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Luke Sutton - Keeping an Edge

PUBLISHED: 16:06 19 August 2011 | UPDATED: 10:33 21 February 2013

Luke Sutton - Keeping an Edge

Luke Sutton - Keeping an Edge

Crispin Andrews talks to Derbyshire County Cricket Club's Captain Luke Sutton

Luke Suttons had a mixed day. The Derbyshire cricket captain got nought, in his words the victim of a dodgy LBW decision from umpire Peter Willey, as the team slumped to 96 for seven in their County Championship match against Glamorgan at Derbys Racecourse Ground.

Sutton then watched in amazement as 25-year-old Jon Clare, batting at number nine, smashed 130 in two and a half hours, as Derbyshire ended the day on 360. It was like watching Andrew Flintoff bat, Sutton says, Jon smashed it everywhere.

The day is typical of Suttons first season back at the county where he made his name in the early 2000s. Sometimes were good enough, other times were not quite there, the wicket-keeper says.

Jon Clare typifies this. Six foot three and built like Botham, the young all-rounder has potential. Clare, the bowler, ended the day by snaring Glamorgans South African test match opener Alviro Peterson for nought. A few weeks earlier he took five in an innings against the same opposition. When Jons back is up, he can bowl with proper pace, Sutton says, explaining, though, that too often Clare bowls within himself and settles for less than his best. He needs to get fitter, the captain adds, Jons strong but he needs to get stronger so he can keep going for more than a few overs.

Flintoff, Suttons former Lancashire colleague and the man for whom Sutton oversees a country-wide Cricket Academy programme when hes not playing, had similar issues in his early years. Overweight and underfit, only occasionally did Flintoff produce his brilliant best, until in his mid twenties he strengthened his body and focused his mind. Sutton sees similar potential in Clare. He could be anything he wants to be, Im not exaggerating, Sutton says.

After five years chasing trophies and England caps with Lancashire, Luke Sutton is back at Derbyshire as much for the county as for himself. He talks of helping a new generation of young players turn Derbyshires fortunes around. At the time of writing they sit mid-table of Division Two, after coming last last year. They are third in group A of the Clydesdale Bank 40- over competition, and only missed out on T20 quarter finals after some narrow defeats in the group stage. Other than myself and Will Durston, the rest of the team are under thirty, Sutton says.

He picks out 22-year-old all-rounder, Ross Whiteley, who performed phenomenally in the T20 matches, 17-year-old spinner Tom Knight and Dan Redfern, 21, who has 650 Championship runs at the time of writing. Sutton is pleased the team is becoming more consistent. I knew we had the talent, he says, we just needed to demand the best of ourselves every day whether playing or practising.

Sutton is enjoying his second stint in Derbyshire. Whether its the warm welcome he received at last years AGM, playing at the picturesque Chesterfield ground or, in his spare time, looking across the grounds at Chatsworth Park, Sutton, who was born in Somerset, feels at home in his adoptive county. He challenges anyone to go to Bakewell and not be impressed by its timeless appeal and friendly beauty. And for a walk, where better than the Peak District?

Hes back in Derbyshire to play cricket, though, and hopes to lead the club towards more successful times after the team struggled during his first stint in charge. An experienced 34, hes taken on a more prominent coaching managerial role since the mid-season sacking of coach, John Morris.

When I was here before, we always stuck together and tried to improve, but it is difficult when youre not getting the results. He remembers the Cheltenham and Gloucester semi-final in 2003, when Derbyshire lost by one wicket against Gloucestershire, then kings of one-day cricket. In the quarter final wed thrashed Surrey, a team full of superstars like Graham Thorpe, Mark Ramprakash and Saqlain Mushtaq, he says.

Usually though, during those years, Derbyshire struggled. After relegation from County Championship in 2000, between 2001 and 2005 Derbyshire was seldom off the bottom of division two, and 2003 apart, made little
impact on the limited overs competitions.

It was a long way from the glory
days of the 80s and 90s, when players like Kim Barnett, John Morris, Devon Malcolm, Dominic Cork and earlier Geoff Miller, John Wright and Peter Kirsten held their own against all-comers. Victories in the NatWest Trophy in 1981, the Refuge Assurance Sunday League in 1990, and the Benson and Hedges Cup in 1993 are Derbyshires only successes since 1936, when George Pope, his brother Alf, and Stan Worthington led Derbyshire to what is still their only County Championship success.

England batsman David Steele, grey-haired, bespectacled and fresh from his war against Lillee, Thomson and the West Indies fast bowlers, and his predecessor as Derbyshire captain, Eddie Barlow, who brought South African grit and professionalism to the county, may have laid the foundations for the great Derbyshire sides of the 80s and 90s. For Sutton, though, Dominic Cork has always been the main man.

Never seen a better competitor, Sutton says of the England all-rounder who played for Derbyshire for 14 seasons, before moving on to Lancashire and Hampshire, Cork was always up for the big game and would always perform well against the big names.

Sutton remembers a showdown between Cork and Australian batsman Matt Hayden, who was playing for Northamptonshire. Hayden would go on to become one of the worlds best, but Sutton explains that Cork, as always, was determined to get the upper hand. Cork was telling Hayden that he was going to hit him in the head and then get him out, Sutton says, explaining that Hayden, himself a formidable competitor, was daring Cork to go for it. A few balls later Cork got him, Sutton adds, I hardly ever saw Cork lose one of these personal jousts.

Sutton realises that in todays two-division system, smaller clubs like Derbyshire dont have the finances to pay the modern day equivalents of Cork, Barlow and Steele. He sees hope though in the talented crop of youngsters, even if for now, the inconsistencies remain. Were moving forward, slowly, people need to be a little bit patient with us, he says.

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