There is a sense of excitement and hope around the county ground nowadays, after two rather miserable years on the field and plenty of challenges off it, the professional game of cricket continues to change. Getting it right off the pitch often reflects what happens on it. Rob Andrew is a determined chief executive, focused on making a success of guiding Sussex through the sporting maze of future new leagues and potential championship re-structuring. In so doing last Autumn, he made a team coaching change bringing in Jason Gillespie the former Australian bowler and highly successful past coach of Yorkshire, tipped as a possible future international coach. ‘I really wanted to come’ he said while addressing the members of Sussex’s Boundary club.
In a Q&A ‘Dizzy’ (a nickname inspired by US jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie) told Tony Cottey (Executive & former Sussex legend) he ‘never had any ambitions to coach’, until he was asked by a Zimbabwe side. Jason then became bowling coach to IPL team Kings XI Punjab before taking up a first team coaching role at Yorkshire (2012), where he had been a former player (2006-07). As their coach he turned around the counties fortunes. In his first season, Yorkshire were promoted from division two of the county championship; in the second, they were runners-up in the first division; and they won the title in 2014 and 2015, when Gillespie was one of the candidates to coach England. He returned to Australia after Yorkshire narrowly missed out on a third successive title in 2016.
‘Dizzy’ is a big believer in the social side of the game: ‘That is how you learn’ he states. Rather different from the alleged harder approach carried out by past coach, where it was felt by some the discipline side was to harsh and the players didn’t respond. Gillespie puts much emphasis on personal player responsibility, ‘taking ownership’ of themselves. In other words, if a player wants a drink fine, only he knows when he has crossed the line of excess.
He rated Sachin Tendulkar the best player he’d played with ‘puts bums on seats’ he was that good, also Adam Gilchrist as a ‘wonderful entertainer’. It obvious Gillespie likes his cricket entertaining and one looks forward to this being shown in his Sussex sides. Having shared a dressing room with the great Australian players, it was interesting to note how Shane Warne suffered from ‘self-doubt in the dressing room’ but once out on the pitch he changed. ‘Dizzy’ underlined, Warne was a ‘wonderful player and guy’
Australian sides are known for their ‘sledging’ of players, asked his view on the topic, Jason played a straight bat, but stated ‘Putting the batman off was ‘part of his job’ and felt that ‘was fair game’. But there is a line where ‘swearing and abusing a player’ is not on. However, he was scathing of the Aussie guys caught up in the recent ball tempering scandal that has rocked the world of cricket. ‘The open lying’ upset Dizzy most as well as the Australian people.
Another change in the new ‘Dizzy’ regime is wicket keeper Ben Brown has been made club captain for all forms of game. Sitting next to him over lunch he showed all the maturity and thoughtfulness to make a good captain.
Matthew Willetts MA is the Director of Comicus who has over 35 years experience in television, film, theatre, and comedy club/cabaret entertainment, working as a performer, screenwriter, producer and agent. He lectured at Southampton Solent University in Comedy, Screenwriting, Television, Theatre & Radio. Matthew can sometimes be seen and heard on TV & Radio and often quoted in the national press and media publications. As well as speaking regularly at festivals and industry conferences, he has been a judge at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Montreux Television Festival.