There is a growing sense of anticipation as the new University cricket season approaches. The Sussex Men’s team have been ringing the changes in the off-season in an attempt to reinstate the 1st XI to the 2nd division.

The departure of long-time coach Merv Jones has enabled the committee to employ the services of two new coaches to replace the huge void left by Merv’s departure. His eventual replacements Phil Norman and Roger Newman have already made a big impact. Phil’s fitness program (probably borne out of some kind of Freudian hatred towards thin people) has left the previously formidable Hari Lehal reeling. Roger, or ‘King Kev’ as he is affectionately known due to his unfortunate likeness to one time Newcastle legend Kevin Keegan, has provided a sobering voice to the boisterousness of the new team.

With the new influx of freshers this year, combined with the old guard from previous years, training sessions are always packed full of talented cricketers keen to impress the new coaches. The team atmosphere is at an all time high as the new faces have already fully integrated with the established players to great effect. Spirits are elevated to momentous heights at pre-season training as all are eagerly awaiting the start of the most important 10 weeks of the year: the university cricket season. When asked whether he was looking forward to the upcoming season, seam bowler Paul Holiday could hardly contain his emotions, replying “Yes.”

Prior to the start of the season proper, the team will embark on the second annual tour. This time they will head to North Devon with a 25 man party on mini-buses driven by 1st XI captain Will Roe, 2nd team stalwart Hari Lehal and driving veteran Alan Gallagher. There are some concerns over safety. The tour gives the captains a chance to see the squad in action in real matches and crystallise the starting line-ups for the first league fixtures.

Second team captain, M Stroud, is extraordinarily upbeat about the strength of the club this year. When interviewed he could hardly hold back his excitement when discussing this seasons prospects. “I am feeling very positive about the upcoming season. With the new freshers and the fact that we didn’t lose many players last year, we have two very strong squads. My aim for the second team this year is to consolidate [last year’s] promotion”.

The highlight in the club’s calendar every year is the annual varsity against Brighton University. A grudge match which is normally a hiding for the Sussex boys, the club are confident about their ability to build on last year’s improvement and end Brighton’s dominance in this contest.

Another area that has been targeted for improvement is the tea provided for matches at Falmer Sports Complex. Australian vice-captain Pete Selby’s description of last year’s food was damning – in his less profane moments he called the teas “sub-standard and overpriced.”

Recently the club was shocked by the passing of devoted supporter Ken Smith. A former Sussex lecturer, Ken attended Sussex matches home and away in his retirement and was largely responsible for the characteristically friendly and easygoing attitude of the team. Club President Dan Peters called Ken “a fantastic supporter of the club whose support was always recognised by all the players.” The club will be honouring him by playing a testimonial match and installing a memorial bench at Falmer Sports Complex.

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