New Sussex cricket head coach Jason Gillespie has revealed he didn’t think he’d be able to take the job when the idea was first raised – but can’t wait to get started now it has become a reality.
The Australian legend takes over at Hove for the 2018 season after agreeing a three-year deal and says he is eagerly looking forward to getting to know the club, the players and the staff – and giving supporters plenty to shout about.
But the job was not something Gillespie was expecting to be offered, or initially thought he could take.
“It’s a bit of a surprise to be going back to county cricket so soon after leaving it,” the 42-year-old told Sussex Newspapers.
He left Yorkshire last year after five years at Headingley but said: “A mate of mine said someone at Sussex was after my number. Rob Andrew (Sussex CEO) called me to gauge my interest in the role. My initial thought was that it could not happen.
“I left Yorkshire in 2016 and moved my family back to Australia and we have all been very settled. The thought of moving the family back to the UK didn’t quite fit. But Rob said the club were open to me coming over in March and staying until the end of the season and to making plans for my family coming over too.
“Once we went down that path I was thinking ‘this could work’. The job itself, and returning to county cricket, was never a problem. I love county cricket. So once that issue was sorted out, there was no reason not to do it. Michael de Venuto does a similar thing with Surrey.”
Gillespie said he was excited about working with a Sussex squad which contained a mixture of well-known names with international experience and up-and-coming youngsters.
But he will make no bold predictions about what they might win with him at the helm – although Sussex fans will be all too aware his first four seasons at Headingley brought promotion to division one followed by a runners-up spot in the top flight followed by back-to-back titles.
He told us: “In the past couple of years Sussex have probably under-acheived but I feel there’s a really good squad to work with. It’s pretty exciting.
“Some really good work has been done by the previous coaches and coaching staff. Sussex have some fine players – there is quality in that squad and I’m looking forward to working with them to achieve their goals.
“The two questions I ask are: Is this something I want to do? Do I think I can make a difference? The answer to both is yes.
“I think I can have a positive impact on Sussex. I want to allow the players to express themselves and play the game they love. I will be challenging them to be better than they have been.”
Asked about the current squad being strengthened ahead of the 2018 season, Gillespie said nothing was being ruled out at this early stage. “I want to get my feet under the table and get to know everyone,” he said.
Everyone on the books at Hove would have a chance to show what they could do, he said, and he was fully aligned with club bosses’ desire to see Sussex-based young players coming through.
But he said if additions from elsewhere would help, those were possible too.
Gillespie is regarded as something of a hero after his coaching stint at Yorkshire, for whom he also played, but didn’t want to make big promises on repeating such levels of success.
“That was a different county at a different time. I wouldn’t say no to doing the same at Sussex but I don’t want to dwell on the past or compare different counties. I have wonderful memories from Yorkshire and made wonderful friends, and I look forward to Sussex playing against them.
“But it’s about Sussex now and I can assure supporters we will do everything we can to create a positive and encouraging environment for the players to go out and express themselves and play the game they love. We are called support staff as we are there to support the players, not the other way round.
“I don’t suffer fools – if someone isn’t putting it in they will know it! But I’m a big believer in ther enjoyment factor. I’m involved in cricket because I love it, and it’s a love I’ve never lost.”
At present Gillespie is keenly watching the Ashes series unfold and he predicts a 3-1 win for the hosts – but says the next Test, the day-nighter in Adelaide starting on Saturday, is the big opportunity for England to win a game.
“With the pink ball, Jimmy Anderson will be looking to swing it around and contain Australia. But as for the series overall, I just feel England do lack matchwinners,” he added.