'Mushtaq has X-factor'
Mushtaq Ahmed may be Sussex’s ‘Ronaldo’ - but he alone is not the reason the county champions started the final day of the game against Worcestershire as strong favourites to retain their title.
After Mushtaq had taken his match tally to nine wickets as Worcestershire moved to 190 for five following on at Hove on Friday evening, coach Mark Robinson made no secret of the Pakistani spinner’s importance to his team.
If Sussex can complete victory over opponents already long since relegated from Division One of the LV County Championship they know only a highly unlikely run-chase by Lancashire at the Brit Oval can prevent them pipping Durham to the title.
Should they do so, there is no doubt Mushtaq - leading wicket-taker in the country with 86 - will have been their most significant contributor.
Robinson is not about to argue with that but is insistent that many others in Sussex’s hugely successful ranks have again played their part.
“I’m not scared of saying he is our star man,” conceded Robinson. “Every team has a star player - Stuart Law or (Muttiah) Muralitharan at Lancashire. Everybody needs an X-factor.
“Arsenal had it with Thierry Henry, Brazil with Ronaldo, Australia with Shane Warne - to change the course of a match. But good teams don’t rely on one bloke.”
Robinson knew that even before his arrival on the south coast - from his time as a seamer who once plied his trade alongside the great West Indies fast bowler Curtly Ambrose at Northamptonshire.
“I played in lots of teams who had a star,” the Yorkshireman recalled. “At Northampton, there was Curtly Ambrose - but we didn’t win. There are special factors and factors that make teams win.”
Among those Sussex might choose to pinpoint are the captaincy of Chris Adams, the prolific batting of Murray Goodwin or the reliable pace bowling of Jason Lewry.
As for the final lap, Robinson is optimistic but not yet prepared to celebrate something which may not happen.
“What we must do is not under-estimate Moeen Ali [not out on 76] or Gareth Batty or any of the rest of the batsmen,” he prescribed.
“We must come out and do our job as professionally as we can. If we do that I’ll be proud of them. If we can pull it off and Surrey can help us out it will be magnificent.
“But whatever happens, I know we’ve had a solid season again. Full marks to the strength of this club on and off the pitch.”