Exclusive: Starring for Sussex is route back for Prior, says ex-England keeper

Exclusive: Starring for Sussex is route back for Prior, says ex-England keeper

Matt Prior in thoughtful mood at Lord's this week

Jack Russell in his playing days

First published in Sport by

Matt Prior has been advised to forget all about playing for England again.

Former England wicketkeeper Jack Russell believes the Sussex star must start from square one after deciding to take a break from cricket for the rest of the season.

Prior is due to undergo surgery on his troublesome Achilles but has targeted a place on the tour of West Indies in April.

Russell believes that is the wrong approach and that the Sussex keeper needs to regain his form and confidence in county cricket at the start of next season before being thrust back on to the international stage.

Russell, who played 54 Tests for England, said: “I can see him playing for England again but it is going to be hard.

“Possession is nine tenths of the law so if (Jos) Buttler plays well he will stay in but if Matt comes back, fit and raring to go, and finds some form, then he could get in again.

“He is only 32 and you think of all that experience and know-how he has. It would be great to have two guys who can do the business competing against each other.

“It is obviously a difficult time for Matt because the uncertainty can be a worry but all he can do is get his head down and get fit.

“He can’t look too far ahead. The most important thing is to get fit and start playing for Sussex again. Anything beyond that he can’t be thinking about at the moment.

“That will be good for Sussex and also for him. He has got to start all over again really. He needs to start playing county cricket again and see where it takes him.

“Once he has done that he can start thinking about England again. Matt is a good lad who works hard and has a good attitude so I’m sure that is what he will do.”

Prior accepts that his 79th Test against India at Lord’s may turn out to be his last despite his desire to represent his country again.

If that turns out to be the case Russell says the former Brighton College pupil deserves to be remembered as the best English wicketkeeper-batsman of all time and one of the best in the world.

He added: “I remember seeing Matt in his early days. I first played against him for Gloucestershire at Cheltenham and he was very mechanical and rigid but over the years he has learned how to do it properly.

“Until about a year ago he was easily the best batsman-wicketkeeper in the world. In an era requiring attacking wicketkeeper-batsmen who can change games he is up there with the best.

“To achieve what he has he can be proud but there comes a point when if you lose a bit of sharpness and fitness it can expose you.

“It just goes to show the fine line between being spot on and slightly off the pace. Matt hasn’t looked fit all summer and Test cricket is not an easy environment to get up to speed.”

Russell was at Horsham this week promoting his book ‘The Art of Jack Russell: A personal journey through 18 counties’.

The book features paintings of Hove and Horsham as well as Arundel even though Russell never played a county game at the Castle Ground.

“The concept of the book was to paint all the grounds I played at for Gloucestershire thinking it would be about 30 or 40 and in the end it was 70!” said Russell.

“I had to use artistic license to include Arundel as I only ever played there once for the Duke of Norfolk’s XI but it is such a lovely ground I had to get it in and it is my book so I can do what I want!

“I only played at Horsham once against a Sussex Board XI in the NatWest Trophy. I would have loved to have played there a bit more as the view is great and like Arundel the atmosphere is always good.

“I love the outgrounds. It would be a shame if festival cricket came to an end but it comes down to money in the end.”

You can order The Art of Jack Russell for £25 plus £5 P&P by going to jackrussell.co.uk.

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