There’s a lot to admire in the way that Ian Salisbury and James Kirtley have settled in as head coaches at Sussex, not least their willingness to make the tough calls.
After taking 20 wickets in his first three LV=Insurance County Championship matches, Ollie Robinson was allowed to put his feet up this week while his team-mates took on Lancashire at the 1st Central County Ground.
It doesn’t appear to have been a decision that caused any sleepless nights for Salisbury, whose main responsibility in the split-coaching role is to look after four-day cricket.
Injuries have also robbed Sussex of Sean Hunt and Mitch Claydon to leave the seam bowling attack depleted but Robinson, 27, is a prized asset and should be treated as such.
The current schedule, which sees Sussex play for six consecutive weeks, leaves the players with one day to rest and recover each week.
For bowlers in particular that is a heavy schedule and the rotation policy will continue.
“Ollie has bowled magnificently, but his workload has been huge and we can’t afford to risk him breaking down,” said Salisbury.
“There’s a lot expected of him – not just with the ball, but with the bat, in the field and as vice-captain – but he’s not a bowling machine you can just plug in. He’s a human being and he’s due a rest.”
It may also be the case that when England coach Chris Silverwood pitched up at Hove last week to watch Robinson that he asked Sussex to take it easy with a player who could well make his Test debut against New Zealand in June.
Robinson should return at Northampton on Thursday (6 May) when there is even a chance that he might share the new ball with Jofra Archer, who last played a Championship game for Sussex in September 2018.
After recovering from finger and elbow injuries, and declining to return to India for the remainder of the IPL, the England speedster is due to make a comeback in the second team early next week.
If all goes well, he might head to Northampton, although a return to Sussex colours at home to Kent on Thursday 13 May looks more likely.
Not far behind Robinson in terms of making an early-season impression is the 20-year-old off-spinner Jack Carson, who took six wickets in the narrow 48-run defeat to Yorkshire last week and, in the first innings at least, outperformed England’s Dom Bess.
Although he hails from Northern Ireland, Carson has been in the county since he was 12. He was recommended to Sussex by, among others, former captain Ed Joyce and entered the academy system after he began studying at Hurstpierpoint College.
In his previous role as spin-bowling coach, Salisbury took Carson under his wing last season and the player speaks fondly of their relationship.
He took 14 wickets in the truncated first-class programme last year and has continued his upward trajectory in the opening weeks of the new season.
At 6ft 2in he is quite tall for a spinner, but it does enable him to get bounce and he spins the ball hard.
He certainly relished the excellent pitch prepared by groundsman Ben Gibson for the Yorkshire game, which turned from day one.
Carson – and Salisbury for that matter – know that during the season he might not encounter such helpful surfaces too often. But he appears to have an excellent temperament and clearly enjoys taking wickets.
There won’t be a more exuberant celebration all season than the one which accompanied his dismissal of England captain Joe Root against Yorkshire (he also got Root’s predecessor Alastair Cook out last season).
Carson’s rapid development, and that of Tom Haines and Tom Clark in the top five, represent really promising long-term signs while the arrival of Australian batsman Travis Head is another cause for Sussex optimism.
Head landed on Thursday and went into quarantine but there is an outside chance that he might play against Northamptonshire next Thursday.
And the positive news keeps coming. Sussex hope to have some spectators back in the ground when Northants pay their return visit to Hove on Thursday 27 May.
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