2003 seems a long time ago, doesn’t it? You know what they say, “the past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.”
A world in which there’s a war in the Middle East and the World Health Organisation is issuing warnings about a severe acute respiratory syndrome in the Far East, which is going to kill people.
But, in the late evening of a September day in Hove, celebrants washed into Sussex’s County Ground with the rising tide to marvel at an event rarer than the appearance of Haley’s Comet – Sussex winning the County Championship for the first time in its history.
They came, they drank, they danced. Hell, they even took an open-top bus through Brighton the next day.
However, times change and we move with the times, and recently the sound the Martlets have been making is less soaring free and more depressed lemmings splatting on the pavement.
Fast forward to the end of March 2020 – a better world, where Covid hasn’t happened. After five years in the County Championship Division Two, out goes Australian fast bowling legend Jason ‘Dizzy’ Gillespie and the committee put out the call – send for Newman.
Something of a left field selection: losing a coach with an international reputation and success across the board, and replacing him with a tubby left arm trundler with no track record. But still, I heed the call of my home county and pack my case from the Highlands.
Mama, I’m coming home.
My lack of reputation is reflected in the fact that I shall have to earn the England captaincy. I opt to take control of the London Blue 100 franchise, which will be a hoot as a) I hate the Hundred and everything it stands for and b) I understand and care even less about the intricacies of one day cricket.
Just as well I like a challenge.
There is good news! I have a healthy budget to work with. They may not have been raking in much in the way of Championship win bonuses, but Sussex is a wealthy county. I look around the squad and it is not threadbare, but perhaps heavy on the decent honest pros and light on the magic of superstars.
There are some bright sparks: fast bowling tearaway Joffra Archer and World Cup winner Luke Wright are both very talented players.
Naturally, they are also only available for a tiny percentage of the season, as both of them appear to be travelling the globe making that sweet sweet T20 money.
So, my first real task is to make use of the healthy budget available and sign some players.
In the first round, I snare Monty Panesar on a one-year deal. He’s expensive and he didn’t set the heather on fire last time he was here, but he’s got oodles of international experience. I put him on a one year deal to make sure that if he ends up peeing off any balconies, it won’t be too hard to get rid.
Sanath Jayasuriya comes on board as our reserve overseas pro. Australian Travis Head currently holds that role, but I reason the retired Sri Lankan legend is a great guy to have around this youngish squad, as well as a decent option to strengthen our One-Day batting.
Finally, and as a way of holding off that homesickness, I snaffle highly rated Scotland batsman George Munsey on another one-year deal. A potentially very exciting first round of picks.
This immediately plunges the healthy budget into the red. I try to ditch two players to free up the budget. This does not appear to work. This could be a long season.
Our first game is against the layabout students of Oxford MCCU.
We need to lay down a marker here.