Peter Breen talks to Middlesex's prolific Irish batsman, predicted by many to play Test cricket one day for England.

For some in life, burdened with both personal and external pressures, they falter. Others, though, thrive. Ed Joyce, Middlesex's Irish-born batsman chose the latter, the path less travelled as Frost might say, and he has proven that that route has made all the difference. The statistics speak for themselves. Joyce has now accumulated 1,787 first-class runs, since his introduction to the county circuit back in 1998, at an average of 43.58. Last year he effortlessly topped the 1,000 run mark.

Raising the bar seems to be the motivating catchphrase behind the man. "Last year went really well for me personally", he concedes, "but it also went well for Middlesex, particularly in the 4-day game".

Why the statistical difference compared to the apparently electrifying one-day format, I ask (his career batting average is a modest 24.37)? "Don't get me wrong, the one day game is extremely enjoyable and is a great day out for the spectators, but it doesn't really suit my style. 4-day cricket suits my style better when I can take time to build an innings but it's an area that I'm certainly going to look to improve this season."

Even though he has travelled frequently to Lord's since the age of 20, last season was his first full season since this odyssey began. "And there have been many positive changes in the set-up over here since then. It's far more professional, with the introduction of fitness and specialist batting and bowling coaches. The results of these changes", he maintains, "can be seen now throughout the squad."

Joyce believes that if Ireland is to progress further, then a concentrated effort needs to be made at advancing the best 15 or so players in the country.

He sees the increased onus on the Interprovincial set-up, as "Useful, but it's essential that the top guys play against each other as regularly as possible. It might get to the stage where clubs will have to accept that Ireland is in a sense a glorified club side."

Never one to fudge a question, he continues in a tone that doesn't suggest condescension from afar. He stresses his desire to continue representing Ireland, "but with three more years remaining before my English qualification, I'm not sure if that's possible."

Looking further afield, his hopes for the future with Middlesex include consolidating his place in Division One of the County Championship. "It's vital that we stay in this division. It'll be difficult and I feel that we might be marginally off the standard set by say Surrey and Warwickshire at the moment, but there are some excellent young players developing here. "We also need to improve our one-day form", he adds. "Personally I'm looking to score as many runs as possible and I'd also like to get more of a bowl. That's an area that I've been working hard at this winter."

He returned home to Dublin in October until the start of January when he travelled to Australia for a month and a half. "It was a nice break and I recharged the batteries after a long county season. I played a few second-grade cricket games in Australia, just to get my eye in. It was with my previous first-grade side in Perth, University Cricket Club. It went well but I'm really looking forward to the new season."

You sense that the individual success and recognition achieved last season has already been stored away. Records, though oftentimes acting as sources of comfort, can sometimes have the reverse effect. Players can dwell too long and become lost in a sea of their past performances and lose their hunger. Ed Joyce thrives.