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ROBBO: Q&A Answers...

06-Mar-2012

Sussex's Professional Cricket Manager Mark Robinson recently invited questions from you, the supporters, as the 2012 season fast approaches.

06th March 2012

Last year the Sussex batting regularly imploded when facing good quality spin bowling.  What can you do to address this weakness? Alex Thompson

One of the themes for the winter has been playing the spinning ball. We are trying to get all our players to have options in order to counter attack against spin and a technique to defend. We have used Tony Cottey a lot this winter, who was a great player of spin as well as Keith Greenfield etc. I do not think we will be the only team who has struggled against high turning spin on turning wickets, but we are aware of our need to improve.

Monty’s success recently is likely to mean he is available less for Sussex next season.  While Will Beer’s development is very encouraging, what off-spinning options do we have, now that Rayner has departed?  Will Chris Nash bowl more? Alex Thompson

Now that Monty is back in the England Test setup and is likely to miss some of our championship matches, are you looking to recruit a quality spinner, or are you looking to strengthen other areas of the squad? Tim Warrick

As I write I am watching Monty bowling beautifully against Pakistan in the second Test (January 28). On this showing he is likely to be in the England squad next summer. Ollie’s gone, so where does that leave Sussex’s spin bowling options? Best wishes for 2012, Alan Jones

Both Chris Nash and Luke Wells will now potentially bowl more with Ollie’s departure, which will be good for their own development. Time will tell how much of next season that Monty misses, as Swann remains England’s No. 1 spinner and the chances of England playing two spinners in England is slim. However, if he does it will be a great opportunity for someone like Will to step up and receive the opportunity and if we felt they weren’t up to the task we would have to look outside of the County.

Sussex seemed to carry a lot of ‘bit’ players for the one day teams last year.  Can we afford such a large squad? Alex Thompson

Not sure we had a large squad. At the beginning of the season we were expecting to lose Yardy, Wright and Prior for large chunks so we had to cover the potential absentees. We haven’t recruited anybody domestically, and are not expecting to while seeing two players depart which has seen the squad diminish. This is due to the fact that we are expecting Yardy and Wright to be available more this season. You made a reference as to whether we can afford to “carry” players – I am given a budget and I have to work within those budget means. Some of the players that play for the club, especially in their early years, are looking for opportunity rather than large salaries so obviously they are very cost effective.

(This was written three to four weeks ago and shows you how quickly things can move, as in the last week Luke has been approached by the IPL, having not been picked in the first draft.)

Last season, in my opinion, the weak point in the Sussex team was fielding and the number of drop catches, especially in the slips. As Robbo was a bowler he knows how heartbreaking this is. What is being done to rectify this? I know you tried to sign Clarke from Warwickshire. Tim Burges

Statistically, we caught well in the outfield last year. In terms of our slip catching in the last few years we have lost some very natural and excellent slip catchers. We have worked very hard to build a new slip corden with only Yards ever having been in there before. Any player who is likely to go in our slips or do bat/pad and silly point are equally committed to try and raise their standards as any player who has gone before them. This is an ongoing process, and one thing you can’t criticise the players for is the amount of catches they take in practise and the amount of hours they put into this side of the game. Ed Joyce last year, through two years of hard practice, became a very accomplished slip catcher for us off the seamers and had a record as good as anybody in recent times.

Our biggest area where we struggled was catching off Monty, which is a very specialist position and once again we are working hard with individuals to get them to the right level. Having Yardy back next year will help enormously as he is a natural catcher. It is the same with our silly point and short leg positions where we are having to train new personnel and there is no magic formula, just hard work and commitment.

Who will be the overseas player(s) this season?  We need a batsman and (or) a fast bowler! Lloyd Wheeler

We have announced Scott Styris as our overseas T20 player so hopefully that is the batsman you were looking for.

In terms of the 4-day game, the player we are looking for is a bowler who bats. We are close on agreeing with someone for the first half of the season and the T20.

The second half, we are slightly wary of  what Monty’s situation might be in relation to England and as I said earlier we are monitoring the process of Will Beer before committing ourselves. As I’m sure you are aware, it is very difficult as we have to contend with the IPL and very clouded International schedules and very hard work permit rules which means more players are unavailable than available. We generally find they all want to play in the T20, but don’t quite fancy a hard slog in the Championship, and if they do it’s often for only a short period.

(Since I wrote this, we’ve had a few difficulties with overseas players not being able to get NOC’s (No Objection Certificate) from their countries in order to play or we have been stuck trying to get round work permit issues and had few options closed due to those reasons. With the likelihood of missing Luke Wright for a minimum of the first five Championship games, it makes it more interesting but I have full belief and confidence of the potential within the squad.)

The recent changes proposed by Morgan are partly fuelled by the concept of too much cricket currently being played. We mere supporters find this a difficult concept to understand, given there’s quite a lot of time off in the winter. So could you please show us the error of our ways!  Also what do you reckon on the recommendations in the Morgan report generally? All the best, Simon (aka Sweatysock)

Oh Sweaty, I had you in such high esteem! Of course it would be so much simpler if we could play in the winter, but unfortunately the rain, snow and ice get in the way!

In all seriousness, the biggest problem we have is trying to have a schedule which caters for one day cricket which allows a club our size to make some much needed money which we can re-invest to try and take on the bigger clubs such as Surrey etc.

We also all love and cherish the Championship, and are desperate to try and keep 16 games as we have seen the benefit of that and what two divisions has done for the England team. We have to try and fit all this in within the months of April to early September.

The biggest annoyance in doing this is a lack of preparation time the team will have before a game, and the inability to properly debrief and physically recover. Look at the SCCC schedule this year, and you will see some of the difficulties it delivers, i.e. finishing a D/N game against Yorkshire at 10.30pm and then back in the next morning to play a different game against different opposition with a different ball, or finishing a Championship game at Birmingham and having to drive that evening to Canterbury to have to play a floodlit game the following day, driving back and probably arriving back in Hove at about 1.30am. We then travel the next day to Arundel to prepare for a 4-day game against Durham the following day.


The challenge you will have then is having your best players fresh and ready to produce their best skills and play with the intensity demanded by everyone.  It is not just about playing when you’re tired or sore that frustrates the players, it is about the feeling that you’re unable to give your best which every professional sportsman wants to do.

Most people in the game are in agreement that there needs to be a better schedule, but nobody is in agreement as to what that schedule is. The first thing I would do is lose the University Game which would at least create a 4-day window in the schedule. I think the Championship should be symmetrical, whether we play 16 or 14 games, and I’m in favour of 40-over cricket and not 50-overs.

There has been some recent speculation that Luke Wright will be joining the IPL, and missing several matches at the beginning of the season. Can you confirm if this is true, and if so, why have Sussex allowed him to be a part of the auction? Tim Price

We can confirm that Luke has been allowed to be part of the auction. Basically, the club has a choice with a player like Luke of allowing him to go, or be prepared to lose him. We felt as a club we would rather have Luke here playing for three quarters of the season and missing a quarter than losing him completely. We could have a club have a policy whereby we don’t allow any of our players to go in the IPL auction, but if we do that it would make the signing of quality players very difficult and the retention of our own leading players very problematic. They only way we can avoid this would be if there is an agreement across all the counties that we wouldn’t allow our players to go.

We are in a different era now and one that times is very frustrating for you the supporters, and the management as we’re all desperate for our best players to wear the Martlets shirt, not plying their trades elsewhere. We not only risk losing players to IPL, but also obviously to England and now also England Lions, who are playing an increased amount of games during the summer. This is obviously an unfortunate penalty for producing good players. 

Sorry for the lateness in replying to the questions as it has suddenly seem to get very hectic, with the overseas situation particularly taking a lot of time and attention.

Sussex is, and always will be, a very proud and ambitious club. We do know though who we are, and what our strengths and limitations are. For us to keep competing with the rich clubs, we have to ensure we are very committed, organised and play with a passion and belief which will help bridge the differences that money can make (that is our bit, the players and coaches). We do though need, as a club as a whole, to stay really close and tight, especially under pressure. Everyone who plays, works and supports the club, either financially (our sponsors) or with their passion and dedication (you, the supporters) have their part to play in helping create an environment where our players can thrive and play without fear.


Robbo

Tom Blinks/Five Martlets asked several questions about the Hove square and Head Groundsman Andy Mackay has answered them in detail. This will be posted seperately online later in the week.

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