Learning goes on for captain Haines as he leads Sussex into new era

New Sussex County Championship and 50-over captain Tom Haines leads the county into a fresh four-day campaign today, saying it’s been a learning curve adapting to the leadership role.

The 23-year-old captained the side four times at the back end of last season in the 50-over One-Day Cup and has been named as interim captain after Australian batter Travis Head withdrew from his 2022 contract. Opening batsman Haines takes over as four-day captain from Ben Brown, who lost the role last summer and joined Hampshire in January.

Sussex begin their championship division two campaign today (April 7) as Notts visit Hove.

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Tom Haines hits out during Sussex's pre-season friendly against Surrey / Picture: Mike Hewitt, Getty

Haines, who became the first player in 2021 to score 1000 runs in the County Championship, spoke about captaining the side at the end of the 2021 season, saying. “It was a real learning curve for me, the last four games were tough, learning how to deal with my batting and captaining as well. I’m really looking forward to this year I’ve got the help around me from coaching staff and senior players. I really see it as a year I can grow and learn a lot as a cricketer.”

Sussex finished bottom of their County Championship group last year, winning only once, but Haines hopes the new arrivals will bring success. “As you saw last year there were individual performances in each of the games that showed us the talent we just need to bring it all together, there’s been a few signs we’ve had over the winter with senior players such as Steve Finn.

"We’ve got Tom Alsop and the two overseas as well, it’s only going to help all of them grow and perform on a more consistent basis I think.”

Often a captain’s performances may dip due to the pressure of the role but Haines says he is thriving after initially debating on whether to take the role. “There was definitely time to think, it wasn’t an instant yes, I spoke to people whose opinion I value and weighing up both sides of the argument but I feel it’s a really good decision for me to take it on now I’ve got the support around me and the senior players, the signings we’ve made are only going to help.

“In the field it helps me, I focus on the decision I have to make as a captain when I’m in the field, I don’t think about my batting, I don’t ever overthink anything. When I go out to bat I don’t worry about being a captain I worry about going out and scoring as many runs as I can. It helps me separate the two and I’ve really enjoyed it so far.

“It is tough but that’s cricket, that’s being an opening batter, you could be a captaining or a fielder it’s still mentally and physically tough, thinking about the game in the field like tactics and bowling decisions it’s all stuff that’s going to make me become a better cricketer.”

After fielding a very youthful side last year, Sussex have brought in senior players Steve Finn and Cheteshwar Pujara which will help the young skipper according to County Championship coach, Ian Salisbury, who said. “We see massive leadership qualities in Tom that’s why we had him as 50-over captain last year and to captain the youngest side that has ever been out there would’ve been hard work for him.

"But now the players you have around him, you’ve got superstars of world cricket. So far and may it continue he’s scored a load of runs still as captain and he’ll talk about how his captaincy helps his batting.”