for the team is the right decision to make, whether it's me or someone else. It's about the team getting the result on that day, whether it's me playing or someone else. Of course, I would love to be involved as much as I can. But if it's someone else, it's fine, so be it,” Jones said.
“Kyle had an amazing career. He is someone who is hard to replace. He did some amazing things. He had his style and I have mine. I am never going to replace the whole package he brought to the team. But I definitely have my eye on that role. Would love to play as many games as I can for Scotland.”
Jones is keen to learn as much as possible from top players - be it at the ILT20, where he shares the dressing room with the likes of Colin Munro, Alex Hales, and also with Scotland, when they take on big teams like India, as they did at the T20 World Cup in 2022.
"I've looked to Steven Smith a lot. He's probably the best player in the world. I spent some time not precisely, but definitely copied a things like his trigger moments and stuff like that when I was trying to find my way a little bit in the game. He's an outstanding player in all formats," Jones said.
"I had the opportunity during the T20 World Cup couple of years ago [in UAE], just speak to a couple of Indian boys, when Scotland played against India. We were on the back of a loss there unfortunately, but it was pretty cool experience after the game to go and mix in the changing rooms to speak to few of the lads. Spoke to KL Rahul, he is a really nice guy. Spoke to Virat Kohli - he's such a superstar - a couple of things he said were quite motivational. The way he prepares for games and stuff like that, it's pretty cool to chat to him."
Jones, who has played for Durham for almost six years now, played a pivotal role in his side securing a promotion to Division One for the upcoming season. Opening the batting with Alex Lees, Jones held his own when he slammed 631 runs at 33.21, which included four fifties and a ton.
David Bedingham, his teammate at Durham, recently made his Test debut for South Africa, slamming a fifty in his first game as well. He is also part of the squad against New Zealand and was one of the better performers for his side in the first Test, with a counter-attacking 87 at Bay Oval.
Bedingham got into the Proteas side on the back of some impressive performances for Durham, and Jones watched that from the best seat possible.
"Bedders is a great guy. A funny bloke. He's a world-class player. Ever since he came to Durham, he made an impression that he was a quality player. He has averaged about 50 for the last 3-4 seasons, for however long he has been here," Jones said.
"He has had a great impact. A very popular man in the changeroom. Delighted to have him at Durham. I'm sure he will be as consistent as he has been, even when we were in Division One. He's a great guy to be around and certainly adds some quality to our batting line-up."
At Durham, Jones has the opportunity to work with Ryan Campbell, someone who took the Netherlands side to great heights in his five years in charge. He also plays with fellow associate cricketers Bas de Leede and Brandon Glover. Does that in anyway benefit him?
"It's great that Cambo and those other associate players have had exposure to different conditions. When you play in Dubai or wherever you go in the associate world, you get that experience in different conditions. It can only benefit you. For Durham, having those guys with those different experiences, might just bring some new ideas or see the game a little differently," Jones said.
"It can only help the team. Cambo has been amazing since he came in. He's had a very relaxed approach in Durham. The guys have really taken to him. he has had really good influence on the side. He has encouraged to play positive cricket, which is what everyone wanted. It has been a great shift for everyone."
With Rohan Mustafa, Munro and Hales occupying the top three spots in the team, Jones has not made his bow for the Vipers yet. No player enjoys sitting on the sidelines, but the hard work and grind does not get wasted at any point. Jones has been Durham's mainstay across formats, but elsewhere, his chances have been limited. He does not find himself in the multi-format tour of UAE starting later this month as well, but his time could be just around the corner.
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