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SUSSEX AIM FOR DIZZY HEIGHTS

Jason Gillespie reveals why he has become coach at Hove in a surprise return to county cricket

BY RICHARD EDWARDS

When Jason Gillespie bade farewell to Yorkshire back in 2016 it seemed as though this particular Anglo-Australian love affair with the county game had run its course.

Not a bit of it.

After spending time working at Kent last season, the man known as ‘Dizzy’ has sent heads spinning again by agreeing to take over as the coach of Sussex.

In a winter where surprises have apparently lurked around every conceivable corner, Gillespie’s decision to commit his future to the south-coast county still raised eyebrows.

Gillespie even admits that the thought of returning to the County Championship on a full-time basis was originally a “non-starter”. But the prospect of working at Hove for seven months of the year, while also being able to return to coach the Adelaide Strikers in the Big Bash and spend time with his family down under in the English winter, eventually persuaded him that this latest project was one well worth undertaking.

Just do not ask him to compare the situation at Sussex with the one he walked into at Headingley back in 2012.

Jason Gillespie on Adelaide Strikers duty

“It’s wrong and a bit disrespectful to compare two different clubs and I mean that in the nicest possible way,” he told The Cricketer.

“The two clubs are completely different and in different situations. I absolutely loved my time at Yorkshire and, listen, I’ve got lifelong friends there and it’s a wonderful place. It was a sad time to leave.

“It was a gut-wrenching decision and it was heartbreaking to leave the club that I love in a job that I loved. It was a really tough call but it was the right call.”

He will hope his judgement is still up to scratch almost 18 months on. Gillespie brought Yorkshire their first Championship triumph in 13 years in 2014, after getting them promoted from Division Two at the first time of asking.

He will hope that he can produce similar miracles at a county that has struggled in the longest format since winning three Championships between 2003 and 2007 under Chris Adams.

Taking Sussex in to Division One is the first challenge awaiting him when he flies north from South Australia in early spring.

“Do we want promotion next season?” he says. “The short answer is yes. I think every club in Division Two wants to jump back into Division One.

“Everyone would acknowledge that, though, but the big question for us is what is going to allow us to get into a position to get promoted, what is going to allow us to win 50-over games, what’s going to allow us to win games of Twenty20 cricket.

“We’ll get together, have those conversations and develop a plan on how it’s going to go. It’s going to be driven by the players and they are going to get huge support from the coaching staff – we’re all in this together.

Gillespie during his time at Kent

“I don’t want to look back and refer back to Yorkshire because this is a new situation, it’s a new environment, we’ll have new goals and different opportunities. My time at Yorkshire is done, I’ve moved on from that and my time is Sussex now.

“I can’t wait to get stuck in and hopefully we can go out there and play some really good positive, aggressive cricket and have some fun along the way.”

His last tilt at the title was a memorable one, with Yorkshire falling agonisingly short of a hat-trick of Championships in the dying sunlight of summer at Lord’s against Middlesex in September 2016.

It was an unforgettable finale to a quite extraordinary season and that, perhaps more than anything else, is the reason he has returned full-time so soon.

“That Championship went to the last hour of the season – that’s such a thrilling thing and that just doesn’t happen in any other domestic competition anywhere else in the world,” says the former Australia quick bowler.

“That’s unique to England. What a wonderful advertisement that was. We ended up on the wrong side of the ledger, and I’d still love to be talking to you about winning a third County Championship in a row but there were 10,000 people at Lord’s on the last day of the season and it went down to the last hour. Mate, cricket doesn’t get any better than that.

“I look back on that with disappointment because we didn’t get over the line but, holistically, if you look at it from the game point of view, it just proved how popular county cricket is. It’s a wonderful sport and I’m really excited to be part of it again.”

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