Andrew swaps codes to find Sus­sex suc­cess

Richard Ed­wards speaks to Sus­sex’s new Chief Ex­ec­u­tive, Rob Andrew, about life af­ter rugby...

The Cricket Paper - - FEATURE -

Adesk in the war­ren of of­fices at the back of one of county cricket’s most pic­turesque and his­toric grounds seems an in­con­gru­ous set­ting to meet an icon of English rugby and a man who, not too long ago, was pi­lot­ing the pro­fes­sional game in this coun­try for the RFU. In many ways, how­ever, Rob Andrew’s ap­point­ment as Sus­sex’s chief ex­ec­u­tive – a job he started ear­lier this month – has seen his ca­reer come full cir­cle.

It was easy to for­get when Andrew was win­ning three Grand Slams as a fly-half with Eng­land or try­ing to tackle the great Jonah Lomu in the World Cup that he once cap­tained Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity in the Var­sity match at Lords, and played Sec­ond XI cricket for his na­tive York­shire along­side the likes of David Byas, Richard Blakey and Ash­ley Met­calf.

Look­ing re­laxed in his new en­vi­ron­ment, Andrew jokes that his one shot, ‘the for­ward de­fen­sive’, was un­likely to get him very far in the game. But for a man who made his Eng­land rugby de­but while still at Uni­ver­sity, it’s lit­tle won­der that cricket ended up play­ing sec­ond fid­dle in the long run.

Fast for­ward 30 years and cricket is now very much back at the top of his pri­or­ity list as he pre­pares to lead Sus­sex through what could, po­ten­tially, be a pe­riod that de­cides the di­rec­tion of the English game for the next 20 years.

“If you asked my mates at school when I was play­ing right through un­til I left school, they would prob­a­bly say I ex­celled more in cricket than rugby,” says Andrew. “Did I love cricket more than I loved rugby? It’s dif­fer­ent. I still play a bit of cricket; I still try and play a cou­ple of times a year.

“My bat­ting was bor­ing. I had one shot, the for­ward de­fen­sive, it was the only one I ever got taught. I would have nets ev­ery day at the school in sum­mer and I loved it. I just loved bat­ting. The school (Barnard Cas­tle School in Durham) also had an­other claim to fame as Gra­ham, Ben Duck­ett’s dad was there too. He was the star crick­eter when I first ar­rived.”

The left-handed Andrew ended his Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity ca­reer with an aver­age of 21, but did man­age to notch a First-Class cen­tury – a gritty 101 not out against Not­ting­hamshire in 1984. He will get a chance to re­new that par­tic­u­lar ri­valry this sum­mer fol­low­ing Not­ting­hamshire’s rel­e­ga­tion from Divi­sion One last sea­son, but aside from over­see­ing a county ca­pa­ble of build­ing a gen­uine ti­tle charge, there were plenty of other chal­lenges greet­ing him as he ar­rived at Hove from his home in Kingston for the first time three weeks ago. The big­gest of which is en­sur­ing Sus­sex mem­bers still have a county to watch and a ground to go to in the fu­ture.

“If you’ve grown up with cricket and have a love of cricket, which most mem­bers have, then one of the prob­lems cricket is fac­ing is that there is a dwin­dling num­ber of peo­ple in so­ci­ety,” he says.

“As pas­sion­ate as those peo­ple are, and we are pas­sion­ate no doubt about that, if that num­ber dwin­dles over time then there’s only one out­come even­tu­ally. In 20 or 30 years’ time we might not be here and, ac­tu­ally, if that sup­ply chain of mem­bers stops, not just mem­bers but also play­ers in the recre­ational game, and you take it to its fi­nal con­clu­sion, then you have no sport left in 50 years’ time.

“That’s maybe a bit dra­matic, but if you don’t recog­nise the signs and you don’t ad­dress some of the is­sues all sports face, you run the risk of the un­think­able.”

Andrew’s rugby back­ground means he brings with him a fresh pair of eyes to the ap­par­ently in­ter­minable de­bate over the fu­ture for­mat of the sport.

The for­mer RFU’s Pro­fes­sional Rugby Di­rec­tor has wit­nessed at first hand the bat­tles and squab­bles that Rugby Union has had to cope with since the pro­fes­sion­al­i­sa­tion of the sport 20 years ago, and Andrew him­self be­lieves that the County Cham­pi­onship could ben­e­fit from a more demo­cratic ap­proach.

“In rugby, we’ve had this de­bate for 20 years and we still haven’t solved it,” he says. “It goes in the ‘too dif­fi­cult’ pile ev­ery time we raise it.

“I’ll prob­a­bly get shot down in flames be­cause I’ve only been here two min­utes, but I would prob­a­bly rather have a two con­fer­ence world, like we see in Amer­i­can sport.

“Then you could cre­ate an ex­cit­ing end to the sea­son with a County Cham­pi­onship semi-fi­nal and fi­nal, so you could recre­ate what we saw with York­shire and Mid­dle­sex last sum­mer.

“That re­ally put the Cham­pi­onship back on the map and showed what was pos­si­ble.”

Andrew wit­nessed a com­plete trans­for­ma­tion of rugby dur­ing his time as a player, coach and ad­min­is­tra­tor. He could be about to see a sim­i­lar rev­o­lu­tion.

“My bat­ting was bor­ing. I had one shot, which was the for­ward de­fen­sive, it was the only shot I was taught ”

PIC­TURES: Getty Im­ages

On your toes: Rob Andrew poses for a por­trait at Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity. Andrew was a dual blue rep­re­sent­ing Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity at both cricket and rugby union be­tween 1982 and 1984

Too big and too strong: The great Jonah Lomu breezes past Rob Andrew at the 1995 World Cup

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