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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 November, 2003, 16:35 GMT
Medlycott exit blurs Surrey picture
By Scott Heinrich

If any further evidence was needed that times are changing at Surrey, Keith Medlycott's resignation as head coach has provided it.

A largely disappointing 2003 campaign - their Twenty20 Cup win aside - proved to be a precursor to upheaval off the pitch.

The playing exits of club stalwarts Alec Stewart and Ian Ward preceded the bombshell that next season would be Adam Hollioake's last at The Oval.

And if administrators at the club were seeking calm, they received anything but that with rumours that Warwickshire were plotting a winter swoop of their prized England all-rounder Rikki Clarke.

Now Surrey must deal with the sobering reality that Medlycott will not be in charge when they try to prise the championship title back from Sussex.

2003 was supposed to be the year Surrey cemented their position at the top of the county tree.

A club brimming with international stars, they ran away with the 2002 championship and had brazenly targeted the one-day game at the start of this campaign.

With the Twenty20 Cup and the National League crown theirs, Surrey can be satisfied their mission was met.

But Surrey's failed defence of their championship title was as surprising as it was disappointing.

Surrey skipper Adam Hollioake
Surrey will depend on Hollioake's leadership qualities next year

The invincible sheen seems to have been eroded to the point that Surrey are arguably no longer the team to beat in England.

The incapacity to find suitable replacements for Stewart and Ward irked Medlycott.

And at season's end he perhaps betrayed his intentions when lamenting the economics of a club which has to win and earn money.

"Fingers crossed that is the end of the cull, and we've made some hard calls this summer," Medlycott said.

"It's an unfortunate scenario but players' worth in recent years has gone up in astronomical amounts but income has not followed suit."

Therein lies the difference between county cricket and, say, football. Surrey were undoubtedly the Manchester United of 2002, but in cricket, success does not mean money.

It could be that the cyclical nature of a sport which cannot buy success is about to victimise Surrey, and Medlycott might feel he is jumping ship before it sinks.

Rikki Clarke
Clarke could appear in England colours more often next year

"It would be difficult for us to get out in the marketplace and buy other players when there isn't a lot of money," he said.

England call-ups are something Surrey have learned to deal with, but next year could be their worst yet if Clarke, currently doing well on the winter tour, establishes himself and Graham Thorpe remains in favour.

A fit Alex Tudor would certainly be of interest to England selectors, and new skipper Jon Batty would not be out of the equation if things do not go well for keepers Chris Read and Geraint Jones in Sri Lanka.

Then there is the matter of Surrey's overseas players.

Azhar Mahmood had a reasonable season, averaging 40 with the bat and 29 with the ball, but Saqlain Mushtaq was a let-down.

A haul of 41 wickets at 33 is a fair return, but compare that with Pakistani compatriot Mushtaq Ahmed's deeds at champion Sussex and it is easy to see the difference.

Surrey did not have a bad season on the pitch by any means, and if measured against any other team they had a fine one. Indeed, any talk of a crisis are grossly premature.

But off the pitch Surrey are undergoing massive change - and in no way can the departure of Medlycott be viewed as a good thing.




SURREY


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