Sussex Sharks skipper Luke Wright has been talking to Steve Bone about the early days of T20 cricket - and why it’s so much fun captaining in the format well over a decade later
Luke Wright was already playing cricket when Twenty20 was introduced. He was at the very start of his pro career, and with Leicestershire, when the new format was launched in England in 2003.
Since then it’s a form of the game that’s been very good to him – and he’s a player who has been very good at it.
He recalls in those early days that more senior pros didn’t seem to think T20 would be here to stay. “I’ve loved Twenty20 from day one,” he says. “It attracts big crowds and produces exciting cricket for them, and that’s what you want to be involved in as a player.
“It suited my style - in those days as an all-rounder - and still suits my batting style. I’m lucky enough to have played it internationally and all around the world, so it’s given me some great experiences.
“I was in the Sussex team who won the T20 Cup in 2009 which was fabulous, and it would be lovely for us to do that again a decade on.
“I do remember when T20 was first played here, a lot of senior players laughed at it and thought it was a joke. But they had to change their view when they saw how many people turned up to watch it.”
The record books show that 34-year-old Wright, who retired from red-ball cricket earlier this year to concentrate on the white-ball stuff, has played 300 T20s with an astonishing strike rate of 144 and a best knock of 153 not out, a 66-ball innings containing 11 sixes and 12 fours that won the Sharks a remarkable game in Essex in 2014.
It’s no wonder Sussex bosses have been happy to make him skipper of their present-day side, putting him in charge of a talented crop of players that this year will include two overseas stars – Rashid Khan and Alex Carey – as well as the likes of Chris Jordan, Jofra Archer, Tymal Mills and David Wiese. They begin their 2019 South Group campaign this evening (Fri 19) at Hampshire's Ageas Bowl.
With men like that at his disposal, is being a T20 captain easy?
“I wouldn’t say that,” he laughs. “But I love being captain. What you find is that a captain can influence the result much more in T20 than in longer forms.
“When you choose to use a particular bowler, or set a particular field, it can have a big bearing on the result. In T20 one or two good overs can win you the game, while one or two bad ones can lose it. You have to be alert all the time and ready to adapt to the match situation.
“Not everyone in the crowd would notice something had been down to you but it’s satisfying when you know you’ve done something that’s helped bring a win.”
Wright says Sussex’s players have enough experience between them to know how to approach the batting and what areas to bowl in, and he sees his role as one of encouragement – and advice when things are not going well.
“We have a lot of fairly senior bowlers and they know what I want from them out there. It’s more about me picking when to use them. They’re relaxed about when they bowl in a T20, they’re all used to bowling at the start, middle or end of an innings. But with the younger players I can do more to give them a heads-up about how to play and what tactics to go for.”
Wright and his troops all enjoyed Finals Day last year immensely, despite losing in the final to Worcestershire, and they are determined to secure a return visit. But the captain knows they cannot take for granted that they will get through the south group to qualify for the last eight.
“Middlesex look strong having signed AB De Villiers, Surrey are a team full of internationals and Hampshire - last year apart - normally find their groove,” he reflects. “But one team I think are a real danger are Somerset. They’re always there or thereabouts but you look at their form this year in all formats of the game and I think they’ll be very strong.”
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