As Captain of Sussex, Chris Adams has had more success than many predicted when he first joined the county. As he announces his retirement from the job, I take a look at his sometimes turbulent career.
Adams started his career at Derbyshire in 1988, playing just one First-class game and broke into the team the following year, making seven appearances, but it was in 1990 that he made his breakthrough, scoring 932 runs and making his maiden century. His second full season was less successful, but in 1992 he broke 1000 runs and averaged 41.07.
Two more seasons of underachieving followed before 1995 saw a further breakthrough with three centuries, including his first double-century, and this was followed up in 1996 with over 1700 runs at an average of over 50, prompting speculation that he would be called up to the England side.
He was considered something of an upstart in the Derbyshire dressing-room, amidst an often unhappy bunch of players. The leadership of Dean Jones and Dominic Cork often threatened to tear apart the team who often seemed a strong bunch of individuals who were unable to get along, and it was no surprise when, after a number of confrontations, Adams opted to leave the club.
Somewhat more surprising was Sussex’s offer of the captaincy to him, along with a high value contract, but it appears now that they knew what they were doing.
An aggressive and somewhat confrontational player who liked to lead from the front, his aggression often got him into trouble. He had a confrontation with Wasim Akram in the 1993 Benson and Hedges Cup Final, and in later years was hauled up before the ECB on a fairly regular basis. In 2000 he was fined for verbal abuse of and pushing an opponent.
He picked up five Test caps for England on the 1999-2000 tour of South Africa, but only 104 runs in the series and a highest score of 31 in nine innings saw him discarded for the successes of the summer against the West Indies and he was never called upon to represent his country at Test level again.
But by 2003 things had started to come around for Adams, who had helped build a side at Sussex that gelled around him and coach Peter Moores: the batting was dominated by Matt Prior and Murray Goodwin, with support from Tony Cottey and Richard Montgomerie as well as Adams himself. The star turn with the ball was Mushtaq Ahmed who relished English conditions and picked up 103 wickets, while Jason Lewry and James Kirtley provided the seam attack.
This team surprised the opposition and won Sussex’s first ever County Championship title.
Adams himself stated:
“It is the biggest day of my cricket career. I was lucky enough to play for England, which was very special. But the stress we have gone through over the past two or three weeks makes this something else. It has been a long journey over the past six years, and we have worked very hard for it.
"This caps everything. It has been an outstanding season.”
Wisden saw fit to name him as one of its five Cricketers of the Year in 2004 for his achievement, and although Sussex couldn’t follow up their triumph immediately, finishing fifth, Adams was keen to continue as skipper and completed a set of centuries against all 18 Counties, becoming only the third player to do so (after Mark Ramprakash and Carl Hooper).
A third-place finish in 2005, with Rana Naved-ul-Hasan adding to the bowling attack, set up two more triumphs in 2006 and 2007, with Adams scoring over 1000 runs in each season.
Between these two seasons, Adams had briefly accepted a contract from Yorkshire to captain there, but changed his mind to continue to skipper Sussex. During the 2007 season he was also linked with a move back to his old county Derbyshire, but again ended up staying.
Adams’ final triumph as Sussex captain was victory in the Pro40 League this year, with Adams electing to stand down in favour of current vice-captain Michael Yardy.
Sussex will be pleased with the success that Adams has brought them over the last five years, even if he sometimes appeared to court controversy more often than strictly necessary. Although a key part of the Sussex batting line-up, he was not the run-machine that Murray Goodwin was; instead he provided crucial impetus in the middle of the order.
In the middle of the “Derbyshire crises” at the end of the nineties, it seemed unlikely that Chris Adams would be a man to make such a distinctive impact upon a county, but he has done so at Sussex, providing a level of success that rivalled that of Dermot Reeve at Warwickshire fifteen years ago.
The comparison is inexact, because Adams has been a much stronger batsman than Reeve ever was, and the game has changed since Dermot’s time, but he has managed to make Sussex a force to be reckoned with instead of a sleepy, friendly place to play cricket.
However, his captaincy and the solid relationship with Moores were the driving forces behind the county’s success, in the same way as Reeve’s and his relationship at Warwickshire with Bob Woolmer.
From the ashes of failure at Derbyshire, Adams transformed Sussex.
For that he should be hailed.