Gloomy forecast for Sussex

Warwickshire 645-7 dec; Sussex 222 & 284 Warwickshire win by an innings and 139 runs
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Sussex are in a mess. The season is not yet a month old and, in all honesty, they already know that avoiding the bottom place in the Championship can be their only realistic ambition this year. Their limited-over hopes are not significantly better, either.

It took Warwickshire 65 minutes to take the last four Sussex second-innings wickets after a cheerful and irrelevant bit of wagging by the tail. But it was, if anything, an even more comprehensive defeat than an innings and 139 makes it sound.

To be aware so early in the season that the outlook is as gloomy as this can only be immensely dispiriting to all concerned. It puts great pressure on their captain, Alan Wells - himself still smarting from that pair at The Oval - to perform in a superhuman manner as captain, batsman and dressing- room manager.

Sussex are one of the most delightful of all clubs, and it would be lovely if they could lift themselves to respectability and beyond. Alas, they do not have a domestic or, indeed, an overseas world-beater who might be able to lift them with his own displays. Their overseas player, from Barbados, Vasbert Drakes, is a marginal performer. He will surely leave Sussex a better player than when he came, and maybe go on to make England suffer.

What Sussex desperately want is a star player who will start everyone talking, the turnstiles clicking and the victories coming: a Sachin Tendulkar, a Shaun Pollock, a Mark Waugh, a Brian Lara or an Aravinda de Silva. They need to dig deep at Hove. A real top-notcher can bring self-belief back to a beleaguered side, and suddenly because of his influence they will start playing above themselves.

Drakes' signing seems to be the product of muddled thinking, and Sussex need firm and positive leadership off the field as well as on it.

They have signed up Des- mond Haynes as coach for a pretty fee which has raised eyebrows and caused misgivings. What they need is for a Haynes of a few years ago to play for them. As it is, he must be wondering if his fee is enough now that he has seen the task he has ahead of him.