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Sussex sign fifth T20 Blast overseas player to highlight county cricket’s recruitment problem

Recruitment into county cricket has never been more difficult as evidenced by Sussex’s decision to sign a fifth foreign player for their T20 Blast campaign in Obed McCoy.

The effect of the pandemic on the Future Tours program has resulted in numerous postponed tours being rescheduled at short notice, leaving provinces in the dark about who will be available when. Some players have also faced visa issues due to a backlog at the home office.

Provinces can register up to three foreign players at a time, but only field two in a single-playing XI and Sussex initially planned to split their slots for the Blast between Mohammad Rizwan and Rashid Khan.

But it became clear the day Rizwan’s signing was confirmed that it wouldn’t be that easy as Pakistan announced new dates for their ODI series against the West Indies, right in the middle of the Blast’s schedule.

Sussex initially signed Josh Philippe as a partial replacement, but his availability was then limited by an Australia A tour to Sri Lanka. That led to the hiring of Tim Seifert as third goalkeeper-batter for a short stint in the middle of the season.

But Rashid’s involvement in the IPL knockout phase – his Gujarat Titans side are in Sunday’s final – and an Afghanistan tour to Zimbabwe means he will only play the last six group matches. That means McCoy, the fast bowler from the West Indies, will be competing as a substitute for about four matches – albeit hardly comparable.

Sussex has remained publicly optimistic with a club statement saying they are “delighted” to announce McCoy’s arrival. However, the preparation of an infographic indicating which of their five recruits will be available for which match underscores the sense of chaos — not least with an asterisk reminding supporters that their plans were subject to change.

“Obed will be a fantastic addition to our team,” said James Kirtley, their T20 head coach. “He is an emerging world-class T20 cricketer. Fresh off a very successful IPL, he can bowl quickly and has great skills at death.”

Sussex kicked off the season with a home defeat to Glamorgan on Thursday night before a crowd of just 2,209 in Hove, suggesting the involvement of major foreign players has done little to help ticket sales. They travel to Bristol on Friday evening to play Gloucestershire.

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