An email conversation with Andrew Hodd: 'We've given ourselves a decent chance of the title'

Keeping pace in chase for biggest prize; Hitting a hundred in defeat of Yorkshire; Working hand in glove with Mushtaq
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The Independent Online

What is it about Sussex and wicketkeepers? The England coach, Peter Moores, played for the county, Matt Prior has played for England this summer and he is under pressure from another ex-Sussex man, Tim Ambrose. Now you have started to make a name for yourself. Matt and Tim worked with Peter so he knows a lot about their games. They came on to the staff at the same time, in 2001, but between the time Moores retired in 1998 and then we struggled a bit for keepers, so it is a cyclical thing. We have another cracking young lad emerging from our academy, Ben Brown, who played for England Under-19s this summer. He might turn out the best of the lot.

You left Sussex in 2004 and joined Surrey but came back in 2006 knowing you would be Prior's understudy. It did not appear to be a great career move, but you must be pleased now. All I wanted was an opportunity and I got it when Matt got into the England side. When I went to Surrey I was third choice here but things did not work out at The Oval. It was hard to displace Jonathan Batty and by the end of my second year I couldn't wait to get away. I was commuting to London to play second-team cricket and had no motivation whatsoever. When Tim Ambrose signed for Warwickshire and [the Sussex coach] Mark Robinson asked me to come back I'd have walked down the A23 to sign.

A lot of people have been impressed with your glovework but your team-mate Murray Goodwin reckons you are technically the best batsman in the side. That's some compliment. It was a bit embarrassing at first. I have worked a lot with Murray. Physically we are similar and I like my square-of-the-wicket shots as well; I just wish I could cover-drive like he does! Murray is so mentally strong and he has been really good with me in that regard in terms of valuing your wicket and being able to concentrate so you can play long innings.

You must have been delighted to get a maiden Championship hundred last week? I think all the lads were. That's been one of the best things about our success – we enjoy it when one of our team-mates does well. I made my first first-class hundred against India in July, which was nice, as Indian TV were covering the game live and we had an audience of 1.8 billion! I like to think I have moved my game forward since then. The situation against Yorkshire felt totally different. India came straight after Twenty20 and there wasn't a lot on the game. You try your best, of course, but it's not the same as last week when we were playing a really strong side with a quality attack in the most important match of the season so far.

You seem to have a smile on your face whatever is happening. Will you be a cynical old pro one day? Perhaps, but I hope not. I'm just happy playing a game I love and I hate it when I hear players moaning about the travelling, practice facilities or whatever. Millions would love to do what we do. It is an absolute joy to be in our dressing room with such a great bunch of guys playing for such a good club. I get more sledging from my team-mates because they think I'm too nice. I usually end up chatting to the batsmen rather than giving them stick.

Does anything bother you? Well, getting out in any TV game is pretty embarrassing, especially if you have not made any runs and the cameraman follows you as you walk off. When I was out against Surrey earlier this summer I had to go off with Oasis blaring out and I absolutely hate them, so that was one to forget.

Whatever happens in the Championship, it has been a pretty good season for Sussex with four players in various England teams. Luke Wright is a mate of yours so you must have been delighted for him at The Oval last week. I don't know who was more pleased – me or him! I spoke to him afterwards and he said how much he enjoyed the experience. It was such a good feeling because we had runs on the board against Yorkshire and on the TV in the dressing room one of our mates was getting a 50 on his England debut. Mark Robinson is concerned Luke might get treated the same way by the press as Matt Prior but Luke is an uncomplicated guy and just lives for every game he plays. He won't get too ahead of himself.

Can Sussex make it two Championships in a row? Well, we've given ourselves a decent chance. The weather has made for an exciting finale but a lot of our players have completed the course before – seven won it in 2003. It would be fantastic to win the title and know you have played a good part. Things like the hundreds have been a real bonus – my aim was just to keep wicket to the best of my ability and try to pick Mushtaq Ahmed! I'd obviously kept to him quite a bit in the nets but when I got in the side we did a few sessions together and with exposure and experience you get used to it. His stock ball is the googly, but a lot of batsmen still have real trouble picking him. He gets wickets on reputation alone, which all great bowlers do.

Any hazards of the job of wicketkeeping? This has been my first full season and the biggest problem I've had is sore hands. I sprained my thumb and index fingers, which are the most important digits for a wicketkeeper because if the ball is swinging and you catch one badly it can really hurt, and I must admit my pain threshold is not very high. So I just take some industrial-strength tranquillisers and the physio has done a brilliant job patching me up.

What's next on the career agenda then? Long-term, I would love to play for my country but I have lots of improvement to make before then. Short-term, I will probably spend the winter coaching the youngsters at Sussex. I really enjoy that – they are so receptive and going through the technical aspects of wicketkeeping makes you think about your own game as well. I have just moved into a flat with [the Sussex opener] Chris Nash, so there will be some decorating to do. Nashy is a bit of a stats nerd but we don't talk shop much. I like to totally switch off, watching TV, DVDs, eating and sleeping.

Attachment

* Born 12 January 1984

* County Sussex

* Position Right-hand bat, wicketkeeper

* Representative honours England Under-19

* Career Bexhill College and Loughborough University. Product of Sussex youth set-up; joined senior squad 2003. Moved to Surrey for 2004-05 seasons because of limited opportunities behind Matt Prior and Tim Ambrose. Returned to Sussex in 2006.

* Debut v Zimbabwe, 2003

* Notable performances 2005 Two fifties against Bangladesh for Surrey. 2006 Three first-class matches, scoring 29 runs and averaging 7.25. Eight catches; no stumpings. 2007 Has played 11 matches, scoring 495 runs at an average of 41.25 with 20 catches and five stumpings. Made centuries against India and Yorkshire.

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