County news – Ben Brown joins Sussex exodus after requesting early contract release


Experienced wicketkeeper was axed as captain in mid-summer

Ben Brown has been released from his contract with Sussex two years early at his own request after losing the captaincy in mid-summer, making him the latest high-profile departure from the club after Chris Jordan and Phil Salt.

Brown has been a Sussex player since Under-11 level and has been a first-team player since 2007. He was awarded the club captaincy on a full-time basis in 2018 after taking on the role midway through the 2017 season and signed a contract extension in 2020, but Sussex announced midway through last summer that they had decided “the time is right for new leadership”.

He was briefly dropped from their Royal London Cup squad and when he returned to the squad he was selected as a specialist batter rather than a wicketkeeper. Despite the upheaval – and being asked to bat out of position at No. 3 in the final month of the season – Brown had the most prolific Championship season of his career, with 976 runs at 51.36 and four hundreds.

“Ben had two seasons remaining on his contract and, as you’d expect with a player of his quality, was very much a part of our plans for the future,” Rob Andrew, Sussex’s chief executive, said in a statement.

“We’ve tried hard to find a way forward that keeps him at the club and until very recently thought that would be something we could achieve. However, it’s now clear that Ben is set on a change, and it would be in nobody’s interests to keep him at Sussex against his will.

“Despite hoping it wouldn’t be necessary, once Ben first mentioned that he was feeling unsettled it was only prudent that we began exploring potential replacements for next summer. Ben has been part of Sussex for over two decades and has a record he can be extremely proud of. He has always given everything with the bat, the gloves or with his captaincy.”

Under tapping-up regulations, Brown has not been permitted to speak to other counties but is likely to prove an attractive signing. He has 22 first-class hundreds and a career average above 40, is widely recognised as one of the best wicketkeepers in the country and has leadership experience. He has little T20 experience but as a result is not involved in the Hundred and made his first List A hundred against Middlesex in August.

“As this chapter of my career draws to a close, I would like to say an enormous thank you to Sussex for the opportunities I have been afforded over a twenty-two-year association with the club,” Brown said in a statement. “Since I was first selected as an eleven-year-old I have made life-long friends, travelled the world, and made memories for life playing cricket for Sussex.

“To have had the opportunity to play as much as I have for my home club makes me immensely proud and I am hugely grateful to everyone at Sussex over the years who have helped turn my dreams into a reality. I am also thankful for the opportunity to become club captain, a job that gave me immense pride and pleasure to do, and I look forward to returning to Hove in the future to reflect on seeing my name on the captain’s board, alongside so many great names of Sussex Cricket.

“I would like to wish the current squad and support staff all the best in the coming years, and I look forward to seeing the young squad flourish over seasons to come at Hove. For me personally it is time to return to being a Sussex supporter as I look forward to a new chapter of my cricket career.”

Sussex have been in a state of transition in four-day cricket since their relegation from Division One of the Championship in 2015. They were expected to compete for promotion under Jason Gillespie but never managed to finish in the top two and they won the wooden spoon in Ian Salisbury’s first season in charge in 2021 while fielding the youngest team in the country and using as many as 26 different players.

Luke Wright, the club’s T20 captain, said Sussex “can’t be losing our best players all the time,” ahead of Jordan and Salt’s final appearances for the club, following the departures of Laurie Evans, Danny Briggs, Luke Wells, Chris Nash, Reece Topley and Michael Burgess in recent seasons. Stiaan van Zyl and Aaron Thomason also left the club at the end of the 2021 season, while Stuart Meaker and Mitchell Claydon have both retired and Will Beer has signed a T20-only contract despite admitting his desire to play across formats.

However, several of their best young players – including 50-over captain and leading Championship run-scorer Tom Haines, George Garton, Jack Carson and Delray Rawlins – have signed contract extensions, as have senior T20 players like Wright, Tymal Mills and Ravi Bopara. Travis Head, who struggled with the bat in his first season at the club but scored an 85-ball hundred in the first Ashes Test last week, will return as Championship captain in 2022, while the club are due to announce a major overseas signing on Thursday afternoon.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98