Coles optimistic for the season

Tuesday 17th April 2012

Men’s First Team

Kent, under the leadership of new Head Coach Jimmy Adams, have raised a few eyebrows with their impressive start to the season. A winning draw against promotion favourites Yorkshire was followed up with a resounding victory over Northamptonshire last week. A number of players have all made great early impressions but, perhaps, none more so than a local lad who is destined for a big future in the game.

21 year-old Matt Coles has made a flying start to the season. The talented all-rounder bludgeoned a stunning maiden century against Yorkshire before claiming career best figures of 6-51 against Northants. This comes after a summer in the national team reckoning when he had a spell in India with the Potential England Performance Squad before he was called up to the England Lions Squad in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Needless to say, things are progressing very nicely for Coles and he is delighted to have started the season in such fine form.

How are you enjoying the new season?

I’m really enjoying it so far. We worked hard as a team in pre-season and I think the trip to the Caribbean was beneficial to the whole group. It allowed us to enjoy some good warm-weather training and really helped in terms of team morale. Since then, results have been going well and I hope that it will continue for the whole season.

What are you putting your good start down to?

As mentioned, the pre-season trip really helped. It allowed us to hit the ground running and everyone is putting the effort in to achieve success. We have great team morale, in the group, and there is a good connection between everyone.

Before this season the right-arm quick was probably seen as a bowler who can bat, but his blistering, unbeaten, 103 off 111 balls against Yorkshire highlighted his all-round capabilities. Coles audaciously reached his landmark century with a reverse-sweep six off leg-spinner Adil Rashid, which would imply he had spent the summer honing his batting skills – but this doesn’t seem to be the case:

You scored your maiden first class hundred. Have you been working on your batting?

No, not really. I guess I’ve just been doing the same things as before but it all came together up at Headingley. I’m over the moon that it has now happened and hopefully it will be the first of many. I think now I’ve got that under my belt, people will start to expect more from me with the bat and view me as a bit of a bowling all-rounder.

Last season Kent were forced to play a number of youngsters. Many of them impressed, in difficult circumstances, but it is clear there is no substitute for experience. The county have rectified this by recruiting cleverly over the winter. Batsman Michael Powell plus seam bowlers Charlie Shreck and Mark Davies all have vast experience and this, according to Coles, is invaluable:

The squad is much more experienced this season – has that helped you?

Definitely. It really helps having more experienced people around you. The senior pros all talk to you about your game and are happy to give advice on how to approach different situations. They have the experience of being in those situations. It helps that they have been there before and are able to pass on the needed information. Jimmy has also really helped us younger players. He puts you in a good mindset when you go out to bat or bowl and is already proving a popular appointment.

The Maidstone-born left-hander struggled at times with injuries last season but still took 26 first class wickets, to impress the national selectors. He spent time training at the National Performance Centre in Loughborough before embarking on a three-week training camp in Colombo. The paceman then went to Chennai to work on his bowling, and it was in India where Coles got the call saying he had been called-up to the England Lions squad to replace Surrey bowler Stuart Meaker. It was an experience that he will undoubtedly have benefited from:

You’ve had experience of national team selection now. How enjoyable was that?

It was brilliant for me, to be asked to be a part of the England Lions. Hopefully it won’t be the last time; I would love to get another go in the near future and hope to get it by performing well for Kent. Within the England set-up, at any level, there is a professional environment and it was great to see how they do it at the next level up. I don’t personally think that there is a massive difference between Kent and the Lions but it was brilliant to be a part of it and I hope to get another go when the next chance comes around. The facilities at Loughborough are superb. They have a brilliant gym, used by some of the national weightlifters and top athletes performing at the highest level. On top of that, the indoor centres are perfect for training and very realistic. Kevin Shine was in charge of the bowling operation and was there overseeing everything. The former Durham fast-bowler, Neil Killeen, was much more hands-on and I enjoyed working with him and discussing ways of improving my game.

Kent seem to have been cast as the ‘dark horses’ of the 2012 summer after their impressive start. Silverware has been mentioned but Coles is keen for his side to compete in all competitions:

What are your aims for the season?

Hopefully we can win some silverware as a team. I think we have a great chance in one of the three competitions and there is no reason why we cannot do something positive. We will have to keep up our good start to the season but if everyone continues to contribute then we can be there or thereabouts in all of the competitions.

Jimmy Adams was installed as the new Head Coach, at the start of the year – fighting off fierce competition, to seal his first major coaching role. Coles has been buoyed by the contribution the West Indian has made:

How much of an impact has Jimmy made in his short time at the Club?

He has had a massive impact on everyone. He keeps saying to do the simple things and not to get too far ahead of yourself. He asks you to keep working on the processes of getting to the end result and if we keep doing that then we will reach where we want to be.

Finally, after a couple of away matches, how pleasing will it be to play a match at the much improved St Lawrence Ground?

Yes, it is certainly nice to be back at our home of cricket. It is extra special for me, as a home-grown player, because it is where it all started. Hopefully we can record another victory, to make it two wins and a draw, and go from there. Our support is excellent and it is always a great help when the fans get right behind you; it gives you an even bigger buzz.

Photo: Sarah Ansell