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Graham Ford has agreed to become head coach at Surrey after his contract with Sri Lanka expires in January. He has signed a three-year contract with the county.
Ford had been linked to the vacant position at The Oval since July when Chris Adams was sacked. He had been informally approached by Surrey while coaching Sri Lanka at the Champions Trophy, but Ford said the deal had only firmed up in the past few weeks. He cited "family commitments" as the chief reason for refusing a renewal of his contract with Sri Lanka.
"I had already decided that I was leaving before Surrey even advertised the position, so it took a bit of time," Ford said. "From a family point of view it works a lot better, in terms of all the time away from family that I currently have to go through."
Ford has a strong relationship with Surrey cricketer Kevin Pietersen, having known him since Pietersen's time at High School in Durban. He had also been the man Pietersen endorsed for the England head coach role, after Pietersen's turmoil with Peter Moores ended with Moores' sacking in 2009.
Ford's move to Surrey will strengthen the South African connection at the county, where Graeme Smith is captain, but Ford suggested his relationships with players at Surrey did not necessarily spur him to take the job.
"I haven't coached any of their players, really," he said. "I think Pietersen plays about one game a year for them, if that, so he's not really part of it. But I have worked with Graeme Smith briefly, as he was just coming into the South African national side."
But Surrey chief executive Richard Gould had told The Telegraph that Pietersen's links with Ford had played a role in the team's choice of coach, as had Ford's extensive coaching experience. Ford coached South Africa for three years after the 1999 World Cup, and has also coached Kent, in addition to his two years with Sri Lanka.
"There were some discussions with KP and Graham came very highly recommended from many quarters," Gould said. "When we spoke to him he was an impressive guy and ambitious.
"We were looking for somebody with county experience and preferably international experience as well. We also wanted somebody who has a good track record in delivering improvement to players and the team with a good hard working ethic who will be a help to take the club forward."
Ford will be tasked with arresting a two-year slide at the county, which ended with Surrey being relegated to the Division Two of the County Championship this year. He performed a similar role with Sri Lanka, who won their first Test series since Muttiah Muralitharan retired under Ford, though they were also whitewashed 3-0 in Australia during his tenure.
"It is in part a rebuilding job but we have a lot of good youngsters and senior players," Gould said. "It is about getting the most out of them as individuals and as a group."
Sri Lanka Cricket had been desperate to keep Ford, even asking him to reconsider his decision to leave, after he had initially informed them of his plans. Chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya, in particular, has been a vocal supporter of Ford since his time with the Natal side that Ford coached. He had taken the job after Geoff Marsh was sacked in January 2012.