DateLine: 14th November 2005
Luke Sutton is firmly in the mould of the contemporary wicketkeeper batsman, with his very competent glovework supplemented by an ability to make centuries and average at least 30 with the bat in First-class cricket. He left Somerset at the end of 1999 (despite the Cidermen wanting him to stay) for the greater number of first team chances which would be available at Derbyshire. With Karl Krikken still ensconced as keeper, his early appearances for Derbyshire were as a batsman only, without much success, and he seemed to prosper more when injuries to Krikken meant he had to bat in the top six as well as take the gloves. This was perhaps an early sign that greater responsibility sat easy on the shoulders of Sutton. A sustained run in the side in 2001 (mainly as opener) brought mixed fortunes, although his first two centuries were undeniable evidence of progress. After another patchy season in 2002, 2003 was a breakthrough season, with him coming within a whisker of averaging 40 and scoring 1000 runs in the First-class season, and he was now firmly established as the first choice keeper at Derby.
With Alec Stewart in the final throes of his Test career, Sutton’s name was occasionally mentioned as a possible successor, although it was clear that Chris Read, Geraint Jones and Matt Prior at least were ahead of him in the queue. The shock news that Michael Di Venuto would miss the 2004 season unexpectedly gave Sutton the leadership of a county that had struggled for four seasons in a row. Despite Di Venuto’s return in 2005, and Derbyshire having another poor season in 2004, it said a lot about his leadership that there was virtually no discussion that Sutton wouldn’t continue as Captain. In September 2004 tragedy struck when his girlfriend Nina (whom he had planned to propose to) was killed in a road accident. Such a devastating blow was a key reason why Sutton decided to make a fresh start a year later, although he was also honest in stating that joining Lancashire (to replace the retired Warren Hegg) was a step up and would give him a greater chance of winning trophies. It will be interesting to see whether Sutton’s game is liberated or hampered by him being a smaller fish in a bigger pond (he won’t captain Lancashire and will probably have less batting to do). Although his years at the Derbyshire helm superficially saw little progress made in the Championship, he showed excellent innovation and husbandry of his bowling resources in limited-overs cricket, especially in Twenty20 matches. It was both sympathy for the personal tragedy Sutton had suffered and appreciation of his unstinting efforts to turn around a struggling team which meant that he left Derbyshire with nothing but good wishes.
(Article: Copyright © 2005 Matthew Reed)