Salisbury outlines a different approach to Sussex, success and silverware

You won’t hear Ian Salisbury making brave boasts about how high Sussex can finish in their group in the new-look county championship this summer.

James Kirtley, left, and Ian Salisbury are excited about Sussex's 2021 squad and their roles in leading the county in three different formats
James Kirtley, left, and Ian Salisbury are excited about Sussex's 2021 squad and their roles in leading the county in three different formats

But you can listen to your heart’s content as he promises to lead an operation at the County Ground that will see individual players get better – and the team make big progress as a result.

Following Jason Gillespie’s departure, Salisbury is one of two new head coaches at Hove who will oversee the squad in 2021 and he has particular responsibility for the county championship and one-day cup campaigns, with another former Sussex favourite, James Kirtley, running things on the T20 side.

It’s a challenge both are relishing and when Salisbury sends the side out for their championship opener against Lancashire at Old Trafford next Thursday, no-one will be more excited than him to see how the mix of senior pros and young prospects get on.

It’s a county championship with a difference this year as cricket tries to emerge from locked-down life at a steady, reasonable rate.

Counties have been split into three seeded groups of six – Sussex are alongside Lancs, Kent, Glamorgan, Yorkshire and Northants in theirs. Once all sides have played their rivals home and away, the top two from each group will go into division one, with the rest into divisions two and three, for a separate late-season competition.

Salisbury said: “I’m not looking to the end of the groups, I’m just looking to the next game.

“The competition is fantastic. With no relegation as such it means we can play young players, can play spinners, and express ourselves with perhaps less pressure than there would be otherwise.

“It’s a fresh start for us at Sussex and we have a very exciting squad.

“Everyone – players, support staff and all at the club – has bought into what we want to do and is working hard to ensure we can make progress.

“That’s what it’s about for me: progress. We will see the players improve as individuals and that in turn will bring success.”

Salisbury is keen to stress the importance of coaching not just the player.

“We will look after the whole person, not just the player. In the future, players won’t remember you for teaching them how to play a nice cover drive, they will remember you for how you made them feel.”

Salisbury, who played for England as well as Sussex, Surrey and Warwickshire, is big on the enjoyment factor – saying no-one would play cricket, or continue to play, if they didn’t get a buzz from it.

He said he and Kirtley worked well together – they did so with the England disability squad before reuniting at Hove – and would be assisting each other with their roles in the different formats.

The One-Day Cup campaign – for which many of the county’s star names will be absent because of The Hundred – starts in July, but the Vitality Blast looms up from June.

By then, there should be some supporters back in grounds and Salisbury said that would be huge.

“They’re why we play the game,” he said. “We genuinely want to engage with members and fans again.

“We look forward to people being in the ground, supporting us and being able to come and talk to us personally about what we’re trying to achieve.”

Salisbury revealed he had been talking to England coaches about Ollie Robinson’s bowling ‘workload’ and added: “We would love to see Ollie playing for England in the first Test of the summer.

“And when other players see their team-mate playing for England they’ll want to follow him. Our aim is to produce good cricketers for Sussex – and England.”