In due course, Warwickshire's new coach may come to smile at the memory of how his best-laid plans were thrown into turmoil by a sore bottom.

It will not be in the short term, however. Mark Greatbatch has worked tirelessly all winter in preparation for the new season and is in no mood to see the funny side of his team's predicament.

Warwickshire embark on their Liverpool Victoria County Championship challenge today, still not knowing who will keep wicket.

All three candidates for the role have travelled to Hove, though Tim Ambrose's back injury has ruled him out of an early return to action against the club he left last season.

Instead, he will remain with the squad for treatment.

Tony Frost will have a fitness test on the pulled muscle in his bottom this morning and Freddie Klokker stands by to make his first-class debut if required.

The club would prefer Frost to play but Klokker isn't a bad, if somewhat inexperienced, replacement. He has played some low-level international cricket for Denmark, can certainly bat and retains realistic hopes of carving out a career as a professional.

Some may wonder why, with all the investment put into fitness and injury prevention, four members of the squad (Nick Warren, Naqaash Tahir, Frost and Ambrose) are not fully fit for the start of the season. Noone is to blame. Injuries are inevitable when sportsmen push their bodies to the limit. Simple bad luck is the real problem.

Besides, there is a growing suspicion that two of that number (Warren and Naqaash) simply do not, for all their talent and hard work, have the physiques to get them through the rigours of a life in professional sport.

The team to play Sussex is, as expected, largely the same as the one that drew against the students of Cambridge at Fenner's. The in-form Alex Loudon comes in for Tim Groenewald, who travels with the squad but will play only in the event of an injury.

Spirits are generally high in the Warwickshire camp. The players are confident in their own and their teammates' abilities and there is a tangible sense of expectation. Certainly, any side good enough to leave out Mark Wagh must be strong indeed and the players are openly talking about lifting 'at least' one trophy.

That is as it should be. All players should start the season full of optimism. The fact is that only a few can end it in celebration, however.

A few concerns remain. This is, in essence, the same batting line-up that subsided so alarmingly on several occasions last season while, on the evidence of Fenner's, the catching is also fallible.

That the Cambridge batsmen lasted more than 90 overs in bowler-friendly conditions is also a concern, though Warwickshire's bowlers were clearly keeping much in store for more important battles.

Sussex are worthy title contenders and present tough opposition, possessing the qualities of Mushtaq Ahmed - who appears almost guaranteed to claim 75 wickets or more a season - and Murray Goodwin, who will surely amass many more runs. They thrashed a Warwickshire side containing Ian Bell and Ashley Giles in the corresponding fixture last year.

The rehabilitation of James Kirtley will be crucial to their chances. He has, apparently successfully, remodelled his action during the winter after its legality was again questioned. The fact that it was Warwickshire that highlighted the problems will add a certain edge to this match. Indeed, few within Warwickshire circles are proud of their club's involvement in that affair.

Duncan Spencer, a 34-year-old fast bowler, could also make a remarkable return to the game should Jason Lewry fail a fitness test on his injured back.

Burnley-born but raised in Australia, Spencer is a colourful figure. Despite a lack of height, he was capable of bowling very fast but was banned after a routine drugs test showed traces of nandrolone in 2001. He has not played first-class cricket since, while his previous spell in county cricket, with Kent, ended in 1996. Sir Viv Richards once described him as the quickest white man he had faced.