Surrey bid for youngster riles Prior

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The Independent Online

With a mere six Championship matches behind him at the age of 22, Rory Hamilton-Brown continued to be the centre of controversy yesterday. The fledgling all-rounder has been offered the captaincy of Surrey although he is contracted to Sussex until the end of next season.

If the approach, confirmed by both counties earlier this week, has raised eyebrows, the precise nature of the offer has lifted them out of their perches. Sussex are understandably miffed that a young player they signed – from Surrey – at the start of 2008 may leave just as he might begin to realise his potential.

Other observers are astonished that a player so unproven has been given the chance to lead Surrey out of Division Two. Matt Prior, England's wicketkeeper on their tour of South Africa and a Sussex team-mate of Hamilton-Brown, said: "He is still a young lad. It would be a massive responsibility for him to go to a club like Surrey with the big egos and the big personalities.

"A 22-year-old captaining Mark Ramprakash, that's going to be hard work. It would be hard work for anyone, let alone a guy who has played six championship matches. I think he's a fantastic bloke and a very talented cricketer, but it's a massive ask."

Hamilton-Brown, a former captain of England under-19s, who lost 4-1 under his stewardship to Pakistan under-19s in 2007, is clearly promising. His 171 no against Yorkshire last summer was maturely controlled and came from only 210 balls.

He left Surrey, where he had played nine one-day matches, for Sussex two years ago because he felt he would develop better. The case highlights the growing tendency for counties to approach players from other counties, no matter the state of their form or their contract.

Prior said: "If players are in their heart of hearts passionate about playing for Sussex then I want every player like that to stay at Sussex. If from the bottom of their hearts they want to go and live in London and play for Surrey that's a decision they have got to make."

Sussex have expressed their disappointment about Surrey's approach, which they are still considering. But Luke Wright, another highly promising all-rounder who is with England in South Africa and is being hotly tipped to make his Test debut later this month, is staying with the county.

It was being openly suggested that he, too, might leave perhaps for Surrey, where director Chris Adams is determinedly building a new team. But Wright has agreed a three-year extension to his contract.