Red-ball days over - but Wright can be a white-ball wonder for Sussex

Luke Wright is looking forward to concentrating his efforts on the Vitality Blast - as seen here - and the One Day Cup / Picture by Stephen Lawrence
Luke Wright is looking forward to concentrating his efforts on the Vitality Blast - as seen here - and the One Day Cup / Picture by Stephen Lawrence

Sussex head coach Jason Gillespie believes Luke Wright’s decision to retire from red-ball cricket could help extend his career.

Wright, 34, retired from the longer format on Monday after making 144 first-class appearances during a 16-year career. He scored 7,622 runs and took 120 wickets and also led Sussex 11 times during a spell as captain in 2016-17. He will continue to skipper Sussex in T20 and will have a key role to play when the Sharks start their Royal London One-Day Cup campaign next week.

“He wants to play for another good four to five years and we’re all fully supportive of that,” Gillespie said. “We’re just delighted that he will stay with us longer in the shorter forms of the game. Luke understood why he wasn’t involved when we announced the squad for the first Championship game. He knew that other guys were going to be afforded the opportunity to play first.

“I always like to give a player one more game than one less and he understood and supported that. We’ve had some really good conversations – he just wants what is best for the club and senses that there is nothing wrong with giving young players an opportunity. It’s a sad day because he’s played some wonderful four-day cricket for Sussex, but I’m delighted that he’s going to be at the club for a while yet.”

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Wright had a poor year in the Specsavers County Championship in 2018 when he averaged 21.12 and scored one half-century but made a conscious effort in pre-season to improve his red-ball skills. He spent two weeks at Gary Kirsten’s academy in South Africa at his own expense and turned down another stint in the Pakistan Super League so he could work on his technique.

It seemed the hard work had paid off when he made a century against Cardiff MCCU but he was left out of the squad for the Championship opener against Leicestershire and announced his decision on Monday, after learning that Michael Burgess would replace the injured Harry Finch for the match at Durham which started today.

It is the end of an era at Hove as Wright was the last player still at the club who was part of the squad that won Sussex’s most recent Championship title.

But Gillespie is confident his side will see the benefits when Sussex start their white-ball season against Surrey at Hove on Good Friday in the Royal London One-Day Cup.

“One of Luke’s big focuses in the winter was to put a real emphasis on his fitness,” added Gillespie. “When I met him in Cape Town for pre-season, I thought it was a 23-year-old running around the field, he was like a whippet.

“He’s worked hard and I think he’s improved his fielding - his throwing arm is one of the strongest in the squad. He’s as fit as he’s been for a while and I have got no doubt he could play for a long time yet.”

Gillespie has not ruled out bringing another experienced batsman to the club but for now he will continue to give the likes of Burgess and Delray Rawlins a chance. “We feel there are plenty of other batting options as well as our all-rounders,” he added. “If our thoughts change and we feel we need more batting depth we will think about that, but I am willing to give the young guys a chance.”

Gillespie has confirmed that Ben Brown will captain the side in the Royal London One-Day Cup. He is planning to take the squad to the Ageas Bowl next Thursday to play in a friendly against Hampshire seconds as part of their preparations.