Jack Carson’s excellent season at Sussex has been rewarded with a two-year contract with the Hove club.

The 19 year-old off-spinning all-rounder signed a ‘Rookie-Deal’ with the club he first played for as a 12 year-old thanks to a recommendation by Ed Joyce.

CricketEurope caught up with Carson, who explained what exactly a rookie deal meant.

“It’s essentially your first deal, meaning you have to do a certain number of hours of personal development outside of cricket. The goal is to help young players have something else outside of cricket, making them more rounded as individuals.

(Jack Carson, front row on right, signs new deal. Pic courtesy of Sussex CCC website)

“There are loads of options, but first for me will be a two week online course in sports psychology. Once you play a certain number of games you move onto a full-time professional contract - for example if you play five Championship games. I played four this year so if I play one more I get the improved contract.”

One of the few positive things to come out of the covid-19 disruption has been the emphasis at the counties on youth. Carson was given the opportunity to stake a claim in the Sussex first team this summer and grasped it firmly with both hands.

“Like many people I thought there wouldn’t be any cricket so my first thought was that was my chance gone for this year. My initial goal for this year pre-Covid was to play as much second team cricket as possible and hopefully do well and get my chance that way. However with no overseas players I got my opportunity a lot quicker than expected.

“With no promotion or relegation the pressure was off the county sides allowing them to experiment a bit. It couldn’t have gone much better for me and I absolutely loved it.

The former Waringstown youth was the county’s leading wicket taker in the Bob Willis Trophy, claiming 15 wickets at 22.66, including a maiden five-wicket haul against Surrey. Carson has nothing but praise for the coaching staff all through the ranks at Sussex, including former Australian Test star Jason Gillespie.

“This was the first season I’ve really had any in-depth contact with ‘Dizzy’ and he was absolutely brilliant. He gives you such confidence knowing you have his backing and is so reassuring, especially in those first few games.

(Jack Carson playing for the NCU U17s)

“I came through the Academy and Keith Greenfield, who is now the Director of Cricket, was a major influence. He was just brilliant and has such a passion for Sussex. Carl Hopkinson was fantastic, and Richard Halsall was a major influence this past few years.

“Ian Salisbury since he’s joined as spin coach has been a massive influence on me. He’s really improved my bowling and another who really backs you and gives you great confidence. He’s had such a great career being a Test cricketer with England and playing professionally for 20 years, so you can’t help but learn from someone like that who has enjoyed so much success in the game.

“I like that he keeps things simple and doesn’t overcomplicate any suggested changes. There’s always a purpose with any suggested changes and he’s not altering things just for the sake of doing it. There’s just a great trusting relationship in what he’s helping me with and my game has really improved as a result of that.”

Carson first came to prominence as a batsman who bowled a bit, with an eye catching youth century for Waringstown in the Under 11 All-Ireland final. However in recent times, his bowling has become a more prominent suit. Was that something he was keen to redress?

“Having spoken to the coaches it’s hoped that I take on more of an all-rounder role in the years ahead. I did score two centuries last season playing for the Academy batting at four. Making the step up to first-class cricket my bowling rather than batting has been the area where I’ve been able to compete.

(Jack Carson batting with his Hell4Leather bat: Pic Sussex CCC)

“It’s something I’m going to have to work on and hopefully I’d be able to bat at six in a few years’ time. The strength in depth though at Sussex is incredible. I’ve been batting at ten this year, and we have guys at nine who can make 50’s so there are some serious players down the order. Hopefully I’ll be able to make a few scores and work my way up.”

Unfortunately for Ireland, becoming a Full Member has meant that any of their players are now classified as overseas players in the County Championship. That has meant Carson hasn’t played for them at any level since 2016 as he pursues his dream of a successful county career.

“The way it is at the minute is that I’m classed as an English player but that would change if I played with Ireland. It’s a strange one and it is frustrating. I hold a British passport having been born in Northern Ireland it is baffling, but that’s the way it is.

“Obviously I wouldn’t be picked as an overseas player so for the next two years and beyond my focus is on Sussex and trying to be as successful as I can here and play as many games as I can.”