From the CEO’s Chair – Jamie Clifford’s Blog – 24 June

Friday 24th June 2011

A couple of weeks have passed since my last blog, so this is a bit of a catch up…

The day after my last post the Club held a screening of ‘Fire in Babylon’ in the Harris Room. Unfortunately I was not able to make the showing, but I have since watched the film. Sadly, John Shepherd was not on hand in my sitting room to answer questions, but I enjoyed it greatly nonetheless. It certainly is a wonderful reminder of what truly great fast bowling is – something perhaps missing in Test Cricket at present. What a team that West Indies side was too – many have said it, but oh for the West Indies to be strong once more, with raw fast bowling leading the way.

The last two weeks have sadly seen plenty of rain around the country wreaking havoc with the Twenty20 programme. Such a shame after the dry April and May we enjoyed. When we have managed to play it has been tremendously exciting, and the most recent games have seen some excellent fight-backs from the team.

The Glamorgan match in Cardiff was a thriller, and Wahab Riaz announced his arrival in some style. I know many watched the game on S4C, as I did –great fun, especially the chap from Gavin and Stacey doing the crowd interviews! Is a victory sweeter in Welsh?

Gloucestershire were our next opponents at Beckenham and despite a miserable, dank evening another very good performance – this time a Riaz hat trick, and Azhar century to get excited about. Certainly all who braved the elements were given something to remember and I am sure many were kicking themselves for not getting to the game.

Then on Saturday night Middlesex Panthers came to Canterbury. What a dramatic evening it proved to be – Kent fighting back from 21 for 6. A tremendous effort, inspired stuff and a great way to celebrate the new look ground. The first game held under permanent floodlights and with new areas of the ground open following the redevelopment. It was a big push to be ready on time, and it was nice to get rid of that horrible nagging feeling that we wouldn’t be ready! There is clearly still much to be done but we are really now getting there – the first time I can honestly say that. Even the banks around the ground are back in use and looking much better.

I must thank the project team, particularly Cardy for all their efforts throughout the past month. I know every one of them enjoyed seeing the ground properly in use for the first time on Saturday. Most of all they will have appreciated the very positive feedback that all who have seen the changes have given. Do come and see for yourself the improvements – the lights particularly are worth seeing. We will at some stage offer a tour of the ground for anyone interested, but in the meantime come to a game and have a look around.

A nice break from the manic ground preparation was to be asked to present a piece of the old Lime Tree in Gravesend to the 2012 Cultural Olympiad. The wood will be used to build a boat that will sail up the Thames prior to the Olympics. Others from across Kent are donating significant pieces of wood to this project and I look forward to seeing the finished vessel.

To continue the cultural theme, a word about a book I have just finished. The Following Game by Jonathan Smith landed on my desk last week. Jonathan is the father of Ed Smith, formerly of Kent – now of The Times. I thought that this is an excellent book, and not just because he covers three things which are important in my life – Cricket, travel around India and being a father, but also because he articulates the emotions of a parent supporting a child to achieve sporting ambitions so well. I used to run Kent’s youth programme so I have seen first-hand how involving being a parent of a sporting child can be and ‘The Following Game’ expresses this brilliantly.

The book is a very easy read, although perhaps daunting at first sight with a plain cover and poetry throughout. Don’t be put off. Any cricket fan will love the rich descriptions of the ‘cricket tragic’ and of course identify with the curious behaviour this condition encourages. Kent supporters will also find out more about what made Ed Smith tick. I cannot recommend it highly enough and it will soon be available in the Club Shop.

Finally, a staff update: Firstly welcome to Alison Davies who takes on the role of my PA following Carolyn Prosser’s departure. Alison joins us following 22 years in the Army, and I am sure all wish her well in her new career. Secondly, congratulations to Donna Sayer – from our catering team – on becoming a proud mum to Albert, and James Tredwell who earlier this week also became a proud parent to Jacob – congratulations all!

Have a good week – and get to Beckenham on Sunday if you can to encourage the Spitfires to further t20 success.