The Last Of The Greats
On 22nd of November 2022, Sussex CCC announced the retirement of legendary player Luke Wright.
The information hit the pages of the British press mostly due to his appointment as the England men’s selector. A position that has gone in and out of fashion over the last few years.
It’s a great move for Wright, a man who has been a trailblazer for English white ball cricketers for the best part of 15 years and a man who has his ear to the ground on domestic cricket. In the recent past, veteran players and recent retirees have been preferred for roles as selectors and scouts around the county circuit so the 37 year old fits the bill. Previously, a selection group supported by scouts on the circuit had included names like James Taylor, Ed Smith and Marcus Trescothick. Now Wright will take on the mantle full time from March 2023.
(Photo credit: Jack Meacher)
The position of selector had been removed under Ashley Giles but Rob Key has been keen to reintroduce the position full time since he took over as managing director.
Wright fits in with Key’s aesthetic too. Young, hungry and against the traditional mould - he certainly fits alongside the likes of McCullum and Stokes.
This is not by any means his first gig away from the playing field.
In 2019, a year after his last game for the Melbourne Stars, Wright took up the position of batting coach for the BBL side which became his first non-playing role. Later on he would become the assistant coach of the side.
Subsequently, he’s taken on coaching duties around the globe and most recently at another of his former sides, Auckland.
His England credentials are pretty undeniable too.
Wright was an England international before the selectors truly began to appreciate the talent required to be a genuine short-format cricketer and went on to become the second Englishman to gain 50 IT20 caps.
He won the T20 World Cup in 2009 under Paul Collingwood and played over 100 times for England in ODIs and T20s. At one stage he was in real contention to receive a Test cap too.
In many eyes, the selectors didn’t quite appreciate the precocious talent they had on their hands. His final international appearance came when he was just 29, a waste of talent that would seem unimaginable in today’s game.
As a result though he was able to follow the franchise cricket dream that full England internationals could only hope for.
Amongst everything else, the news of his retirement will be felt hardest in Sussex.
Luke Wright wasn’t native to the county, he’d made his debut for Leicestershire the year before his move against Sussex in the year they’d won the County Championship, 2004 brought the first of 18 seasons on the south coast and with it plenty of trophies along the way.
Wright joined Sussex at the pinnacle of their history, a golden generation for Sussex players.
Within 5 years of joining, he had racked up 6 major domestic trophies including 2 County Championship medals in 2006 and 2007.
Cricket District went to meet Luke Wright and the Sussex team this summer
His arrival actually sparked a more well rounded Sussex side that were able to challenge in not just the red ball but also the white ball tournaments as attested by the team winning 20, 40 and 50 over cups in this period.
Sussex’s golden generation began to retire and fade at the turn of the 2010s. Wright was a stand out player as he had been the youngster in this vastly experienced side at the time.
The likes of Murray Goodwin, Matt Prior, Mushtaq Ahmed, Robin Martin-Jenkins, James Kirtley and Chris Adams all retired or left within the space of 6 years. A loss that the county has still not really recovered from.
For a while Sussex held their own and competed well under the captaincies of Yardy, Joyce and eventually Wright himself.
The reason why Wright’s retirement matters so much is that, now, Sussex are a shell of the side that were once so great in the noughties.
In-house arguments, misfiring players, club stalwarts moving on, ill-advised recruitment have all led Sussex to be all-round a pretty low standard barring the odd trip to T20 Finals Day. Incidentally, Wright retires as the the all time top run scorer in T20 Blast history.
There was one single link left in the summer of 2022 to that great Sussex side - Luke Wright.
He’d stepped back from all three formats a few years prior, hadn’t bowled for the best part of 8 years and he was no longer captaining the side but he was still there. A beacon of a once great past.
I met Luke Wright for the first time this summer when we went to Hove to film one of our Village vs Pros series with Sussex and Hampshire and there is no feeling to describe meeting one of your idols growing up.
Shaking his hand, he simply introduced himself: ‘Hi, I’m Luke’.
He’s by no means a household name around the globe but even so he’s Luke Wight, England and Sussex legend but you felt like you were chatting to any other bloke.
I’m sure it’s no surprise to anyone that he came across incredibly well and was enthusiastic and patient whilst we filmed. You can see why he’s someone that Rob Key wants to have around.
His retirement may not be the biggest shock in the cricketing world but he held a very special place in the hearts of many Sussex fans. The last of the greats.