There’s a fresh feel to Sussex cricket this season with a new Director of Cricket, Head Coach and Captain in place hoping to take the county forward.
And while return of Murray Goodwin as batting coach may have evoked memories of the county’s successful recent past, his contribution in the future could turn out to be as important as those of Keith Greenfield, Mark Davis and Luke Wright.
Davis wants the 43-year-old to pass on some of the tips that made him one of the most successful batsmen in Sussex’s history - specifically how to bat for long periods.
Goodwin was a master at it. In 11 seasons his 14,472 first-class runs for Sussex included eight double hundreds. The two biggest scores in Sussex’s history, 344 against Somerset in 2009 and 335 versus Leicestershire in 2003 (both not outs) have his name against them. Nothing motivated him more than grinding down the opposition and spending time at the crease.
As a comparison, since he left Sussex in 2012, only three batsmen have scored double hundreds for the county: Wright, against Worcestershire last season, Ed Joyce and Luke Wells.
That ability to concentrate for long periods, to resist when the bowlers are on top and then cash in when they tire or the pitch eases seems to have been lost in the T20 era, with a generation of young players seemingly fretting if they are not scoring off every delivery, even in red-ball cricket.
Goodwin agrees. “I love seeing guys in the nets or in the middle expressing themselves and play shots that I couldn’t play,” he says. “But there is an art to batting in four-day cricket. I’m here to help our players, particularly the youngsters, find it; to learn how to stay in what I call the battle of batting – to be patient, trust their defence and know their technique is good enough to take advantage when it gets easier.
“They are all good enough to do that technically, from the young lads in the Academy upwards.”
So is it purely a mental barrier that needs to be overcome? “Possibly,” says Goodwin. “When I started playing professionally I wasn’t very good at switching off between balls but you do need that balance, between being intense and focused when the bowler is running in and staying relaxed when he’s not.
“The guys just need to keep it simple. Don’t worry about the scoreboard – just worry about the next ball. Make sure you’re set up at the crease is balanced and play the next ball on its merits. If you can do that for long spells you will get your reward.”
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