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Jason Gillespie not turning his back on county cricket completely as he heads to South Australia

Former Redback going home as head coach, but with sights set far and wide in the sport

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
Jason Gillespie has been the Adelaide Strikers coach since 2015  •  Getty Images

Jason Gillespie has been the Adelaide Strikers coach since 2015  •  Getty Images

Jason Gillespie doesn't believe he's done with county cricket, having made his coaching home there for the best part of a decade.
Gillespie flies out of the UK on Sunday, bound for his true home of South Australia after adding the role of Redbacks head coach to his existing job at the helm of the state's BBL side, Adelaide Strikers. And while he is relishing the prospect of leading the team where his playing career began, there is a sense that his coaching career path has more twists and turns ahead.
"I don't think county cricket has seen the absolute last of me because I still feel somewhere down the track there's going to be another little stint for me," Gillespie told ESPNcricinfo. "It's a great game, it's a great system and it's something I'd love to have another go at at some point in the future.
"But for me for now I'm pretty excited and pretty energised about the opportunity to coach South Australia in conjunction with the Adelaide Strikers.
"Off-field, the opportunity to be at home full-time was a little bit of a carrot, but ultimately the opportunity to work in my home state and help South Australia perform better and help individual players at South Australia improve was too big a carrot to resist."
Gillespie's introduction to coaching back in 2010 was an eye-opener. Travelling to Kwekwe in Zimbabwe to coach MidWest Rhinos, he has told of seeing players who would risk missing training because they were stuck in bank queues waiting to take out their pay, and of his wife making the team sandwiches because there was no food prepared for them at lunch.
He had a stint as bowling coach with Kings XI Punjab in the 2011 IPL before heading to Yorkshire, leading them to promotion from Division Two of the County Championship in 2012 and then to back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015. Gillespie left Yorkshire at the end of the 2016 season, after narrowly missing out on a third title in a row, and was appointed head coach of Sussex in 2018.
Gillespie said he would have loved to have coached Zimbabwe had an opportunity arisen while he was there, but acknowledged that, given the political climate, he would be far more uncertain about going there now.
He has also had his appetite whetted for coaching in franchise cricket but, having signed with South Australia for the next three years, he hopes his latest tenure will be extended.
"That's where I see myself in the next little period," he said. "But I certainly do see myself at some point either coaching internationally or coaching in the franchise systems throughout the world."
Gillespie was one year into a fresh deal intended to keep him at Sussex until 2022, when he decided to return to South Australia.
He can have a slightly less rushed journey to the airport after Sussex were eliminated from Saturday's Blast Finals Day - or Sunday's reserve day, as is looking increasingly likely due to the weather forecast - when they lost their quarter-final to Lancashire on Thursday.
His appointment with South Australia comes after a high-performance review recommended that the Redbacks and Strikers be brought under the guidance of one head coach.
The Strikers have reached the BBL finals three times, including winning the title in 2018, since Gillespie became coach in 2015. During the same period, the Redbacks have fallen from Sheffield Shield finalists in 2016 and 2017 to the bottom of the table.
Gillespie must serve a 14-day isolation period upon returning to Australia under Covid-19 travel rules, meaning he will miss the Redbacks' first Sheffield Shield match of the season against Western Australia, starting October 10.
Tasked with mirroring the success of the T20 team in the four-day competition, Gillespie can take some lessons away from Sussex. They reached the Blast finals in the first three years that he was head coach and improved from eighth to fifth in the One-Day Cup South Group. But they dropped from third in 2018 to sixth the following year in Division Two of the Championship and finished bottom of the Bob Willis Trophy South Group with just one win in five matches.
Gillespie highlighted the captaincy, batting and glovework of Ben Brown and the development of quick Ollie Robinson and teenage off-spinner Jack Carson as high points of a disappointing team performance in the four-day game.
"I've loved my time at Sussex," Gillespie said. "We've had some challenges, there's no doubt about that. The one-day and T20 sides, we progressed really nicely.
"Four-day cricket, it has been a bit of a disappointment. I saw promise in 2018, I thought in my first year we made some strides, but last year it was quite a disappointing year for various reasons and if I had my time again I might have done one or two things a bit differently. But the positives out of the four-day stuff has been more certain individuals stepping up and performing well."

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo