Hard Yards will pay off
Ian Ward says Michael Yardy is a tough character who can lead Sussex through tricky times.
Last Updated: 16/05/09 8:16pm
The transitional nature of Sussex's season comes under the spotlight again on Tuesday when the Sharks travel to the Oval to take on Chris Adams' Surrey.
Michael Yardy's men have already beaten the Brown Caps once in this year's FP Trophy so I'm sure Adams will want to get one back on his former county.
But this is a big year for the Sharks and Yardy in particular and if there is a club that has proved it can cope with tricky times, it is Sussex.
They faced a difficult hurdle in 2005 when coach Peter Moores left to run what was then the National Academy but they stuck to their beliefs, promoted from within and were rewarded as Mark Robinson made a seamless transition from second team coach into the top job.
Robinson went on to forge a good, successful relationship with then skipper Adams but now Chris has gone the Sharks need Yardy to step up to the plate just as Robinson did.
As captain Adams contributed with the bat but also set the tone, the tactics and the standards for the side and Sussex have also lost their best player in Mushtaq Ahmed - a 100-wickets-a-season man.
But Yards is very much his own man and I think he will do very well; he has enjoyed a good player-coach relationship with Robinson in the past but the captain-coach relationship has a different dynamic so I will be interested to see how that one pans out.
It's just as well he is a strong character because there will be plenty of senior players within the squad offering him advice.
It's too easy to rely on key men like Murray Goodwin, who has seen it all at Sussex and has a wealth of cricket experience, but Yardy has got to make his own call. Sometimes the hardest thing for a new captain to do is trust what you want to do instinctively when there are other guys offering different advice.
Ed Joyce is a fantastic signing for Sussex and I'm sure there are some jealous counties out there who would have liked his signature.
I like him as a player and his approach to the game. He's an unflappable character who possesses a steely determination. I always enjoy watching him bat and I think he will thrive in an environment where he will be pushed hard and challenged.
It might sound silly but I think he will enjoy living down by the coast; Brighton & Hove is a great place to get away from it all after six or seven days on the road. If you are happy off the field invariably that transfers onto the field and vice versa.
Ed needed freshening up on the field and now he has new challenges, new team-mates to impress and he'll want to satisfy his own professional pride and prove his worth to his peers - something he has already done in spades this season.
Sussex needed a replacement for Chris, not just as a captain but in terms of the runs he brought to the table as well, and Joyce fills the hole and some with the greatest respect to Chris.
He is a younger guy who still has England aspirations and should dovetail well with Goodwin who remains a world-class player with awesome stats.
His first-class record for Sussex is unbelievable - 39 centuries and as good as 11,000 runs. That's absolutely superb and he continues to be a key man for them.
Yardy is also an experienced cricketer but the club has also got some young players coming through too - the likes of Rory Hamilton-Brown and Joe Gatting both of whom look bright prospects.
Wicketkeeper Andrew Hodd is 25 as is Chris Nash so together with Joyce, Goodwin and Yardy Sussex have got near-enough a perfect blend.
I think the club's biggest problem going forward is the seam bowling department and, more to the point, finding a way to take 20 wickets a match in Championship cricket.
Yasir Arafat is a great signing and by my reckoning Jason Lewry has been the best left-arm seamer in the country for some time but he's 38 years of age now and they will need to replace him at some point.
Robin Martin-Jenkins also has got a lot of overs under his belt while James Kirtley is near enough my age! With that in mind and Mushtaq gone, they need to bolster their bowling.
What's more, Sussex have been quite poor at Twenty20 in recent years; they haven't found a winning formula which his remarkable given the one-day success they have enjoyed in 40 and 50-over cricket as well as the County Championship.
It's hard to pinpoint why they haven't lived up to expectations. Yardy is a very canny, slow bowler and Ollie Rayner and Yasir Arafat are both capable of turning games.
Somehow they have to find that rhythm, that style which makes a side successful in Twenty20. Perhaps the arrival of Joyce, who won the competition with Middlesex side last year, might change all of that.