Alec Stewart hopes Surrey complete Championship hat-trick in ‘toughest’ season

By Sports Desk April 04, 2024

Alec Stewart is braced for the “toughest” season yet, but has still set Surrey the target of winning a third consecutive Vitality County Championship title.

It was confirmed last month that Stewart would leave his director of cricket role at the end of 2024 in order to spend more time with his family following 11 years in the post.

Stewart signed his first contract with the county in 1981 and has been involved in six Championship successes, but he is striving for one more.

While there have been multiple back-to-back Division One winners in recent seasons, Brian Close’s Yorkshire side from the 1960s are the last team to win three Championships in a row.

Chelsea-fan Stewart is well aware of how difficult that will be, especially with a T20 World Cup in June, but has challenged Surrey to go up a level in the longest format and to fulfil their potential in white-ball cricket with an overdue Vitality Blast win.

“It’ll be the hardest year because of the World Cup,” Stewart reflected.

“We’ll have players who will go from the IPL (Indian Premier League), straight into the World Cup or near enough.

“This season is the toughest because it’s an extra month or six weeks that we won’t have those players for, but we’ve known that, so therefore you try and plan for that.

“I’m greedy, I want to win everything. We won it (Vitality Blast) in 2003, the first year, and we’ve got to Finals Day since but we haven’t won it.

“So, of course I’d like to win it, but so would 17 other counties.

“The Championship is still, for me, the pinnacle. The fact we’ve won it two in two is fantastic. Can we do it three in three? That’s what we’re going for.

“And then it’s how do we play, because the champions are always the side to beat and have we got the skillsets? And can we up our game enough?

“We were good last year, but I didn’t think we were great last year.”

Surrey players are determined to give Stewart a fitting farewell, but even the former England captain knows it will not really be goodbye.

The Kia Oval has largely been Stewart’s home for the best part of five decades and even longer for the family given his father Micky made his debut for the county in 1954.

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Stewart acknowledged: “It’s never going to end. Formally, yes, but I’ll still be coming to this place or still feel a part of it.

“They want me to try and stay in some role but I’ve said, I’m never going to walk away completely, but they’ve got to get the person in place first, because that person may not want me hanging about, which I fully understand.

“So, yep, I’m stepping down from a role I have thoroughly enjoyed and continue to enjoy. And then in December or whenever it will be, then I’ll drive out and say goodbye.

“Whatever job you’re in, you want to leave it in a better shape than when you took it over. That’s for others to judge, but we’ve certainly made progress.

“I want to win every trophy, but I get as much enjoyment seeing a (Ollie) Pope, (Will) Jacks or (Jamie) Smith come through our system as youngsters, come into our first team and then going to play for England because that to me counts as success.

“The trophy cabinet has the Championship in it at the minute, but if you have another cabinet, it’d be full of Surrey players that have come through the pathway then got England caps.”

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