Sussex take financial risk for T20 progress
Sussex were prepared to risk a financial loss in return for greater exposure to Twenty20 cricket in the Caribbean t20 tournament. In the absence of top England stars such as Matt Prior and Monty Panesar, Sussex's cricket manager Mark Robinson will use the trip to develop a young squad in the belief it will prepare them for a powerful challenge in the Friends Life t20 tournament in England next season.
"Part of the bill will be covered by West Indies and our chief executive was prepared to gamble that we'd be able to get a sponsor to cover our costs," Robinson told ESPNcricinfo. Sussex secured sponsorship from a communications company linked to the West Indies and received a further financial boost when two local businesses stepped in at the last minute to subsidise the trip.
Sussex, whose campaign begins against Netherlands in Antigua on Tuesday, are one of three overseas teams in the televised tournament. Netherlands and Sussex are in Group B with Combined Campuses and Colleges, Jamaica and Barbados. Canada join Windward Islands and Trinidad and Tobago in Group A, along with Guyana, whose involvement was in doubt because of a Government stand-off with the cricket board.
A mere US$62,500 (£40,000) is on offer for the winners of the tournament, a far cry from the US$2.5 million (£1.6m) available to the winners of the Champions League but Sussex were keen to take up the West Indies' invitation to provide exposure to their inexperienced players.
"We thought the competition was a good idea because we'd be able to take a young team," said Robinson. "It will be a learning experience for guys that haven't had a big role in the first team. Guys like Joe Gatting are looking to bat in a prominent spot usually taken by the Luke Wrights or Murray Goodwins. He'll have the chance to dictate a game. People like that will have a chance to show what they can do."
Wright is playing in Australia's Big Bash while Panesar and Prior are touring with England. Ed Joyce and Murray Goodwin are also absent from the Sussex squad, giving opportunities for players like batsmen Gatting and Will Adkin.
"With t20 becoming such a staple diet of the county scene it's a good chance to give exposure to some younger guys," said Robinson. "I expect it to be quite intense. There is a Champions League spot available so the West Indian teams will be taking it very seriously."
In the absence of Panesar, Sussex have flown Will Beer back from Australia for the tournament. Beer was a feature in one-day cricket for Sussex in 2009 and 2010 but made just three appearances last season and he was playing grade cricket for Port Adelaide, and spending time at Darren Lehmann's cricket academy, to work on the longer form of his game.
"We felt the exposure to one-day cricket was doing him more harm than good," said Robinson. "His longer form of the game had stood still. He could get away with it in T20 because you have all the fielders on the boundary. That was holding him back. In the latter part of the county season he really made big strides and if it wasn't for a side injury at the back end of the summer he may well have played some first team games."
Michael Yardy will captain Sussex and Robinson is confident he will be able to manage the depression-related illness that caused him to fly home from England's World Cup campaign in March. "He's fine at the moment. The condition he has never goes away; it's about managing it, not beating it. He's been on pre-season tours to Dubai before and it's been absolutely fine. He's had time with the family and he can't wait to captain Sussex again."
With Yardy in charge, Sussex will look to find riches within their young squad and return from the Caribbean T20 not with bulging wallets but confidence that it will be the springboard for bringing more silverware to Hove.
The Caribbean T20 is live across ESPN networks globally. Click here for full details of how to watch.